Tag Archives: Taking Risks

The Truth Will Set You Free

“The minute you withhold in a relationship, it starts to deteriorate.”  -Nicole Daedone
“We use om so we can burn off the illusion of scarcity, so you can admit you’re already full.   And not just full, but *stuffed* with abundance!  Our life is a gift to start with!”  -  Nicole Daedone

I just finished a rollercoaster of a ride. I started working with a holistic personal trainer a couple of months ago. He worked with fitness and nutrition, as well as the underlying patterns showing up in your life. I felt attracted to him from the very beginning, and the work we were doing went very deep so I was emotionally very open.

For the first part of the ride, I thought he felt the same way. It was hot. And then the rollercoaster went down, and I realized what I had been interpreting as mutual flirtation was just friendly openness and support. (Or at least, he was not consciously on the same page as me.) And my attraction to him became ugly and resentful, and I felt ashamed and embarrassed about my own desire.

So then I tried to pretend that my feelings didn’t exist. That I could will myself into letting go. I told myself I was being strong and mature and level-headed. Surprisingly, this didn’t work.  I was still secretly desiring his attention and trying to manipulate him into giving it to me. Meanwhile, I was resisting the training and growing frustrated.

Finally, this week I decided I wanted off the ride. I chose truth. I ended the training. I confessed to him that I had been attracted to him and that I wanted trust and surrender, but just not in the form of motivational speeches and diet plans. He thanked me for my honesty and vulnerability. There was a full silence, and sense of resolution and clearing. I said goodbye. I felt good. I thought that was it.

And then a day later, the final piece came through. I realized that I had actually been getting the love I wanted from him this whole time, it just didn’t look like the way I thought it should. I had been subconsciously refusing it out of a limiting belief that it wasn’t enough . . . I wasn’t enough . . . I needed more. As I let go of my attachments and stories and spoke the truth, my expectations melted, and I could appreciate this support fully. This sense of being loved gained in power and intensity, and it felt full and meaningful in its own right. I felt grateful. So my final communication to him was to let him know that his energy and caring were received. Now I feel this clean flowing of energy and peace. The ride is over, but the learning and blossoming go on.

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Epilogue:  I frequently find that as a learn a new life lesson, teachings pour in that confirm and solidify my insight.  This is what happened here.  Shortly after reaching this insight, someone shared with me the following “Three Levels of Truth” structure which they based on teachings from the amazing Nicole Daedone (founder of OneTaste).

  • The truth about circumstances: who, what, when, how.
  • The truth about your internal self – the emotional reactions and feelings, the hurts and the joys, the resentments – that allows others to see you.  This kind of truth sets you free, though it might hurt other people.
  • Then there is what seems to be the deepest level of truth – the one that sets the other person free.  At this level, it’s not about what you want for yourself but about their freedom – their freedom to be who they are at their best, to live out their purpose.  It’s a place where your attachment to them is secondary to their freedom, and it might mean that you won’t get what you want from them in the short term.  Although of course, this is the only level where you yourself are truly free.  When you’re playing at this deep level, this is pure love.
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What Else is There?

I met him on the line at Lemonade.

He was an old man.  Maybe in his 80s.  I apologized for cutting in front of him, and he glared at me from under his cap.  After a second, I realized he wasn’t glaring AT me, he was glaring INTO me.  And I was looking into him.  So we started a conversation.

After about 20 seconds, he told me that I was remarkably present and this surprised him.  I laughed and told him that I do spiritual work and I am aware of my growing capacity for being present.  He had a high level of awareness himself, and I was curious where it came from.  After we both finished paying, he asked me (without any lead-up): where do we sit?  So we had lunch together.

We talked about what it meant to be present.  I told him that I thought being present was about fully opening up to the experience of being in your body at any given moment.  How there are all these ways that we build stories around things, or physically contract ourselves, that are ways to escape the intensity of the present moment.  That are all different ways to escape the truth of what is.

He told me that he thought that being present meant going into the past in order to relive the sensation of past pain.  I said, yes, and then when you fully feel it, you can let it go.  He said yes, but— I have enough pain and memories for 100 years so I can never let it all go.  I am serious, he said.  I asked him to explain.

It turns out that this man was a primal therapist.  Primal therapy is basically a reliving of the birth experience, over and over and over again.  As he told me, his face still glaring and serious, this work is very rarely done because it is extremely painful.  And it can cause, and often does cause, your life to fall apart.  Primal practitioners are less likely to have children, or even long-term serious relationships.  And the primal experience generally does not get easier over time.  In his own case, he said—holding out his hands wide to show his initial pain–he had maybe shifted a tiny bit of that pain–bringing his hands together just a few centimeters.  And it was obvious with his age that he was not going to close that gap before he died.  Yet he still faithfully did this practice every morning.

So I asked him.  WHY are you still doing something that is so painful and gives you such little reward?  And he answered: what else is there?

There is a part of me that wants to cushion the blow of his answer and spin a comforting story of a life well-spent.  And yes, maybe I don’t have the right or understanding to judge his life.  But I will.  Not out of disdain, but because my heart broke for this man who spent over three decades voluntarily reliving an extremely traumatic experience because he did not “know” what else to do.  Was he addicted to the pain?  To the story of his pain?  Who would he be without this pain?  At this point, I don’t think he could imagine.

I was having a conversation earlier with someone about how to move from intellectual understanding of a truth to concretely embodying that truth in your life.  In other words, how do you shift from “I know this shadow-aspect of myself and I want to let it go” to actually BECOMING a different person.  I thought that there was some intermediate stage where you intellectually understood the issue, but still couldn’t figure out how to get out of your own way.  The person I was talking with disagreed.  They thought that when you really SAW the truth, the change would naturally follow.

I am still curious about the relationship between awareness/understanding and concrete change.  But my lunchtime encounter showed me at least this much: if you can not imagine a different life, you cannot create one.  When that man asked me: “What else is there?”–that question was not for me.  It was for him.  And he did not know the answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning About Non-Violent Communication (NVC)

NVC images

Have you heard of Non-Violent Communication before? If you have, you probably think about it as a way to communicate effectively with other people. That is true.  And to my mind, much more importantly, it is also a very practical teaching about the nature of violence itself.

When most of us think of violence, we think of fighting, wars, yelling.  The key book on NVC, by Marshall Rosenberg, starts out by asking us to expand our idea of what it is to be violent.  In fact, the foreword was written by Ghandi’s grandson.  Ghandi asked his grandson to keep track of all of the “violent” things that happened over the course of a week or so.  He asked him to track not just physical violence, but what he called “passive violence” as well.  Passive violence were those mundane acts that generated anger in the other person, which of course is the root of physical acts of aggression.  Before long, the grandson began to see how violence was everywhere around him, all the time.

What is passive violence?  This is where the book takes another eye-opening turn.  Passive violence is basically our subtle desire to control other people.  The desire to control may come from care (I want my dad to stop smoking), insecurity (I just want him to appreciate me), or any one of the other hundreds of reasons.  The basic formula is always the same:  I need you to do X so I can stop suffering.   When we think people hold the key to our happiness, then we don’t fully grant them the freedom to act.  That is violence–not yelling, or threats.  Violence is the subtle and pervasive desire to manipulate others so that we can be happy.

So how do we move away from this violent approach to life?  By understanding one single truth: no one else is responsible for how you feel.  You are 100% responsible for your own feelings and needs. 

Some of you might think that this sounds like some hippy shit.  You might think: wait a second, others do cause me to feel things.  When my boss yells at me, I feel bad.  When my friend calls me, I feel good.  When someone steals my parking spot, they are a dick and caused me to be angry.  Are you telling me to be a doormat so that the world can be a more peaceful place?  No way!  Other people need to be accountable for their actions!

NVC is not a bunch of hippy shit.  It is simply (and radically) asking you to understand your feelings in a totally different way.

Usually, we think EXTERNAL ACT — REACTION/FEELING.  NVC teaches us that things actually work like this: EXTERNAL ACT— TRIGGER BASED ON INTERNAL NEED— REACTION/FEELING.    What does this mean?  It means that external acts are neutral.  They do not “cause” your feelings–they trigger your feelings based on your internal needs.  Your boss yelling at you makes you feel bad because you have a need for approval and love in the workplace.  Another person who didn’t have those same needs might not be bothered at all by their boss’ aggressive behavior.  Someone stealing your parking spot pissed you off because you have a need to feel like you live in a world of nice people, or because you need to feel like you are “winning” at the game of life.   The external act has no inherent impact without your own triggers (although, because many of us have similar triggers, it will produce similar reactions in many people).  It is like how people and dogs are with chocolate.  What is delicious for people is poison to dogs.  The chocolate itself is neutral.

Once you truly accept that NO ONE else causes your feelings (for most of us, a life-long task), you naturally begin to approach interactions with others from a non-aggressive place.  The rest is just technique and practice. 

But there is an even better way to say this, which leads me into the second awesome part about NVC.  Because no one else is responsible for how you feel…

You can choose how you react to situations, rather than be at the mercy of others.   You don’t have to fight anyone to be happy (other than yourself, of course).  You discover true power.

 

Not only does your emotional center of balance change, but you can take care of yourself much more effectively.  Actually, I think this is the true definition of growing up–you learn to provide for yourself, instead of asking (demanding) that others take care of our needs.  If we have a need for peace and cooperation, it is your job to connect with that need and meet it.  And of course, the best way to take care of a need is to GIVE (to yourself, to others) what you were initially seeking to get from outside.  Now you can start living from a place of thinking about what you DO want (connection, love, respect), rather than what you don’t (e.g., I want this person to stop hurting me).  The thing you were so desperately fighting the other person to give you is always available to you . . . if you are willing to let it in.

So what about the practical situation at hand with the other person?   Do we just walk away?  Not necessarily.   Once you understand your feelings and needs, you may choose to communicate them to the other person (using a whole system of communication that is taught in the book).  And they may choose to modify their behavior, or not.  And if they don’t, you have the choice to continue the relationship, or not.  But you respect and honor their decision no matter what.  NVC does not promise solutions, but it does promise that you will stop exhausting yourself mistakenly trying to get someone else to change so that you can be happy.

NVC EXERCISE 
(this is not all talk…put this into action and see how it feels!)

First, think of a difficult situation with another person (or practice this while in the midst of a difficult situation!).  Choose a judgment sentence about the other person.  For example, “This person is selfish and only thinks about his or herself.”)

Next, run this sentence over and over in your mind for about 20 seconds.  Notice what happens in your body.  Do you feel tired?  Does your breath go shallow?  Do you feel tight?

Now, re-frame this feeling in terms of what you DO want rather than what you DON’T.  Ask yourself, what is it that I really want right now?  What would I like to receive that would make me feel better (keep it general)?  In the example above, you might recognize that you really want to feel special and loved.
Now, express that need in the following positive way: “Wow, I really love it when ____(I feel special and loved)_____.”  Run it over and over for about 20 seconds.  How does your body feel now?  It might feel bright, energized, refreshed, or open.
Now say to yourself “I AM special and loved.”  Take 20 seconds to run this affirmation over and over, and connect with the energy of feeling special and loved.  You are essentially feeding yourself.   The feeling of being special and loved is ALWAYS there and ALWAYS accessible to you . . . even if it is difficult to find sometimes.
Now that you have fed yourself, turn your attention back to the other person.  Has your perception of them changed?  Has the things you want to say to them changed?  Do you feel softer?  Imagine how different it would be to have a conversation from this positive place, rather than from the typical tense, blaming place you started from?
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Honor Your Power

Recently, someone who I went through a very difficult time with last year–breaking my trust–asked me, in all sincerity:  “Did I hurt you?”

The question struck me by surprise.  It was asked honestly.  But the answer was so obviously “Yes” that the question was strange.  I couldn’t figure it out.  How could this person not realize that they had an impact on me?

I sat with this, and realized that the reason for their question was that they had no faith in their ability to affect other people.  They were completely disconnected from their own power.  Because of that, they could not perceive when they hurt people.  And unfortunately, it also meant that they could not fathom the many ways in which they could positively affect other people’s lives.

This was an extreme case, but most of us–myself included–can forget how powerful we are.  To bring awareness to your own power, pay attention to your interactions with others.  Recognize the ways you can affect other people–big and small, positive and negative.  Be honest. 

For example, this morning in my boot camp exercise class, I was paired with a girl who was there for the first time.  I told her at the beginning of the class that she should look to the group in front of us to learn what the next exercise in the series was going to be.  But instead of paying attention, she kept on asking me to tell her.  I could feel myself withdraw and grow frustrated.  I was not as helpful as I could have been.  As a result, I could tell that she did not feel as supported in the class as she could have been, and maybe felt a bit lost.  On reflection, I realize that if I had more compassion for her, she could have had a more positive experience.  In turn, I would have felt less irritable, happy that I was helping someone.

The point here is not to judge myself for being out of sorts in the class.  The point is to recognize that I had the power to make a difference in this girl’s experience.  Because I lacked this awareness during the class, I missed an opportunity for connection and support.  Practicing this awareness (even after the fact) makes me realize that there are chances all around me to be a source of light and comfort to others.  Realizing the power I have to make a difference, I want to make more of an effort!

It is also important to be aware of and rejoice in those moments when we DO come out of our shells and positively affect people.  Even our small acts can truly lift someone else’s spirit–providing them with love, encouragement, and inspiration.  One simple example is when we make the effort to feed someone’s spirit with a smile.

I recently had a fun reminder of my own power to uplift!  As I have been blogging, I have made some great friends in the blogging world.  We read each other’s posts and support one another.  One blogger, Nicole Cody, at Cauldrons and Cupcakes, (a delicious blog about cooking, writing, and psychic adventures!) posted a very captivating story last week about a psychic reading that she did, where she discovered that a wife was poisoning her husband.  Not only was this an amazing story, but she told it beautifully, in clear and captivating prose.  I was immediately reminded of how I felt when I was a little girl, reading books from my favorite fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones.  I mentioned this in a comment, and suggested that Nicole could write a fantastic young adult psychic novel.  So . . . one of Nicole’s latest posts is about how, after reading my comment, she plans to do exactly that!  It is a thrill to realize how Diana (in England), influenced me (in the States), leading me to influence Nicole (in Australia), who is now on her way to writing a book that will reach children around the world.  What a beautiful web!

All of us have the ability to impact others.  It does not matter where you come from, what your social or economic status might be, or what talents you possess.  When you share yourself with others, you become part of the incredible flow of life.  Honor your power, and use it to uplift others.  

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A Pledge to Love

This past weekend, I was at my friend’s apartment watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Awards.  This award ceremony is not like any other.  First, it is not obviously based on competition.  Instead, they just honor the inductees.  Also, it is not based on a one-year achievement, but on people’s lasting contributions to music.  Which means that this award show goes much deeper than others.  The award matters to people in a way that others don’t.

One of the most moving speeches came from Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  He said that every morning before he plays, he gets on his knees, and prays to God, and prays to uplift the people that come to see them play, and to love them the best that he can. (1:16 minute mark).

So many rockers look out to their audiences and just see a bunch of people wanting to party.  So that is what they give them: a good time.  And that’s what people get.  And probably, that gets old after a while.  Flea looks out at his audience and sees people to love.  Loving people, giving them something real, something that moves them, something that makes them feel understood, is much less likely to grow tiring.  You can hear the energy and the passion in his voice.

I do not think it is the audiences that are different.  I think it is how Flea chooses to approach life.  He sees the opportunity to love and serve where someone else might not.

For a while after college, I actively turned away from peace/love ect. as a lopsided ideal.  I thought people who talked about it were only telling half the story of who they really were.  And in some cases, that is true.  Being loving can be a mask for all the ugly parts of ourselves we do not want to see.  It can be an easy way to get people to like us and avoid conflict.

But people who recognize that the world can be harsh, and that parts of themselves are ugly or need to grow, mistakenly turn away from love.  They assume, like I did, that being “real” meant embracing a bit of cynicism, putting up a bit of a guard.

I now realize that there are lots of people who hold love, not as a fuzzy ideal, but as something that they are constantly trying to actualize in their lives.  They are willing to take a hard look at themselves and be honest about what they see.  They are just human, but they are willing to take the lead and commit themselves to a higher ideal.

Like Flea, you can be willing to get on your knees every single day and pray for the chance to embody love.  You can say: I am struggling here.  I can be grumpy, and sad, and petty.  I can go unconscious, and make choices that I am not proud of.  But that it not a reason to turn away from love or give into cynicism.  That is a reason to ask for help.

I believe in love.  I believe in dedicating my life to opening my heart to more effectively give and receive love.  I am willing to walk into the world with my heart first.  I no longer care if I sound cheesy because I know that I am sincere. I say these things not because I am perfect, but because I am not.  I say them as a pledge to guide my life.

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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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Traveling at Home

I love to travel, and have gone a fair number of places in my life.  Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Chile, Nicaragua, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Holland, Hawaii, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Bahamas, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, St. Lucia, Anguilla.  I might be missing a few, but you can tell it is a pretty good list.

One of my favorite parts about traveling is going to a place where your expectations no longer apply, and you walk into the world fully aware that each moment is new.   This can be a physical revelation . . . like the luminescent microorganisms in the waters in Puerto Rico, that sent off waves of sparkles in the dark waters as I swam at night.  Or like the amazing heaviness of life in the Amazon jungle, where the air was so thick with nutrients that trees’ roots hovered three feet off of the ground.  The shock of life can also come as a social revelation . . . like in Vietnam, where on a river-boat cruise to Cambodia I waved to people living in stilted houses on small patches of sand.  Or in Brazil (ahh…Brazil) where I attended a neighborhood African-Brazilian spiritual ceremony, and the kids, and grandmothers, and fathers all gathered to drum and sing the ancient Yoruban gods into their cement-floored living room, with the TV pushed to one side.

This is the first year in a long time I cannot take any extended vacations outside of the United States.   It is all good though . . . as much as I want to be in a tropical location sipping rum out of a coconut, I can still expand my mind at home.  The truth is that the world can be as small or as big, as boring or as crazy, as I let it be.  As my Tantra teacher Charu loves to say, “Stop being clever.  Accept the fact that you know nothing.”  If I think I have already discovered all there is to know at home, then I have.  If I accept the hypothesis that the world can blow my mind, then it will.

Case in point at the Tantra workshop this weekend.  I had watched Charu demonstrate some of the exercises, and part of me thought:  “Well that is great for her, but that will never happen for me.”  I didn’t think it was “possible.”  So we start doing one of the breathing exercises, and my partner and one of the teachers are telling me to let go, to stop trying to make sense of it, to let chaos control.  And I hear myself think:  “I can’t do it!  It won’t work.”  I heard that voice, remembered what Charu said, and told myself: you know what:  “What do I know?  Why not just see what happens?”  And the moment I gave up my idea of what I thought was possible… I had an amazing experience of kundalini energy snaking its way through my body.  It happened in a big industrial loft in the middle of Culver City, right in my own backyard.  And it was like nothing I have ever experienced before.  I do not understand it.  I am humbled by it.  And I am alive with the idea that whatever I think life is about is much, much smaller than the truth.

That’s a big jump into the world of the possible.  But there are small jumps too, that can be just as important.  For example, this Monday I went down to my favorite neighborhood cafe to grab a quick breakfast.   I was alone and I brought my book.  While I was in line waiting to order, I saw two guys that I thought looked interesting.  And I thought, I wonder what their deal is?  My usual expectation was that I would walk out of the restaurant never knowing.  But a part of me said: I want to talk to them, and I believe I can.  Next thing you know, the only open seat is at the table next to them, and they end up asking me about the eggs.  I used that chance to start a conversation.  Turns out one of them is a poet, and the other lives in the neighborhood.  So, two new friends.  In the end, I walked out of that cafe having had a totally different time than what I expected when I first walked in with my book, because I was open to the experience.

So I am going to keep on practicing to stop being so clever.  Remember that I know nothing.  (Yes, back to Buddhism… in the beginner’s mind there are a world of possibilities… in the expert’s mind there are few.)  I look forward to amazing travels close to home.  I have no idea what to expect.

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Dating Adventures

Becoming more clearly aware of emotions and life situations and the space in which they occur might open us to a still more panoramic awareness.  A compassionate attitude, a warmth, develops at this point.  It is an attitude of fundamental acceptance of oneself while still retaining critical intelligence . . . Emotions are as they are, neither suppressed nor indulged but simply acknowledged . . . [T]he precise awareness of details leads into an openness to the complex totality of situations.  –Ocean of Dharma: The Everyday Wisdom
of Chögyam Trungpa
, quote 149.

So as I have been turning the corner into 2012, I have been going on lots of dates.  This is a new experience for me.  And when I say new, I mean that my dating life can be summarized in about three phases.  First, High School in a Small Town.  Then–lasting seven years–College Boyfriend.   After two months of singledom, five years with the Ex.

To put this all together, the last time I truly dated was . . . never.  So here I am writing these vibrant posts about opening up to pleasure, and it turns out that in one very real and concrete way I am kind of new to what that means.  Not only that, but despite all of these guys I have been meeting, none of them have gone anywhere.   I just keep on finding myself thinking.. nice guy…great friend…attractive even…but no.  It is not like I am looking for a relationship.  The opposite, I want to stay single.  But while I am saying no, my recently-single guy friends are hooking up left and right.

So I started to wonder–am I really saying yes to life and pleasure?  Or am I holding back?  (total Sex in the City transition, I know…cue voice-over and Mac laptop)

I have sat with this question for a few days, and I what I have realized is that I am a bystander to a fight between two imaginary chicks.  On one side stands: Amazing Liberated Sexy Woman.  And on the other side of the  ring is: Self-Doubting Never-Dated Girl.   It is sort of funny to watch them duke it out.  I get all excited about Tantra… and my experience of higher bliss…and wham!  I convince myself I “should” be having full-body orgasms already and embodying the feminine divine.  But what if I can’t?  Or what if I don’t feel like being all deep, and just want to hang out, or get laid?  And then (as my Carrie voice mentioned above), I go back to the other extreme and think shit, I am scared!  I am afraid of being hurt.   I do not feel powerful in my body.   I can be awkward, and silly, and (insert not-goddess-like behavior here).

Of course, neither of these women is real.  But the way to deal with them is not to push them away or tell them they do not exist.  In fact, the more I resist them and pretend like I totally have it together, the stronger they become.  Back into the arrows-into-flowers practice.  I have to invite both of these illusionary ladies to tea.   I watch them.  I learn their funny tricks.   I listen to what they say.  The more comfortable I get acknowledging and sitting with them… the more I can laugh at how ridiculous and endearing they can be...and the more I realize they are not me.  Staying present during this internal tug-of-war allows me to step outside of it and be free.

What is the truth of where I am at?  I am strong and scared.  I want connection and space. I can be awkward and full of grace.   I am me and more.  When I let things be real and complex, I stop trying to force anything to be something it is not.   And–paradox of all paradoxes–I get where I want to be, which is creating a space for true connection and life to come through me.  Who knows what life will bring me . . . a super-intense deep experience, or a physical one just cause I feel like it.   In fact, the couple of connections I have had so far happened without too much thought, and they were fun.   When I stop feeling limited by definitions and false dichotomies, I can approach dating like what is supposed to be–an adventure.

When I think back to my original awakening experience at the Tantra workshop, this is exactly the heart-space where it came from… I wasn’t worried about what experience I was going to have…I accepted that some part of me was a bit nervous…and I just went for it.  What all of this brings me to is the beautiful lesson that opening to pleasure and connection is really less about opening to others than it is about opening to (and loving) my own messy, human, real self.

Any other women or men out there share similar struggles with self-judgment (in the area of sexuality/dating or anything else)?  Was this story helpful to you?  Questions?  Share your comments below….:)

With love,

N

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What This Blog Is About

This blog is a challenge to myself. 

For many years, I have read spiritual books, or books on psychology.  When I read them, I would get really excited, and think “Yes!  This is it.  That is what I feel inside of me.”   Then I would put them down.  And I would go back to daily life.  I couldn’t figure out how to connect the two, to bring what I was reading out into my everyday.  I also felt pretty strange/lame/full of myself telling anyone I was “spiritual.”  First, that generally was not cool.   People don’t generally drop God into their conversations (especially in the States).  Second, I was afraid I couldn’t live up to that promise.  I get scared, nervous, angry, and surely that would blow my cover and reveal me for the human being I am.  But most importantly, I didn’t “get” what a daily spirituality looked like.

That’s changed.   The simplest way to put it is that now I connect spirituality with daily life because my daily life IS my spiritual path.  And I am willing to own up to that and live from that place.

If I had to pin down the reason for the change, I think it would be that I started taking risks.  I just got tired of waiting for the books to come to life, and started “Acting Like I Know” (as Iyanla Van Sant would say).  I started to bring spirituality into my conversations with people.  They did not immediately weird out.  Actually, it let me connect with people in a whole new way.  I was encouraged.  I started to say, screw it, I am here, and so is my spirit, and this is who I am.  So what if people think I am crazy.

The more I have put myself out there, the more life has met me half-way.  So this is one major way of putting myself out there.  And what I want to talk about on this blog is what spirituality can look like when you are just an ordinary, TV watching, young(ish) person, who likes going to clubs, reading US Magazines, and is generally just living life.  It is not airy fairy and idealistic.  In fact, the moment you start to get too idealistic, you start pulling away from what is actually happening and what life is really asking you to do.  What a daily spirituality looks like, to me anyway, is a practice of living life like it is TRYING TO TEACH YOU SOMETHING.  And what is life trying to teach you?  The format changes, but the lesson remains the same.  OPEN YOUR HEART.  Open your heart to all of the pain, joy, laughter, tight places, sad facts, cold truths, and unbelievable brightness and beauty.  It is thrilling and vulnerable and alive.

So that’s what I want to write about.  Sometimes I will write about the small (or big) lessons is trying to teach me.  Sometime I will write about inspiring books or quotes that serve as an inspiration.  Sometimes I will write about people whose story inspire me, whether it be friends, businesspeople, celebrities, ect.

If this blog connects with your heart, I hope you join the conversation and leave comments.  I want to meet other people and learn from you and be inspired be you!  Give me a shout to let me know you feel me!

I will close with a quote I recently shared with a friend.  “When you find another soul, you also find another particle of God, and if you reveal your own soul, you reveal a particle of God and give something divine to another person.” — The Pathwork of Self-Transformation, Eva Pierrakos.

From my heart and soul,

N

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