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.


Books By the Dozen

I’m a sucker for a self-help or spiritual book. My bookshelf is groaning under their weight: Emmet Fox and Eckhart Tolle, Elizabeth Lesser and Thich Nhat HanhByron Katie and Wayne Dyer…The pile grows more unwieldy with every trip to Half Price Books.

In the past, I’ve operated with the belief that the book you don’t read won’t help, so better read them all, just in case that life-changing sentence is buried in the third paragraph on page 219 of Pema Chödrön‘s fourth book. Oh my god, I’ve got to find that paragraph! And put it on Facebook!

Sometime in late 2011, I hit total book burnout. I was sick to death of shoveling self help advice down my throat and I just couldn’t give a crap which author Oprah recommended for life improvement that month. I had a radical thought one night, after inwardly groaning at the thought of my mandatory bedtime self help indoctrination hour: “What if the truth is mine already?

It felt like heresy. I mean, who am I? I’m screwed up! I’m confused! I need someone else to tell me the way it is!

But you can’t un-know what you know (and trust me, I have tried). And in that moment, I figured some stuff out and made a decision: I was going to put down the books and start living my own truth.

I’ve learned so much over the years from these teachers and I’m greatly influenced by them. But I had to start living my spiritual practice as I understood it, and that meant putting down the books and venturing out into the wild world, trusting that I know what to do, I know how to live, and I can act in the way that is most true to me without CliffNotes always on my side table.

So far, 2012 has been an amazing journey of living that truth day by day, person to person, moment to moment. It’s not always comfortable–I often feel like a child learning to walk. But as I honor my inner wisdom, my anxiety lowers and I start to get the hang of it. It’s fresh and raw, yes, but it’s also something beautiful and exciting.