Monthly Archives: March 2012

migration

the single moments pass unnoticed
until one catches in a bright light
through the windshield and morning traffic
the rainbow in the sky
the creaky walk to the midday bathroom break
the soft fall of night with tea and these words
finally released to the page.

like oliver’s wild geese
i chase these moments
as they flap
strong-armed
through my day and out the other side

i stand silently in their wake
torn by their inevitable passing
too mesmerized by their migratory spell
to see that even the dull ache
of my office chair
has wild goose magic

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Don’t Be Afraid to Give Unconditionally

I have a budding interest in entrepreneurship, and am beginning to educate myself in this area.  This week I decided to sit in on a call hosted by Alexis Martin Neely with George Kao about social media and marketing.  Even though I have no immediate plans to go out on my own, it was a great way to “practice” stepping in that direction and gain exposure to people daring to start their own businesses.  But the thing that really stuck with me during the call was what George said at the end.

“I love you.”

At first I was shocked.  This was a pretty straight forward business call, with terms like “events-based marketing” thrown around.  Yet at the end, Kao put that out there.  After I got done being shocked, I felt happy.  This was not a cheesy tag-line.  It was an unabashed open-hearted way to show up.   Kao did not ask our permission or make sure it was “safe” before he laid this out there.

He said it to remind us of a truth.  We are worthy of love and success.  And he is worthy of giving it. 

There is someone else in my life right now who is showing me how it is possible to show up in a really beautiful, giving way.  At my work, there is a woman who uses her own money to buy the office coffee, candy, and other types of food on a consistent basis.  She goes on trips for her anniversary and brings back presents for the office.  After I complimented her on her unconditional generosity, she bought me apples slices to snack on after a trip to the grocery store!  Again, not cheesy, and not motivated by anything other than a desire to be genuine.

Her generosity opens both her heart and mine.

It can be too easy to fall back into a small, fear-based space where we do not give freely.  Because there is no reason to be generous, like the holidays.  Because we are afraid of rejection.  Because we are afraid people will judge us for it or think we have ulterior motives.  Because we feel afraid of expressing our love and being vulnerable and shining.   Because who are we to say or do things like that?

Both of these people demonstrated small ways to move past all of these fears, and model a different way of being.  They are small actions, with one common, huge message:

Do not be afraid to give yourself unconditionally.

By their actions, these people have inspired me to pay it forward and look for opportunities to open my own heart for no reason.   And so.  I love you.  You are worth it.

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Find Small Ways to Practice Growth

In one sense, meditation is like practice for life.  It is a chance to take a “time-out” from the normal rush of sensations, impressions, interactions, and connect with your still center.  It is easier to find this place when you are not busy navigating the world.  As your practice deepens, it becomes easier to return to this place during the rest of your day.  Gradually, you realize that there is an abundant amount of space and grace available to you that you had previously overlooked.  The small practice of sitting for 20 minutes a day snowballs into a deeper shift.

I love to take this same concept of “practice” and apply it off the cushion, in daily life.  To practice an inner quality, there are generally four parts: identifying an area for growth, affirming your commitment to growth, recognizing small, manageable opportunities to practice, and then actually doin’ the good work.

Let’s take an example.  I recently realized that I sometimes have a tough time receiving from other people.  This issue comes up in various ways.  Maybe I do not feel safe, or I get worried that I am being taken advantage of, or I belittle the offering of the other person, or I act strong when I am not.  Seeing these trends in your life is the first part of growth–you have to figure out what is calling out for your attention.

Once you hear the call, the second step is affirming your commitment to growth. I want to be better able to receive.  Or even better, state it a la Louise Hays, in the present tense, as if it is already true.  “I am open to receive everything life has to offer.”

Even though you have identified the trend and affirmed a commitment to a new way of being, does not meant that the trend will instantly reverse.  Our bodies and minds are habitual creatures.  So to help invite change into your life, you can find small ways to practice in your every day life, in situations where you feel comfortable enough to try new things.

This morning, for example, I went to a Zumba fitness class.  Within ten minutes, I was thinking: “This class is too slow.  The instructor is not keeping up the pace.”  I asked my body what was really going on.  It felt closed down, tight.  I realized this was another time when I did not want to receive.

This is the third step: identifying moments to practice.  The best way to stay attuned to these opportunities is to stay in close touch with your body.  The moment you feel tense and uncomfortable, drop down and see if you can figure out why.  If it puzzles you, file it away later.  It may later reveal itself to be part of a trend.  If it matches with some resistance you have already identified, you have a moment to train!  The fun part is that it turns even the smallest, mundane activities into a potential opportunity to practice some soul skills.

So in the Zumba class, I was able to match up my body discomfort with a larger “trend” I had already identified.  Because I had a already made a commitment to being open to receive, I welcomed this moment as a great time to practice my receiver skills.  So that is what I did.  I consciously chose to receive whatever this guy had to give.   I relaxed my body.  I inwardly thanked him for showing up.  And I let my expectations go.  Gimme what you got!

I ended up having a great time in the class.  It was not the world’s best workout, but it was fun and upbeat.  More importantly than my sweat level, there was a moment when I was shaking out to some salsa that the instructor flashed me a smile.  I smiled back.  I realized I was happy I was supporting his efforts to put on good class.  That heart connection  would not have been possible if I was caught up in wishing I was at the treadmill class instead.  I viscerally felt the joys of being open to receive.  So even small practice can lead to measurable rewards, which act as incentive for more practice.

Most importantly, this experience also affirmed my own capacity to grow.  I already have the ability to receive, if I just take advantage of life’s opportunities.  I have the choice of how I show up.  And I had the power to do it the way I would like.

You can practice any number of skills.  I read a fantastic blog post from Jonathan Fields (actually a guest blogger Emilie Wapnick–both of them former lawyers no less) about how she took “mini-risks” to practice courage and help her business.  Using the exact same concept I am describing here, she tackled a “trend” she noticed of fear and self-doubt.  By practicing speaking with strangers at a coffee shop, she nailed an important job presentation.

So have some fun with this.  Remember to check in with your body.  Ask it what is is feeling.  Identify trends.  Affirm your commitment to a new state of being.  Then find small ways to practice the soul skills you wish to have.  Gradually, you will find the strength to practice these skills in more difficult or intense situations.

With love,

N

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still moments

we meet at half past six
at the old lunch restaurant
that has since been redone
we hit our usual notes
the job (hunting),
the boy (wanting),
our dreams (being dreamed),
until we our current again

in the still moments
our hands reach out
to grab the cool glass
and i am glad for you

this is all.

table
talk
drink
friend.

and it is enough.
there is nothing more
but a happy sleep.
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We Are All Stuck Being Human, Together

“If we begin to surrender to ourselves—begin to drop the story line and experience what all this messy stuff behind the story line feels like—we begin to find bodhichitta, the tenderness that’s underneath all the harshness.  By being kind to ourselves, we become kind to others. By being kind to others—if it’s done properly, with proper understanding—we benefit as well.  So the first point is that we are completely interrelated. What you do to others, you do to yourself. What you do to yourself, you do to others.”

– Pema Chodron

Sometimes, when you learn a really Big Lesson you have to learn it again and again, in smaller and softer ways.  Until you can recognize that lesson like a welcome old friend.

My Big Lesson came when I left my relationship/non-legalized marriage last September.  To get clear about what was actually in the relationship, I stopped trying to help, do, fix, argue, convince, plead, support.  All that mental and emotional chatter just had me going  in circles searching for an answer.   I was exhausted.  At that moment, a Buddhist teacher told me to get real about my life.  Stop spinning my wheels.  I took his advice and stopped focusing on trying to help the other person (who really did not want to be helped) or fix the situation.  In that space and silence,  I began to feel my pain, instead of avoiding it.   Instead of being destroyed by those intense feelings, I gained clarity and resolve.

Lesson learned right?  Not so fast.

Fast-forward to this week.  I was in a Facebook discussion group with some people, where some pretty heavy sharing was going down.  Everyone was being totally unconditionally supportive of each other.  You are so brave!  Way to show up and be real!  I was being very supportive too.  But–I was also offering some thoughts.  Okay, some advice.  Some solicited.  And some not.

I started to hear a Small Voice in my head, saying “Hmm, maybe you should just listen and not say anything else.”  Oh, that is silly I told the Small Voice.  This is an open discussion.  I am just offering thoughts.  And they are good thoughts!  Really, I just want to help.

Small Voice didn’t buy it.  So, I decided to stop the mental back-and-forth chatter about what I “should” be doing.  Get quiet, and see what was up.   How did I really feel?  What I saw was that sometimes my efforts to help were genuine and open and warm.  But sometimes my efforts to help were a bit . . . hmmm . . . anxious? forced?  In those cases, I saw that I offered help as a way to avoid MY OWN strong discomfort when I witnessed people I cared about “stuck” in pain.  I got uncomfortable for two reasons.  One, I did not want to see my friends stuck.  Second, I was quietly afraid that if they could not get free, then they would somehow drag me down too.  Oh.

And then I saw it.  This lesson-learning that it is not my job to help-is the exact same one I learned from my break-up.  And one I know goes back to childhood too.  Damn it.   My worst fears are true–I AM “stuck” with me and all the crap of being human and in pain.  This whole time I am so worried about the other person getting trapped in their habitual behavior, I failed to notice I am completely caught up in mine.  And I got there completely on my own!  This realization, ironically, makes me feel sort-of free and light and prone to laughing at myself.  My mind cracks me up.

So, hello again to my lesson.  It does not need to hit me over the head this time, but I appreciate it showing up in this small way.  It is letting me know that I need to go back to focusing on my own heart.

And of course, when I center myself in love, I stop fearing other people’s pain.   It will not eat me alive.  I am strong enough to stay firm in my open heart.  And I am weak and human enough to completely, totally relate.  I can see a bit more clearly that what I feared from other people is really my own deep worries reflecting back at me.  Once I can see that, the thought of others struggling to deal with their own stuff makes me feel warm and loving.  Like when you watch a great romantic comedy, and at the end you get teary-eyed at how everyone is just incredibly themselves and imperfect, but perfect at the same time.

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