Just as there is not a way to force a plant to grow, there is not a way to force the inner life force to appear and perform according to the demands of our mind. What there is, is to purify, toil, honor, humble one’s self. This is done bit by bit; recognizing the many obvious, and sometimes very subtle, ways we demand that life be the way we want it to be. As if we have any say in how life goes.
It is a fierce journey, this life, and not for the weak of soul. We can plant many a seed to no avail. A storm can come out of nowhere and wipe out all that we have sowed. Droughts and floods do happen. Heat and cold are not in our control, except in the false environments of our homes. The homes of the “lucky” few, that is.
To be willing to come face-to-face with all that is possible, both for and against life, takes something. As already mentioned, humility is first and foremost. Courage and integrity, the proper use of our free will, qualities that are deeply intertwined, are vital.
Life does not go our way, it goes the way that it does. We can, if we are humble and courageous, if we are exquisitely self-responsible, if we can let go our pride, decide through our free-will what response is being asked of us. Which response is with life rather than against?
Sometimes we are asked to trust life in the face of fear. Perhaps there is a letting go, perhaps a fighting for, perhaps a being with, just as life is in the present.
There is no map, no perfect set response, no recipe.
Even in our deepest prayer and meditation, life may show up or not. Just as our best seeds in the richest soil may not produce. This is where faith comes in. Faith is easy when we get our way, when life seems to give us just what we want.
Our work is to continue to plant, over and over, deep into our innermost being, a prayer to be aligned with life. Amen.
To love and to be loved is the deepest longing for every human being on this planet. This longing, and inevitable failure to fulfill this longing, is the core of all of our upsets, problems, confusions.
Our desire for love is our very nature; it is who we are. From the day we are born, we reach out, searching to be received, seen, mirrored, loved, adored. None of us are. All of us, every single one, are furious about this.
We hate because we were not loved perfectly; some of us not at all (or so we believe!). Our anger at not being loved perfectly throws us into an energetic confusion. We want, simultaneously, to be loved and to kill off those who do not fulfill our wishes.
Even at a very young age there is a deep knowing of the incongruity here. We become, at the core, afraid, ashamed, enraged, desperate and terrified. We feel that if we are not loved, we will perish
To a child, not being loved is certain death; after all, we depend on our parents for our very survival. So, we develop strategies to ensure our very lives.
We then grow into these strategies and believe them to be who we are. We consider these ways of being our personalities, and see ourselves in these false, misconceived, damaging images.
We continue to hate and we continue to develop more and more sophisticated ways of hiding our hatred as we grow into adulthood. The part of us that continues to hate, meanwhile, remains in childhood.
A part of us knows this, and is more and more desperate to hide where we know we are mere children emotionally. This is the human dilemma.
What we each do with this is ours to recognize for what it is, a confusion, a mis-understanding, a collapsing of a system created by a child and embraced, unquestioned and unexamined, into adulthood.
Our work is to untie all of our inner knots, piece by messy piece. This painful process is lifelong and life-giving. The deeper we go into the energetic core of our beings and retrieve the part of ourselves that we cut off out of our child’s need, the more of who we really are becomes available.
When we do this work, we find it is safe to love after all. Once we know, understand, and are responsible for the fact that we may or may not be met perfectly by the other, we are free to give our best, our most natural gifts, to life.
We each have a divine nature. This part of us ceaselessly whispers to us “grow, expand, connect, flow outward!” We hear this voice from deep within and interpret this as “improve, be better than, compete, get more!” Our demand of ourselves is twisted, distorted and has us at war with our very selves and one another.
We wall ourselves off from our very nature, hate ourselves for this act of aggression towards life, then project this out into the world. The outside world is a perfect mirror of the internal state of our hearts and souls.
We feel a deep guilt for this, as a part of us does recognize our sin against life. We atone for our sins by pretending a guilt which is not justifiable in reality.
We think we are guilty of not being perfect. We spend most of our energy trying desperately to improve ourselves, or alternately feeling the impossibility of this task. It is impossible, in fact, from this point of view. We can never be as perfect as our ego self demands us to be. We are so lost in this struggle to be perfect that we have lost sight of the life-giving possibility of the true struggle that life gives as its greatest gift: to find and grow into our true nature. To be one with life as it expands ceaselessly into greater consciousness.
By allowing ourselves to know this painful and temporary reality, by telling the truth to ourselves, we can begin the journey we are meant to follow. The journey towards consciousness is more joyful and blissful than we allow ourselves, in our present state, to experience.
All there is to do is tell the truth. It is I who stops life by my own selfish greed. It is I who refuses to love out of the fear that I will lose, or get hurt, or be seen as weak.
Then, remember who I really am. I am, in my deepest soul, one with the All. Who I really am cannot be hurt; I can only learn to love more deeply. By being willing to accept where I am at fault, where I am weak, where I have refused my own divine nature, I am then available to life.
It occurred to me this morning, as I was beginning my meditation, that some of the time the request for a deep breath is denied by the body.
There is a tension, a fear, some feeling that is blocking the body’s ability to relax and just breathe.
The question is, as a person who meditates, “Now what?”
The usual first response is to judge. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I breathe? The inner voice says “Oh no, this proves there is some danger, I knew it all along!”
In response to this inner voice, the body becomes rigid. Now every part of me is convinced. Death is imminent.
Then, because I have been practicing the great art of “remembering,” I go toward the tension rather than succumb to the temptation of avoiding it.
As I get closer, I recognize this part. I had disowned her many years ago. She was too much.
That was the belief then.
Now, I realize I cannot be whole without her. She has so much life to offer, life that long ago was rejected by parents who knew no better.
Tears stream down my face. Tears of sadness, then relief at my willingness and ability to feel what at one time would have surely killed me.
We cannot go around these parts, painful and fearful as this process may be. This is the process of meditation. We go into ourselves that we may find more and more of what had to be tucked away. We dismantle the wall of separation which we built out of our need to protect our broken hearts. We feel the pain still lingering there, waiting for us to remember. We welcome this pain now, knowing that this is just pain and it will go away. We no longer have to hold this against ourselves, but rather ingather.
These wise words have been written and spoken, preached and beseeched for centuries. And yet, here we are – the schism only wider. We continue to hurt only because we have been hurt and refuse to feel the pain of this.
The pain has to go somewhere; it is an energetic force field. Because we, individually and culturally, all refuse to accept the pain that has been inflicted on us and the pain that we all have inflicted on others, the cycle continues.
Human beings are a pathetic lot in many ways … and we also have the possibility to transform. Again and again we hear about self-responsibility and again and again we think, and act out of, the lack of this most critical spiritual law. We refuse to be responsible because we do not want to face the worst in ourselves. We would much rather point to the ugliness in the other. We then hate in them what we know we have in ourselves. The guilt of this continues the vicious cycle of hate and violence towards others, and, if felt into deeply, ourselves.
We all have some greed, vanity, hate, superiority, inferiority, self-will, pride and fear. No one is spared. This is the human condition. As a species, our very survival once demanded that we have some one-upmanship, some self-preservation, some deep longing to improve and be “better than.” Today our very survival depends on something else – our evolving our collective consciousness.
Our next step in the evolutionary process is to bring consciousness to our deepest selves. By inclusion rather than refusal we can, if we are willing to feel, without rejecting, the worst in ourselves, we can transform.
The pain inflicted hurts, very much indeed. It is quite normal and natural to want to avoid this pain.
Unfortunately, our avoiding this pain has us only continue to inflict on others what was inflicted upon us.
Yes, it is sad, but the true tragedy lies in our continuing to refuse to feel this sadness. The pain then gets locked inside, blocks our creativity, our natural intuition, our desire for connection.
We keep ourselves “safe,” we believe, from the possibility of ever being hurt again by blocking out what love comes our way. This is the true tragedy.
The narrative that is playing itself out in the world right now is the narrative that we all have playing over and over again in our own psyche. My prayer is that we can each, every one, stop and feel into what it is that we are trying to avoid by projecting our pain out into the world.
Yes, pain does hurt. What hurts even more is hate and fear. There is a price to be paid for all of the horrors human beings have inflicted upon one another. It is our own individual work to be willing to do our part by accepting, without flinching away, the pain that has been inflicted upon us and the pain we have inflicted.
At some point, and this is different for each of us, it is necessary to declare peace with one’s self.
It takes a while to even realize that we are, have been, and will continue to be, at war within our very heart and souls. We think we are protecting ourselves from the quite obvious threat of the outside world. We weave entire story lines around how dangerous this situation is, this situation called life. As we interact with others we may find a few who we deem to be safe territory, but it is mostly us against them. Some are lucky enough to have families that are a safe zone, others not so much.
As we peel back the layers of our defenses, bit by bit, we realize that it is not me versus the other. There is a deep recognition of the fact that where the war has been taking place all along is inside our own hearts, minds and souls.
We all have places in us of which we are not proud – to put it mildly. We can actually shudder if we allow ourselves to hear our own negativity.
Rather than cringing away from this negativity, these awful feelings, thoughts and attitudes, the key is to sit down and hear them out. In many ways, this is how I imagine a peace treaty comes about. Rant, rave, complain, accuse … followed finally with, yes, I can see that. That makes sense that you feel that way. What else? Going back and forth for what seems like years, because this never ends … until you have received all of what the negativity has to express.
You can then soothe and re-educate and hold yourself just as you are. You allow yourself to cry out, scream at the top of your lungs, rock back and forth or curl up in a ball. Stomp and wave your fists in the air with all of the outrage that you have been covering up, to the detriment of your soul.
We can then make a decision to let go. This new thought takes a while to settle in. We don’t trust it at first, naturally. We go back to the table time and again, willingly, with all of our hearts wanting peace.
What feels like total despair happens even to those of us who do “the work.”
One of the difficulties of being on a spiritual path is a common belief that this work should handle all of life’s problems. It doesn’t. Pain is simply part of our human condition. What can make pain turn into despair is the demand that we not have such strong reactions to life anymore.
We do. And, the sooner we allow whatever is coming to the surface with compassion, love and curiosity, the sooner we can return ourselves to ourselves.
Personally, as a survival mechanism, I learned to leave my body at a very young age. It felt like a really smart thing to do at the time and it probably was.
As an adult, not being in your body can make an already painful situation much, much worse. When one is literally “beside themselves,” there is no one home. Then, the loneliness, abandonment and desperate fear of the child combines with whatever situation happens to be occurring in life. Whatever rational part of our brain is still functioning can’t make sense of the quite obvious overreaction. As to friends and family coming to the rescue, how does one explain? “Listen, I am not really in my body and my brain has been high-jacked, so could you just bring me back to reality, please?!?”
When one is in this state, “reality” is a foreign, terrifying concept. Part of the belief when in this particular state is “This is reality, and I have been kidding myself to believe otherwise!” A childish superstition can kick in that sounds something like “You aren’t going to trick me again!”
So, we hold on desperately to our defenses, without which we will surly die. This feels so very real because, at one time, it was real. As a child, without the defenses we so brilliantly devised, we would not have survived. A child cannot tolerate the rejection of the beloved parent, let alone the not uncommon physical, mental, and emotional abuse many children suffer. Our defenses kept us alive, literally. And now, this very defense keeps us from life.
The work is to see this, know this, and work though this. The most challenging of all of this challenging work is, when I fall into despair, to forgive myself. Again. And again.
There is no magic, any more than there is a punishing god who will rain terror on us for making a mistake. What there is, is a commitment to bring oneself back, over and over and over again, to this sometimes glorious and sometimes painful life.
Reality. It is not the ideal, pain-free, rainbows and unicorns we once (and sometimes still do!) believe it should be. And, if allowed to be without judgment, without a demand for perfection, without taking it personally, simply accepted from moment to moment, reality can be trusted.
With great love and appreciation to all who have stood beside me, even when I wasn’t home to myself,
Pain is such a relative, subjective term. I have two quotes hung in my office. One is:
I would see these words every day except that my office is a mess. Even if it were not a mess, they would eventually blend into the wall. This is what happens to all things we see every day, we quit seeing them. Unless something reminds us.
I am getting a little reminder right now. After minor gum surgery, I am in pain. I have been watching my relationship to this pain and my relationship to that relationship. If you could hear the thoughts in my head, you would think I knew nothing about transformation, self-care, holistic pain management and so on. I have a feeling I might be in the majority here, and there are always those few exemplary people out there who make we mere mortals, if we are unwise enough to compare ourselves, look like wimps.
I hurt, am nauseated, tired, don’t feel like doing anything. My face is swollen and I have to be very careful about how I eat so as to not disturb the graft. That is all. This will pass within a few days, and I will have a complete recovery. It is no big deal.
Now, let me tell you what is really going on. I feel like I am going to throw up, which has me practically hysterical inside. I am in a panic, emotionally. My mouth hurts and I don’t think it will ever stop. It shouldn’t be this way. What is wrong with me? The swelling was supposed to have gone down by now!
Should I call the doctor?! Hysterics kick in….
Then, “What is wrong with you, you loser?! Quit your bellyaching and make some lunch. Good lord! If there were ever anything really wrong with you, you may as well just call it a day. Get over yourself! There are people out there with real problems! You don’t deserve the time of day. You’re just using this as an excuse to be lazy, which you are!”
After this berating, I fall into complete despair. Now I have completely lost touch with reality. At first I blow it out of proportion, then, I refuse to validate a perfectly reasonable feeling. Pain.
The quotes in my office come to mind. I am in some pain. That is all. Yes, it hurts. No, I don’t have to do anything about it – nor do I have to blow it out of proportion. It is also not helpful, in fact is harmful, to compare my pain to that of another. This only results in more either exaggerating or minimizing and is not at all respectful of the person to whom I am comparing myself.
Watching my thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and catching my misconceptions, has been quite an education.
All of these patterned ways of being are unconscious, until we take the time to look at them. Unconscious or not, these patterns mold our life substance and determine the creative forces from which we live.
I see the split in my emotional development right here; either I collapse into complete weakness or I overcome with mean aggression. Neither one of these strategies works, and the result is that I am left frustrated and a victim of my circumstances. So, what is the solution here?
I can tell you what it is not, which is to by-pass the pain using the already developed strategies. What most people do is to develop a “more mature” character to play the role of the person we think we should be.
She would sound something like, “Yeah, I had a gum graft, but it’s OK. I have friends who are really sick, so who am I to complain, I’ll be fine, it just hurts, that’s all.”
Meanwhile there is a voice inside screaming “HELP! I am hurting here! Why doesn’t anyone care about me?!” This voice I silence by changing the subject and making a show of being more interested in the other person so that I “look good.” All the while, the internal wailing goes on.
The real solution is to stop and be with whatever is there in reality – in the present. Yes, it does hurt. Ah, poor sweetheart. Let the tears flow, let the rage express itself, let the one who feels life is unjust scream her head off. Let the sobbing, wailing, stomping, kicking, hating life as it is right now, let it all be there.
Experience all of these fully in your body. Make no judgments and do not stuff anything down. It is vitally important, however, that you express these emotions with an adult part of you present as a witness to your own grief. Otherwise, these emotions can just take you over and you forget that this is just a part of you expressing itself.
Watch yourself allow the waves of various feelings simply go through you. Do not stop any of them unless it feels too overwhelming. If you pay close attention to yourself, each feeling will come and go, just like a wave on the beach. With each feeling, the invitation is to breathe deeply and allow, with curiosity, whatever comes.
If you catch particular thoughts, stop and question them with honest curiosity. Something like, “I just had the thought that something has to be wrong here or the swelling would have stopped by now.” If I just let my childish emotions take over here, I go into a panic. Using my adult consciousness, I can assess the situation and determine if there is actually cause for alarm or not. In this particular case, I really don’t know. This is another slippery slope. “I don’t know” brings up more panic. I remind myself that as a child, not knowing was dangerous, but today, this is no longer true. I stop, validate, soothe and reeducate the part of me that goes into panic when faced with not knowing.
Catching each and every thought, feeling, sensation, reaction, and, with interest, curiosity and compassion, performing a reality check, does take a tremendous commitment, and we all fail time and time again. This habit, however, once in place, gives us access to a deeper, wiser and more loving and caring part of ourselves. From this place, pain is just pain.
This is not something another person can just tell you. Had my loving partner reminded me that “we create our reality, and all pain is relative,” I would have given him some real pain to mull over.
This is an experiential learning. I have had those quotes in my office for years, and their meaning only got deeper today.
It is my intention to, bit by bit, organically and over time, catch each of the parts of myself that was not honored and respected over my 62 years. Our work is ours to do. There is no hurry because time, too, is relative. And, wouldn’t it be lovely to spend the rest of your life, fully alive and present to each and every gift of feeling that offers itself up to you, to be expressed through you.
There is pain and there is joy, just as there is life and death. These cannot be separated. The more we can be with pain and the eventuality of death, the more joy and life is available.
Whenever we make the choice to commit to something, large or small, we sometimes forget that this commitment will, most likely, come at a cost.
We may have to feel some withdrawal, some pain, a bit of deprivation, overwhelm. These pains can be any and/or all of the following; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It is when we go into a commitment blindly and these discomforts hit us unawares that we suffer – and hence, usually fail to follow through with the commitment.
There is a part of us, and it is vital to realize that this is, that has zero interest in any pain or discomfort, let alone not getting exactly what we want and right now! This part makes us cringe. We hate to admit that we are so weak, or demanding, or dependent, or lazy or greedy. Instead, we rationalize our needs and our behavior. Things like “I work so hard, you couldn’t possibly understand, I had to eat a piece of cake just to get through the day!’ “I need to smoke; it’s the only way I can get out of the office for a breath of fresh air!’ “I am not like you; I am too busy to exercise all of the time!’
This making up excuses is way too much fun, I could go on for hours. Which is the point. We actually get some pleasure out of our excuses. It is negative pleasure, and for the part of us that wants what we want when we want it, any pleasure will do. This fulfills a real need!
In order to stay committed, it is necessary to go in and through our negative beliefs and negative intentions, and actually catch ourselves indulging in negative pleasure. This can be painful and challenging. It requires courage and honesty, which if taken on, leaves a profound sense of respect for one’s self – a respect that is based on an internal knowing that cannot be taken away.
Contrast this to a reward from the outside, or another person, which can be fleeting. When we count on that reward from the outside and it doesn’t sustain us (because it can’t!) we use this as an excuse to indulge in the very behavior we said we wanted to change. We rationalize (ration out lies) that “it wasn’t that important…” or “I really didn’t want that after all….” or “I just couldn’t, it was too hard.”
Commitment is a huge topic about which much has been written. There are “12 Tricks…” and “10 Ways…” and “Seven E-Z to Follow Steps…” up the wazoo. Most of these dance around the actual pain that is involved in commitment, because we don’t like to feel pain. No blog post that includes a bitter pill ever goes viral. We have such a negative association with anything that smacks of anything uncomfortable, and we strive constantly for a world where we all have what we want and no one has to suffer.
We do not do this consciously, of course. If you are willing to sit with yourself for a minute and listen into yourself, you will hear the protests, the demands, the pleas for help, the refusals to be responsible, the desperate cries for attention. We usually live life on top of these, pushing them down, pretending not to notice.
The key to a life where a commitment actually is fulfilled, where anxiety is seen as something to pay attention to, where we are living with a rhythm consistent with our best self, is to stop and feel whatever there is to feel.
Listen to the protests without making yourself wrong. Soothe the part of you that is crying out for attention. Stand up to the inner critic who says that you will never succeed. Feel the pain of what it is to be simply human rather than pretending it is all “just fine” or “too hard to bare.”
Commitment requires that we see ourselves and life in reality. We do not get to be perfect here and that does not give us an excuse to act in a way that is disrespectful to ourselves and/or life. We cannot cheat life. We cannot receive more than we are willing to give.
We can only experience the abundance that life is when we are willing to see ourselves as we really are. The imperfect, pathetic, demanding, hateful, fearful, grasping that we all feel is not all of us, but it is a part of us. And, the only way to find out who we really are is to see all of these parts and welcome them, courageously. By taking this level of responsibility in the matter of your own life, commitment ultimately fulfills us.
The habit of negativity cannot be ground down and stomped out.
Nor can we simply put a positive spin on our thoughts and feelings and pretend the negative does not exist in us (only in “them”).
Withdrawal, via an over-intellectualization of our negativity, leaves us in apathy, a false sense that we are above all of those messy emotions.
As emotional beings, it is vital to feel into and understand ourselves from our feeling body. This is not to moralize or change or make ourselves bad for having negativity, but to grow ourselves up by including all of the parts of ourselves. We cannot be responsible for something unless we know it exists in us.
Our brains are geared toward holding on to the negative. Historically, this was a very necessary physiological development. We would not have survived as a species had we not had a way to judge and remember where deadly danger lurked.
Today, this part of our brain is in overdrive, unnecessarily so. Relatively, our world is less dangerous from a survival perspective. At this point, it is we who are the danger. We continue to judge, and deem as dangerous, occurrences in our lives that remind us of something in our past. We continue to see another human being who looks different from us, and have a fear response.
There is a moment between stimulus and response. It is the responsibility of each and every human being to look into themselves and question the automatic judgment that occurs. Otherwise, we will continue to respond from fear and hatred, from negativity.
The opportunity is for human beings to see and feel, and truly understand that we are actually in this thing called life, together.
Yes, there are people who are dangerous and evil. It is only by being willing to honestly see the evil in ourselves that we will have access to our intuition. Any block, untransformed, to any part of ourselves, clouds our intuition. Our intuition, once clear, can inform us much more accurately whether or not we are in danger.
Intuition is much more perceptive than an adrenaline-filled brain. All day, every day, we are running on fear-based adrenaline, which is what happens when we unconsciously live from our negativity. This burnout cuts off the access to our higher states of consciousness.
Perhaps the purpose of life is to bring in higher and higher states of consciousness. We can only do this by going in and through, not around ourselves. By including all of ourselves. With kindness and compassion to ourselves, we can learn to include all of the other. By accepting ourselves as we really are, we can choose differently. We can grow ourselves up. It is time.