A bridge is mostly thought of as a structure that facilitates or supports passage and joining between two places. This broad definition is relevant in music, dentistry, architecture, and in theoretical constructs.
As I contemplated the way forward on New Year’s Eve 2015 and reflected on the past, I was struck with a vision of trying to build a bridge over a vast ocean where there was no other side perceivable to which the bridge could join land: A bridge to no-where. I realised this is a pattern I have in relationships which is a fruitless endeavour. The nature of a bridge generally is it must lead somewhere and is often supported by a minimum of two sides to enable the bridging of a gap. Bridge building in relationships can only be supported by two sides, and often other supports, willing to be present; I see the bridge as being the relationship itself. If there is only one participant then there is nothing to support the relationship sitting in between.
To add another layer I realize my greatest peace and harmony in life comes not from adding something to life, but instead, letting go of something. I cannot build a bridge by myself so my realization is to let go trying until the other ocean shore comes into view; perhaps someone constructing support from the other side. In some desired relationships, perhaps with family, this is something that may never happen.
Along with this realization is a reminder of a mantra that is magic to my ears, my heart… the Serenity Prayer.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Life is filled with bridges – we are in relationship with everything we contact. These existing bridges are the structures I can care for and provide regular attention and maintenance to – The courage to change the things I can. I can be open to building new bridges when the opportunities arise. I can also notice when bridge building would be an impossible feat at the time – Accepting the things I cannot change.
So my letting go as I embark on the adventure that is 2016 is letting go of bridges to no-where, and focusing on useful constructions that safely serve all who step onto the bridge of relationship: Bridges to now-here… The wisdom to know the difference.
What to do with struggle …. How do I accept what is?
Learning to accept life does not mean you do nothing or that nothing changes. Life is in a continual state of flux, ever changing – never static. Acceptance is about embracing reality because it just is what it is in any given moment. When we can do that (embrace reality) we don’t have to push so hard to change things. Often as a natural consequence of accepting reality, change just happens.
“that change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is — to be fully invested in his current positions. By rejecting the role of change agent, we make meaningful and orderly change possible.” Arnold Beisser – The paradoxical theory of change.
So how do we do that? We get to know our “self” intimately. We become more aware of our life experience and mindfulness is a way to do that. We notice the physical feelings, emotions, and thoughts that arise in different situations. Mindfulness meditation (starting with the breath) is the training ground for expanding awareness of how we live life and how life impacts us.
As we start to live life consciously and stop pushing away what is there, we start the journey down the rabbit hole. Sometimes we don’t know what to do with that which we have become aware of. There’s one sure fire thing you can do to be with the moment, accept it, and let it go (at least for now).
Ask yourself a question about what you are experiencing. It’s a great way to acknowledge reality and accept it is there. Become curious and question your experience: Not to raise doubt, question like a scientist to raise your curiosity, and life could become an experiment. Let go of an answer – it may or may not come to you at the time.
Ask about your feelings.
Ask about your thoughts.
Ask about your body sensations.
Ask about your experiences past, present, and potential future.
Ask about your unique meaning of life.
Dr John Demartini,Tony Robbins, and other motivational speakers often say that the quality of life is partly based on the quality of questions asked. As I become more aware I notice questions naturally arise. As I become more mindful, kind and compassionate, more questions arise within me. I have noticed questioning has become a tool and a skill. Next time you meditate or you’re feeling challenged just try posing a question and sitting with it for a while, perhaps one of the following:
Where am I at with this right now?
How did I get here?
What are the sensations in my body right now?
Is there something I need right now?
I wonder what the meaning is behind this, because I just don’t understand it right now.
I thought I had dealt with this, what am I missing?
What is it within me that chooses this experience?
If I am being kind and honest with me right now what is this situation telling me about myself.
What does this tell me about the other person?
What is my responsibility, what do I actually have control of, and what can I let go of?
What do I want to experience in my life right now?
Is my choice in alignment with what I want to experience in my life right now?
A statement you might make after asking your question is – “I trust that I will understand and know the answers when they present to me”.
What questions would you ask if you stop for a moment, to be with your life as it is, just noticing it in all its glory, neutrality, and pain? What could you become curious about? Would being curious help you acknowledge what is there? Would acknowledging what is in your experience in the moment be a way to accept? I wonder what would happen if you could accept that’s just how it is right at this moment… with gentle curiosity…
We all have the answers we need within us. We do need to learn how to ask questions and just remain open for the answers , however they choose to show up.
The question I most often ask in general terms: “What do I most need to know or do right now to be loving, kind and compassionate?” It’s my bottom line – what I care about most. AND it includes all living beings (me).
The following musings will hopefully help other mothers and fathers who have experienced loss and grief of children through estrangement and difficult circumstances. This feeling of loss and grief is often overlooked, not accepted, or disregarded. For those of us who feel this, our loss is real and our grief runs deep. This is also relevant to anyone who feels a deep sense of loss that is unexpressed or not accepted. Grief is personal. Grief is experienced when someone or something that is deeply meaningful is no longer a part of our world.
Meditating this morning and sitting with (physical) pain in my eyes (not a good sign for me), a realisation that I have had before in similar circumstances flooded my head and heart. The eye condition has been with me for around 30 years. At times it has progressed to limited vision in one or both eyes to a point of blindness. (Thankfully I have been blessed on several occasions with the recovery of one eye.) The times of blindness coincide with deeply impacting life events: the first time with the loss during pregnancy of my youngest child, which coincided with the loss of my two beautiful living children through choices I made. The loss of my two children was not total at the time, and overtime it became so.
This morning as I sat with the present eye discomfort and thoughts of the last three days when I have felt this eye pain, the thought occurred to me of what I have been pushing aside; I often do this without realising it. This is a recurring situation where fear, sadness, guilt and shame all arise and meld together into a deep sense of grief. This is an experience I thought I had learned to be with. However, this morning I realised I have just learned to push it aside in sneaky ways. Current events have brought this situation into the forefront of my life again.
As an aside, it has come to my attention over the last few years as I navigate this journey of motherhood, its joy and pain, just how many mothers are estranged for a myriad of reasons and circumstances from their children. Each one of us has a unique experience and so do our children who remain distant. I do know this is not a blame game even though I have spent many years blaming myself. I have spent years with harsh feelings of blame or resentment towards others in this massively intense journey of loss. I am also aware of a lack of understanding from other people. Someone who didn’t understand my grief once said to me “They’re not dead!”; And yes thankfully, for my two older children that is true. However, there are times when I feel as if I am dead or at least a very big part of me has died. This is my loss and grief experience. I wonder how other mothers feel inside. I can only speak of my experience.
So, as I slowly let go of blame but not responsibility for my part in this intense dynamic I feel compassion for other people involved in this situation slowly creeping in. Each of us has a very personal perspective shaped by many influences. For some time now I realised I have to let go of having any control or influence in how the story will play out. The Serenity Prayer has been a major comfort and lesson for me. I feel serenity more often, courageous at times, and a wee bit of wisdom evolving into my head and heart. I also realise where there is life there is change ( I don’t like the word “hope”). Change is happening continually. I don’t know what the future holds for anyone. There is always a wild card among life’s ups and downs. The best plan is to be present in my life as it is right now accepting the richness of all experiences.
What I do know from practicing mindfulness is that I no longer wish to push these deep feelings aside, fill my days with an overload of work or study, and avoid living fully. This triggering situation will continue to arise until I no longer need to learn from it. As a result of my contemplation I am welcoming my feelings like an old friend (Thich Nhat Hanh), having an internal conversation about life, and getting to know my experience. My mindful acceptance of feelings as they arise helps me to self-regulate and not become overwhelmed and engulfed in grief or any other feelings that arise. So far my clarity is elusive. However, I am willing to stop pushing the feelings away and sit with them mindfully with kindness and compassion to myself and to the others who are a part of this co-created situation. We all suffer. I know that pushing anything away will not facilitate growth.
A quote from my journal this morning
“My thoughts of healing are not to stop the feelings of grief, my thoughts are to understand what I could learn from them.”
A mindful note – May we all learn to befriend that which ails us (and gives us joy), accept it, learn from it, heal, and welcome love, kindness, and compassion into our world.
I recognise and welcome the following intense feeling: I am so incredibly grateful to have brought these beautiful children in the world and grateful for the many amazing moments we have shared as a family. I am grateful that they have reached adulthood, and my deepest wish is for their happiness, good health, ease and grace.
Self-Awareness and internal honesty are powerfully connected. An honest appraisal of who we think we are, and what we bring to the world is a great learning experience. With awareness of how we treat ourselves and how we treat others we can notice the impact we have on our world and make any worthy adjustments to our thoughts and behaviour. Understanding the difference between judgment and discernment, and noticing where we employ either trait takes honesty and courage.
Judgment of self (and others) promotes defensive and offensive reactions. Discernment promotes a mind open to options and choice-fullness; opportunity for responsive change. The difference between judgment and discernment is loving kindness and compassion. Judgment is aggressive, discernment is assertive. If discernment replaces judgment we are more likely to feel the freedom of honest self appraisal and more proactive self expression. We are more open to expanding on our traits that promote growth, leaving behind that which makes us contract.
When there is room for honesty and discernment within there is greater opportunity to stop relying on other people’s opinions and approval. We can choose more appropriate expectations of self inwardly and externally of other people and events. Whatever we are creating and experiencing out in the world is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Look and feel inwards for the truth, practice unlimited friendliness to what is there, and check out with curiosity if you would like to experience something new and different.
How can we recognise judgment and how can we cultivate internal honesty? Questioning is a very useful tool; questioning without attachment to an answer. Asking a specific question creates a powerful intention towards an outcome. As you frame an initial question allow other questions to arise, perhaps becoming more specific and focused, zooming in on finer points. The questions arise out of your expanding awareness. The following questions are some suggestions around this topic of exploring judgment and criticism. Remember to hold an attitude of curiosity and gentleness as you contemplate and process the questions. You may like to hold a specific experience in mind as you ask these questions:
Criticism and judgment about yourself:
How do I recognise self criticism and judgment? (Intention of topic)
What is my internal tone of voice?
Am I chastising myself?
What language am I using?
How would I feel if someone else spoke to me in this tone, with these words?
What body sensations do I notice when I am judging myself?
How do I feel when I treat myself in this manner?
Do I feel expanded and open, or do I feel contracted and shut down?
What things do I do well that expand me and open me to life?
Criticism and judgment about other people:
Am I being critical or discerning?(Intention of topic)
What impact is my tone and language having on the other person?
Am I judging the person or the behaviour?
Am I making the other person wrong so that I can be right?
Do I fear them because I don’t understand their differences?
How are we similar?
I wonder what it’s like for them…
What body sensations do I notice when I am criticising someone?
How would I feel if someone spoke to me the same way?
Is there another way to do this?
What does this person do well?
Pause after you ask your question and feel the sensations and emotions as they arise, still sitting with curiosity and gentleness. Answers are not always available in words. There is amazing wisdom in our body. The more we practice mindfulness in meditation the more we understand our unique internal language. As this aspect of our inner world develops, we can more readily tune in to the reality of our external experience.
The following meditative exercises can be a part of your meditation practice. You could incorporate the questions listed above into your meditation. You can also use the questions as well as mindful being throughout your day, holding them lightly, to be aware of your internal process. You can combine these meditations into one meditation practice, or do them separately as you see fit. Sit comfortably in a position that allows you to be restful and alert. You can close your eyes after reading the guide. (If using the questions, open your eyes to read each new question.) Allow your attention to settle on your breath for a few minutes. Then allow the intention to arise to be aware of how and when judgment and criticism are present.
Mindful exercise 1:
Allowing thoughts to arise about opinions you hold about yourself see if you can catch yourself when in judgment mode. As you do, bring your attention inward and notice how your body feels, notice your mood and emotions. Perhaps thoughts arise connected to this process. Notice them. Feel what is present and sit with the sensations allowing them to be, without judgment of the judgment. Be curious. Then expand your awareness to times you may judge others. Once again notice how your body feels, notice your mood and emotions. Feel what is present and sit with it allowing it to be, without judging yourself. Just notice through the sentient experience of what arises. Return your attention the breath…
Finish with Mindful exercise 3…
Mindful exercise 2:
Bring to mind a situation where you experience judgment from another person. Bring your attention to your body sensations, mood and emotional state. Notice any thoughts that arise. Notice how this judgment impacts you and stay with the sensations with an attitude of curiosity and gentlness. Notice any urges to react to this judgment, either internally or through outward expression. As you notice the urge to react, tune in to your body and emotions noticing the feeling that goes with reaction. Sit with the sensations. Return your attention to the breath…
Finish with Mindful exercise 3…
Mindful exercise 3:
Imagine feeling arms of caring kindness wrapping around you, accepting you as you are, gently loving you for your internal honesty. Know this caring embrace comes from the infinite aspect of you, the part of you that is pure awareness. When you feel this warmth and caring for yourself, you may choose to expand this feeling of kindness out to other people you know who are similarly challenged. Bring your attention back to kindness to yourself. Allow your attention to settle on the breath…
Mindfully engaging in our inner world, external reality, and how we contact life, we can observe our defences and offences. We expand our awareness of the impact we have on our own well-being as well as the well being of our external world when judgment is present. We can make choices about how we want to be treated and how we choose to treat other people and our environment. Looking deeply within I know I have the seeds of every trait and emotion. Looking honestly I own the traits I express that cause harm to myself and others. I see my prejudices, my aggrandisement, my harsh inner critic, my bad choices, and I own it all. It took courage, honesty and kindness to transform my judgments of self and others to discernment and acceptance. It’s an ongoing process.
When I transform my judgment to discernment and make responsive choices, my life takes on a whole new meaning. My sense of peace, purposefulness, and empowerment grows exponentially. My sense of caring in general has expanded, my priorities often shift, I am less concerned with the opinions others have of me, and more concerned with the origins of others opinions. Do I have some responsibility in those origins? Sometimes I do. I do my utmost to remain mindful of the impact I have on myself and other people. When in doubt I ask myself “Is this coming from love or fear?” and then tune in to my body for an answer. I am more courageous and responsible in meeting my needs and following my dreams and desires. AND sometimes I get it wrong. I choose to be honest with myself about my opinions, motivations, aspirations, feelings, and actions. More and more, when appropriate, I share my honesty. Mostly these objects of awareness are just for my internal process. The greatest way I can share my internal process is through my way of being. My life is rich with learning, conscious and unconscious process, and love.
May your journey transform with honesty and discernment.
In love and light
Note: When meditating on my inner processes, I like to have a journal beside me to write about my experiences after the meditation. I allow myself time to sit with my experience first.
I have chosen to write my next book on resilience and I can hopefully guide people who are struggling on how they can survive AND thrive. I have decided to share some take away points as I write this book so you don’t have to wait for the end product to gain some immediate benefit. I would love your feedback and comments especially to know what is useful (or not), so the finished book will benefit as many people as possible. I hope you enjoy the snippets I release along the way.
As I face continual challenges with threats of blindness and other issues from autoimmune diseases (Uveitis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis), which I will share in greater detail in my book, I think of the following question. Where am I on the continuum of surviving and thriving? I feel like life is playing me like a slide guitar and the player (life) of said guitar is sliding the entire scale range! Those of you who have read Success is Simply Spiritual will be aware of other life changing challenges I have faced in the past. I will address a less imposing, although seriously impacting, challenge that creates difficulties I need to deal with.
The perfectionist trait I have says “I‘m not good enough if I am experiencing the (merely) surviving end of the spectrum” if I want to teach people how to manage well, and thrive. I “should” be a shining example of positivity and happiness. Well life’s not like that, not for me anyway. I ride the waves and occasionally get dumped head first into the sand or even worse, I feel held down topsy-turvy under the waves drowning and wondering if I’ll ever breathe again! I recently attended the Hay House Australia’s Writers Workshop and a very important point was made by Reid Tracy. He said that we all teach what we need to learn, including Louise Hay; a living icon in the world of personal transformation and founder of Hay House Publishing. It’s so refreshing to know that leaders in this field are honest, vulnerable and humble.
So some of my days are just days, some are filled with pure joy, excitement and happiness. Some however, can be anywhere from challenging, cranky, to scary or devastatingly heartbreaking, leaving me wondering how I will get through whatever is breaking my heart; or more aptly put, breaking my mind. But, the reality is I do at least survive every day or I wouldn’t be here now writing this article. I do more than survive; I eventually find ways to thrive!
So what does thriving mean? The difference between surviving and thriving is resilience. Recognising my resilience through some pretty difficult events and circumstances in the past has shown me that I have courage, strength, internal support, and social support. The years I have spent learning mindfulness skills is paying off with huge dividends. I have faltered many times and fallen in deep holes, often forgetting that I have been in a hole before. You might say I have spent a lot of time sleep walking. Eventually through practicing awareness I can remind myself of the times I have struggled and have triumphed. The fact that I am still here to be aware of this tells me I have made it through whatever has gone before. This too shall pass. Contemplation of questions like “how did I get through that?” reminds me of the skills and traits within me that I have used successfully before; reminding me that I can do it again. Why do I continue to fall down these holes? Simple really, I am human! Life is an ongoing process.
I/we will always be learning and will do so at the perfect pace for each of us. We are continually growing or decaying, not static, as are all things in the material world. It’s only the rate of change that varies.
One example of a challenge (hole that I fall in) is that I often set the bar way to high for myself (and then for other people as well), holding on to unreal expectations, and in doing so create more challenges that usually bring me undone again. There is so much judgment hanging around in my head. I often wonder who died and put me in charge of the universe. That’s a huge load to carry and one responsibility I’d rather relinquish. This particular hole is filled with expectations of work commitments, study achievement, creativity, and relationship dramas. Makes you wonder how there is room for me down there! I end up buried underneath the weight of all of it, and when I do … then what? The ship hits the sand! This is where my resilience skills come into play.
Resilience is also a process and it took some time to bring it to conscious awareness and integrate as a usable skill, so patience with yourself as you navigate the process is helpful. Recognition of my resilience in the past (I take time to remember specific challenges I have moved through) helps me switch gears from my head to my heart. When I’m in my head the mind talk is incredibly critical, pressurised, and all about business and ego. When the gears switch to my heart there is now an automatic physical change and response that I recognise … I smile. The smile arises out of innate kindness that I all but bury when I’m in my head. The smile to, and at, myself changes the nature of my being, opens me to courage and strength, along with love, kindness, and compassion; an intrinsic part of our human nature. Then I remember to take a breath, stop and sit with myself, and rediscover who I am, what I would love to experience, how I would love to be of service, and how to love and be kind to others. Then my mind is free to address the practicalities of my situation.
I think the simplest take away for you/anyone from this article is, if you are troubled – no matter how deeply – remember, somehow you have made it through life this far and you can make it through this too. Find a quiet moment, take a deep breath in and exhale a few times to create some present centred space, and think about the following 7 steps:
Think of a former challenge that you have overcome.
What thoughts and actions got you through your most difficult times in the past?
Who helped and supported you?
What do you need to have or do right now?
Who can help you get it or do it?
Let go of the questions and let the answers come to you at a later time if necessary.
Keep your attention on your breath for a few minutes if you can.
You have what it takes to be resilient – to not only survive, but to thrive!
Reach back to remember how you got through hard times before,
Reach within to your strength and courage,
Reach out for the help you need (especially when in crisis), and
Reach forward into the present and your future knowing you have what it takes to survive and thrive!
Do remember that help is available 24/7 if you feel you need help to cope in a crisis. It’s OK to ask for help when you need it.
Last night I attended the Open Heart Crystal Bowl meditation at Third Eye Healing Centre at Margate. I facilitate meditation groups myself and recently what has been powerfully reinforced to me is how important the group energy of meditation is. Practicing meditation daily, and mindfulness continually is not something that usually comes naturally. It is a skill/tool we learn along the way – just like making our bed or brushing our teeth. Proficiency and integration is a process that is likely to develop more powerfully with practice, reinforcement, commitment, and support.
I am definitely dedicated to my spiritual life and meditation practice. Even so there are times where my meditation practice “falls off the wagon”. I started facilitating a new group recently to help me get back on the wagon and whilst it was a powerful motivator to walk my talk, as well as provide the support for other meditators, I still struggled with my daily meditation routine and life challenges as they arose. I have recently revisited other groups that give me a chance to participate as a member, where the only contribution and responsibility was showing up. This has refreshed my enthusiasm through the energetic contributions of like-minded people. My daily practice feels much richer for my effort of taking care of my spiritual needs this way. I’m sure the groups I facilitate will benefit vicariously from this too.
I notice as I am confronted by more challenging aspects of life, the more I need to practice, and at times the more difficult I find it to actually sit and be with the physical feelings of agitation, the ruminations, and the emotions that arise. This is especially the time to stop a perfunctory attitude to life and make a conscious effort – take meditation action! The action I have taken recently was to find a local group that I resonate with – Third Eye Healing Centre as I mentioned earlier, and also revisiting the Caboolture Mindfulness Practice Group – a local sangha who practice the Buddhist teachings of Plum Village founded by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Participating in a group can be disconcerting for some people. Group meditation is not usually about sharing personal information or being exposed in vulnerability. Therapy groups are more likely to engage in more personal exposure, always at a participant’s level of comfort and permission. Group meditation is about sitting in a process of meditation with others and sharing the focused energy that is created in the process of doing “inner” work. The inner work could be a mindfulness practice, inner journey, or whatever the meditation process is that resonates with you. This can change over time and with needs as they arise. There is no sharing of your personal meditation experience required in a meditation group even if invited to do so.
I find that Mindfulness Meditation gives me a strong foundation of presence with whatever type of inner work I choose to engage in. I practice mindfulness of breath often during my day. All it takes is to become aware of my breath in the moment and stay with it as long as is practical, depending on what I’m doing. When I take the time to sit and meditate I always start with breath awareness and either stay with that or then progress to other forms of meditation. This includes when sitting in groups. I find my meditation focus is actually easier in a group setting.
No matter what type of meditation resonates with you, finding a group that feels supportive to you is right up there with the priority of taking time in your daily life to practice some form of meditation. Attending a group on a weekly basis allows you to contribute, and receive, from the synergy created by the group. Synergy of a group is also beneficial to the community at large. Energy knows no boundaries. Imagine how beneficial your contribution is to the world each time you meditate with loving intention for yourself, and even more so when you practice with a group…
Life will continue to be a process of highs and lows. Learning how to manage the highs and lows is something we can take
responsibility for. When we discover suitable ways to do our inner work and we know where to find external support to our process, we have an opportunity to experience life with a richness and appreciation that infuses throughout our days. Attending a regular group meditation is one way you can tap into external support for your inner process and growth. Find a group that resonates with your values and beliefs and make a commitment to yourself to attend. Be open to changing to a new group if a group ceases to fulfill your needs – don’t just stop going.
Wishing you joyful and sustained meditating throughout your life process.
Meditation is not about attaining some ideal, it’s recognizing who you already are, the beauty that’s already present.
These are wise words you’ll hear in the video clip below. How powerful it is to stop attaining something – an ideal – that we are not, in this moment. It does not mean we will always be the same. We are changing continually moment by moment. Each breath we take changes us. Each person we encounter, changes us. Each experience changes us. Life is a process. Acceptance with awareness is about paying attention to what is real and attending to what we actually need to, to be love and be loving.
“The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.” ~ Derek Walcott
Jon Kabat-Zinn recites this poem at the conclusion of a wonderful talk on Mindfulness and Meditation he presented at Google. Here is the video. I share this time and time again. For a great introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation please watch and share.
The past week has been a deliciously rich time of introspection and recalibration for me; for my heart. A journey of ups and downs witnessed with self-awareness and in part shared with a friend and mentor who allowed me the space to bounce my thoughts of a trusted sounding board. The trigger for the increased momentum of an emotional roller coaster was Valentine’s Day; now passed for another year.
My conditioned response to Valentine’s Day had me riding a wave of expectations. My expectations were of needing demonstrated attention and affection from an intimate other, and on the flip side, expectations of unrequited love from past experience. As I reflected on the range of mixed emotions that arose I realised my deepest aspirations of love, and how I truly wanted to experience love. As anger, grief and disappointment ebbed and flowed through me, I noticed the memories and associations I harbored about love. I noticed it wasn’t really “love” at all. My past experience in many different kinds of relationships was more about needing other people to fulfill a huge chasm within me that I had no idea, or skills, on how to fulfill myself. The past 19 years has been a slow road to consciousness to discover this aspect about life that many people experience.
My Valentine’s thoughts moved to my children, my mother, dear friends and a beautiful intimate soul who has come into my life. My heartfelt realisation is that love for all these people in their different roles in my life is all the same; my ability and the appropriateness on how to express love varies, the depth not so much. I meditated throughout the past week on emotions, on how I shut down, and on opening my heart, feeling my body as it responded to all that arose. I feel blessed to know that even though there are road blocks to my understanding and expression of love, the deep aspiration of my soul is to feel and express loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.
This beautiful Sunday morning I picked up a Mindfulness Bell Magazine borrowed from my Sangha library, which has been floating around for 3 weeks now. The timing was perfect. The major theme of this publication is True Love. It contains articles about love between couples, a mothers’ love, and other themes about loving kindness. The underlying message in all these touching stories and teachings is our ability to come back to ourselves and water the seeds of love within. The articles relate many powerful events people have experienced. Events that often teach people to foster anger, guilt, shame and blame. These all affect our ability to love ourselves and see that we are perfect just as we are, that all our experiences shape the beautiful soul who is there looking back in the mirror every day: A beautiful soul that is often crying out to be loved.
I read a beautiful quote by Dodinsky this morning and I would love to sow a seed for you to water here today.
“You have to love yourself because no amount of love from others is sufficient to fill the yearning that your soul requires from you.” ~ Dodinsky
I wish you well on your journey within to opening your heart. I am on the same journey too and it’s often a bumpy road. I feel my heart open more and more towards myself every day. I see and feel the effect of mindfulness the more I practice. I love that as people come and go in my life, I am responsible for my love, my joy, and my happiness. I love that I have so much more to give to others as I open my own heart to me. As I grow in love I see so much beauty and perfection in other souls. I understand and appreciate all our journeys much more deeply.
Love and light …
Recommended reading: True Love – A Practice for Awakening the Heart. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
This week I, along with many other people, celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela who passed on from his earthly incarnation. My heart was filled with emotions of gratitude for the change Nelson Mandela created, sadness for the loss of his embodied influence, and great joy at having been exposed to his wisdom, and knowing his life will be influential for a long time to come.
I purchased one of his books on kindle called Conversations with Myself, hungry for his inspiration knowing that his personal wisdom is now limited to whatever legacy exists here and now. The book is filled with musings, excerpts, communications that have been preserved and now shared with the world. If you are inspired and motivated by this man you may enjoy this book. I am taking my time and savouring the words like a deliciously nourishing feast, those tasty morsels which stand out for me before I move on to the next course/chapter.
Some of the “stand out” notes so far:
“I came to accept that I have no right whatsoever to judge others in terms of my own customs, however much I may be proud of such customs … that to despise others because they have not observed particular customs is a dangerous form of chauvinism… I shall neither impose my own customs on others nor follow any practice which will offend my comrades”. This insight occurred after Mandela noticed his own “revulsion” when a friend had not observed a particular custom. Self awareness allowed him to observe “prejudice of my youth and to accept all people as equals.”
On politics Mandela mused “Only arm chair politicians are immune from committing mistakes. Errors are inherent in political action. Those who are in the centre of political struggle who have to deal with practical and pressing problems, are afforded little time for reflection and no precedents to guide them and are bound to slip up many times. But in due course, and provided they are flexible and prepared to examine their work self critically, they will acquire the necessary experience and foresight that will enable them to avoid the ordinary pitfalls and pick their way ahead amidst the throb of events.” The ownership of fallibility in this passage is relevant to anyone in any situation. The ownership of responsibility and preparedness to accept, forgive, and move on, with a lessons’ seed firmly implanted in the mind and heart, growth and change can take root. How would life be different here on earth if people in powerful positions held the values and ethics that foster this view? This could be anyone from older siblings and parents to corporate, political and religious leaders.
Like it or not we are influenced by that which we place our attention on. Life is filled with role models and leaders and each one of us is a role model and leader to those in our personal world. How do you do life? Who influences your thoughts, emotions, and actions? I am aware of being influential and of many different influences on me. Some of them conditioned and not necessarily poised in the greatest of values or intentions. As my self-awareness grows and my intentions become firmly devoted in loving kindness and compassion, I become more conscious of when “less than helpful” thoughts, emotions, and actions arise. I become more aware as my judgments, prejudices, and unkindness pops up to show me I am not perfect. Then the challenge is to practice loving kindness and compassion to myself, to heal, and to see how I might choose to do life differently next time.
An observation noted in the pages of this book is that Nelson Mandela most often carried a note book with him throughout his adult life. He was often seen taking notes. Many of these notes have been introspective along with practical memos etc. Over the last week I have been motivated to write more of my thoughts down in my journal and take notes of my thoughts as I read, reinforcing something I already knew to be true. The practice of keeping a journal is a very powerful tool to expand self-awareness. Reading how Mandela was a note taker and then reading some of his musings reignited my enthusiasm for my journal practice. The act of writing thoughts down helps integrate self-awareness into our being, rather than a thought that rushes past on the whisper of a breeze felt gently, and gone again in an instant. There are many different ways to keep a journal: hand written, computer documents, artistic creations, voice recording, and ways I haven’t even thought of. Getting our thoughts out into a space where they can be explored and perhaps expanded upon facilitates our understanding and acceptance of what our personal traits really are. We can also discern how these traits have been beneficial as well as detrimental. A journal can be a private affair, a love affair with ourselves, an opportunity to communicate, argue, make up, and befriend every aspect of self. I have the distinct impression that Nelson Mandela learned much about himself along the way and his very public life demonstrated evolution and growth. As I read Conversations with Myself, I imagine his note taking was highly influential.
I choose role models, and leaders who exemplify living a life I aspire to live. I model them as far as I am able and to the extent it feels relevant to me. I also recognise that I am unique and it is the values that I choose to emulate and so I will at times work at the methods and practices a leader uses to live out their values. Role models I choose could be dear friends, family, colleagues, and not limited to global personalities. The impact of unity, kindness, helpfulness, and goodness is the model I wish to have as my influence on my world.
Nelson Mandela was headed down a path of terrorism. Had he not been captured and jailed I wonder how far his acts of violence and terrorism would have continued. Thankfully his path changed and evolved into a process of freedom through peaceful influences, rather than retaliation and notoriety through attacking the enemy. We all live and hopefully learn. We all have the potential for terrorism; just as we all have the potential for peace and love. I am grateful for Nelson Mandela, his imperfections, his evolution, his words of wisdom and his legacy. May he rest in peace…