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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Laws of the Universe...Rule #1: Everything you love, you'll lose.

Certain rules apply to this game of life. Most of us crave peace, freedom and joy...but we cannot achieve these unless we learn to accept the rules of this universe.  For the most part, I argue that there are far fewer rules to life than we imagine. You don't actually have to wear a tie to be a boss, you don't need lululemon pants to be a good yogi (although they're great!), you don't have to make a lot of money to be rich, you don't have to know someone for a year before you love them, etc. Those rules are all silly. However, there are certain rules of the universe, and our psychological health is dependent upon our mastery of them.

Today, Rule #1: Everyone and everything you love, you will lose. Guaranteed.

We love love. It feels fun and amazing and fulfilling.  But, there's a catch.  Before you even commit to loving someone, you have to accept that you're going to experience the biggest heartache possible. Sometimes - often - we forget this part of love.  We forget the grief that is guaranteed and we become angry, forlorn and devastated when we experience loss.  Loss, my dears, is guaranteed in this life.  The better we can get at accepting this rule, the less we suffer.

You can fight and rebel and resist, but you will suffer. You can be angry and tantrum, but you will suffer.  The better we get at embracing the loss inherent in love, the freer we are to experience it. Even if you are not consciously aware of this rule, you deeply either do or don't accept it. If you don't, your relationships are filled with constant cravings for proof and approval.  "Tell me today you love me. Tell me again. Tell me again.  I'm so afraid to lose you, please don't talk to another person or have a crush on anyone else or enjoy anything more than me. Please don't ever get sick or do anything too adventurous."  We fear and grasp and we get jealous, anxious and obsessive when we try to resist this rule.

When we accept this rule, the first emotion is hopelessness. But, stay with it, because right behind hopelessness is freedom. If my feelings of joy and connection and love today are independent of the guarantee of love tomorrow and forever, then I am free to love wholly and completely today. And another unavoidable truth is that today is the only day I will actually ever live again.

One week ago today I learned that my healthy, 8 year old pup, Levon, was not so healthy. He was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma and started chemo 24 hours later.  I cried. I cried hard for a few days. I cry still today, and probably will for a long time. But, a truth that I deeply know is that grief does not trump love. Grief is just another side of the love coin. How lucky am I to love someone so much that the thought of them being gone nearly stops my heart?  When I feel grief, what I am really feeling is love...love expressed in this universe...this universe that has certain rules...rules I knew before Levon even came into my life.  If on day one someone said to me, "See this guy you're starting to love? Here's the deal: You get him for a solid 8 years. He'll be healthy mostly, sickly some, a runt for sure, but a dragon as well. Tough, loving.  He'll get cancer at age 8, and the treatment will be long and expensive and the prognosis not so good. You'll love each other deeply and he'll make you giggle...a lot. He'll be your guru and teach you about a new level of love. He'll model self-acceptance and devotion and living in the present moment. You may have him today, but that's the deal."

Without a doubt, Levon would have come home with me.  Levon is my love, which means he will also be my loss, my grief. But, grief and love are no different, they are just different parts of the same story.  So, I accept this love story. And, if I can breathe into this law of this universe, then I don't have to be furious or devastated. I can - and will - be sad. But, if the rule is that I have to lose everyone I love, then I don't have to fear that day. Instead, I can enjoy and celebrate this day.  And that's exactly what I plan to do. In fact, it's what I'm doing right now as I write this with my little dragon snuggled up next to me.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tough Love

A few days embarrassingly late, I learned about the Oklahoma Fraternity getting caught on film chanting a horrifically cruel and racist song.  I was obviously disturbed by the incident, but also frustrated with the human race for not evolving more. How is it that we have been humans for thousands of years but we still do the same shit? After watching empire after empire rise and fall, we still think we should war with others so we can rise.  After seeing millions of examples of  infidelity destroying lives, we still engage in secret rendezvous. We still fight and commit adultery and compete and argue and cut people off and hold grudges and move too fast and text while driving and discriminate based on differences.  Are we serious? Our buildings look nothing like they did 200 years ago. Transportation, medical procedures, space travel…it’s all incredibly evolved.  We learned how to make a baboon’s heart work in a human body. We learned how to shoot a rocket - with humans in it - out of our atmosphere and to the moon. Then we landed on the moon. LANDED ON THE MOON. But we haven’t figured out how to be kind and loving and accepting of each other? Oh, and of ourselves. 

It is quite easy to love and accept someone who adores you, takes care of you and fawns over you.  It is simple to look at someone very similar to yourself and say, “Ah, yes, I get you.” It is no big feat to love the parts of yourself that radiate and serve you exactly as you desire them to. But what about all the rest? 

Real love - which leads to real peace - is not about being fond of the people who are fond of you.  Self love is not about looking at and celebrating all your favorite things about yourself.  The kind of love that has the power to change you and the planet is the love that can love the ugly, the difficult, the wounded.  It’s the love that loves someone different from you. Someone who confuses or angers you. Someone who hurts you. The parts of your personality or body that frustrate or embarrass you.

We need to evolve as lovers.  It’s not enough to learn to celebrate the parts of yourself you adore. It’s not enough to build a tight community of friends and family that you love. Those are all important. Incredibly important. But not enough.  

I’ve heard it said that love shouldn’t hurt. I like the sentiment and I agree that love should not be abusive; it should not hurt to receive love. But, sometimes it does hurt to give love.  It hurts our egos to let go of resentments, it damages our pride to see the hurt in the person who hurt us rather than to reduce them to a villain.  Real love absolutely should hurt - your ego. Ego must be damaged in order for soul to grow.    

We have to start loving when we don’t understand, when we don’t agree. We have to be able to see the humanity in the people who we are different from. And, if we ever want to evolve, we have to start with ourselves. We have to look both honesty and compassionately at the parts of ourselves that we dislike. Ignoring won’t lead to growth, but neither will hating. We have to approach the parts of ourselves that we dislike, but with grace.  If we commit to the practice of looking at things we don’t understand or dislike with both honesty and compassion, love will grow and we will evolve.  I love being a human. I love being alive at this time in life.  But we can do better. Let’s start with love.   

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Look Twice

My dog and I were walking along the beach the other morning, as we often do. And, as per usual, we both were excited experiencing the daily beach phenomena - sea glass, little sea slug creatures, pelicans six times my dog's size, driftwood that serves as free firewood, the occasional breaching whale.

Today the ocean gifted us with a seal. She was  alone, high on the shore, super adorable. As Levon gently approached her, she became suddenly mean, barking loudly and aggressively lunging toward us. Levon barked back and I scowled as we withdrew. Bad mood seal. Fine, we're out of here and back to the pelicans. As we turned to leave, I looked back and she had her head perched uncomfortably on a rock. She actually looked sad, if that's possible. And why was she alone? And why was she so high up on the shore? Something was wrong.

I called the local animal rescue. Twenty minutes later a small team arrived and quickly determined she needed medical care. Despite her loud protest, they began scooping her up. As soon as they moved her, they discovered two bullet hole wounds in her back. She had been shot twice, and they were not brand new wounds. She most likely had been struggling to survive for days. After the initial horror of imagining why and how and who would shoot a seal slightly subsided, I began to see flashes of myself being angry with people who had snapped at me. I had determined that the guy who called me an asshole for accidentally cutting him off was the real asshole, and the friend that didn't return my four phone calls was selfish, and...

Now I remembered what I already knew: We bark and snarl when we're wounded. How much better would our lives be if we remembered this? We could let go of resentment. We could see the good in others. We could look around for help rather than growling back at every cranky response we encountered.  

Let's treat each other with a little more patience, a little more kindness. Let's look to nurture wounds before we choose to bark back, scowl, or withdraw.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cuz Waking Up is Hard To Do

My leg fell asleep in meditation. REALLY asleep - from toe to hip. Dead. Gone.
This presented an interesting dilemma. I was "supposed to be" meditating, but I couldn't stop thinking about my leg. The numb sensation. The excruciating pins and needles that would accompany its waking up.  What should I do? Continue obsessing? Stop my meditation? Shoot, I don't know what to do.

So, I consulted my inner guru who told me to simply use the leg as my meditation focus. Weird advice for a guru - even if just my inner guru - but, OK. I'll try.

Guru turned out to be right.

I straightened the leg and set my inner observation on the leg. Without resisting, judging or thinking about the sensations, I just began to feel and experience them. Two truths were revealed to me. The first wave of insight was simple. I felt an intense sensation, maybe even discomfort, but there was actually no pain. I had always experienced this sensation as pain, but that wasn't accurate.  Not all discomfort is pain. Sometimes it's just discomfort, and I don't have to be comfortable All the time.

The second insight wave was a tsunami. As the leg began to wake up, the heightened sensations and discomfort were almost impossible to tolerate. Part of me wanted to shake the leg violently, hit it, do whatever I cold to make it stop. But instead I sat, I breathed and I observed. I connected with the truth of waking up versus falling asleep. I had not noticed the leg falling asleep, it just slipped quietly into deadness. No fuss. No sensation. It was in the waking up that I felt all the discomfort. There was no pain in falling asleep, it was the waking up that was hard to do. But, the "pain" of waking up would not hurt me. I'd just feel it. And although the numb leg did not feel painful, in the long run, that could hurt me. Technically, if I left the blood supply cut off indefinitely, the leg would die.

I flashed back to periods of sleep in my life - entering a partnership I did't want to be in, pursuing friendships I was not truly invested in, attending religious services that did not inspire me. I was sleep-walking through my life. Although there was no acute pain, I was slowly, quietly fading into deadness. And then, as I began to wake up and the blood began to return to my life, I was faced with tremendous discomfort.  I had to feel lonely and scared, to give things up and to disappoint people and face judgment. But the discomfort was not something for me to run from. It was not a sign that something was wrong. It was just the sensation associated with waking up  and coming back to life.

We don't have to fear discomfort.  Waking up is hard to do, and you're going to feel it. But just be patient, breathe calmly and know that you are not being destroyed, this is just what it feels like to
have lifeblood flowing through your veins when you have been cut off for so long.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I don't forgive...I am forgivING

I find it interesting that we treat forgiveness like some static thing - we arrive at it, choose or don't choose it, and move on. "I forgave her." "I forgive myself."

Many of us struggle with forgiveness. What is it? Why do I still have feelings if I already forgave? What is the role of "forgetting" in forgiving?

I think our mistake is in how we view forgiveness. Anger - and especially resentment - are very active. When we harbor resentment, we have to actively carry it around with us. We think negative thoughts about the person (or ourselves), we ruminate on the event, we feel the anger in our body, we have fantasies of blasting the person with literal or metaphorical sticks and stones, we avoid the person. Active, very active.

Why would forgiveness be any different? Forgiveness is not passively releasing; It is actively letting go. With the same amount of energy that we held on, we actively release. We have to continually replace resentment with forgiveness - Think compassionately about that person, ruminate on loving kindness, feel compassion in our body, have fantasies of love and peace, accept the person. Active, very active.

Perhaps with time we will develop emotional muscle memory and won't have to be so actively mindful. But, until then, lets get busy forgiving.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

END DISCRIMINATION - including self-discrimination

Is it possible that, despite your beliefs about your accepting, loving, nonjudgmental nature, you commit acts of discrimination every day...to yourself?

When I talk to people about their attitudes towards themselves they tell me all the time, "Oh, don't worry, I wouldn't treat anyone else that way." I hear people talk like this constantly. You'll hear it, too, if you listen for just one day: "I can't, I'm too old"; "I wish I could, but I'm too big"; "I'd love to take that class, but I'm terrible." Discriminate, discriminate, discriminate.

It's time to stop restricting ourselves from the things we have the ability and resources to do just because we are "too old" or "not pretty enough."  What a horrible message to put into the world: "It is OK for someone to do that, just not me." How do we let ourselves get away with this horrific behavior? It is clear discrimination.

Violence is violence, hate is hate, it doesn't matter if you are aiming it at someone else or yourself. Discrimination is hateful and often leads towards violence.

Love is love, it doesn't matter if you are aiming it at someone else or yourself.

We need more love in the world.

Be mindful what you say, what you think. Shift your attitudes. End Discrimination.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A great lesson from...acne

 I have gone through several different phases of "self-esteem development," with a few definitive milestones.  One was a few years ago. I was feeling particularly self-conscious because of a very intrusive zit right in the middle of my forehead.

Thanks be to all that is fair...I had decided to grow bangs a few months prior, so I had a handy shield. Perfect...pull the bangs this way, curl them just so and...no zit.

Only problem was, I was so uncomfortable. It was hot, and my hair felt yucky on my forehead. I felt distracted because I kept fidgeting, making sure the hair had not shifted out of place. Finally I took a head band, pulled all my hair back and tied it up in a bun on top of my head. I instantly felt better. I was more physically comfortable and I didnt have to worry if anyone would see my acne because I knew that they could!  I don't have to have perfect skin, which means that I don't have to hide my skin when it is imperfect.  What if we let go of our need to be right, our need to be perfect, our need to be constantly shiny and clever and brilliant and talented? What if we could be more free, more comfortable, less distracted and more available to pay attention to what we love, who we love and how we can love better?

It has been very freeing for me to realize that I don't always have to have clear skin or, more importantly, to be great at "it" (whatever that "it" happens to be), to know the answer, to have it figured out, to understand, to get it. Consider stepping out from behind your respective bangs the next time you have an imperfection.  See what it might feel like to let go of the false belief that you must hide imperfections and embrace the freedom that comes with being who you are, where you are, when you are there.

Be you.