Monthly Archives: May 2013

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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Love and Freedom

This message from Jada Pinkett Smith broke my heart open today, and I thought I would share:

Open marriage? Let me first say this, there are far more important things to talk about in regards to what is happening in the world than whether I have an open marriage or not. I am addressing this issue because a very important subject has been born from discussions about my statement that may be worthy of addressing. The statement I made in regard to, “Will can do whatever he wants,” has illuminated the need to discuss the relationship between trust and love and how they co-exist. Do we believe loving someone means owning them? Do we believe that ownership is the reason someone should “behave”? Do we believe that all the expectations, conditions, and underlying threats of “you better act right or else” keep one honest and true? Do we believe that we can have meaningful relationships with people who have not defined nor live by the integrity of his or her higher self? What of unconditional love? Or does love look like, feel like, and operate as enslavement? Do we believe that the more control we put on someone the safer we are? What of TRUST and LOVE? Should we be married to individuals who can not be responsible for themselves and their families within their freedom? Should we be in relationships with individuals who we can not entrust to their own values, integrity, and LOVE…for us??? Here is how I will change my statement…Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to
do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship…this means we have a GROWN one. Siempre,       J
What a heartfelt, beautiful, and POWERFUL vision of love.  A love that deeply trusts the other person to show you all of themselves, not to hide the part that is “unacceptable” or scary.  True safety is rooted in freedom.  In that freedom, you find a love that is achingly vulnerable.   A love that is alive.
After the events of the last couple of years, I never want to revert back to the myth of a committed relationship that is afraid to let the other person be free.  That said, I struggle to find that space of freedom.  To let people go when they want to go.  To walk away when the other person can not give me what I want.  To allow that coming and going with grace, because I know and trust that I can have the type of relationship that I desire.  Thank you Jada for the inspiration.  I will continue to explore what is possible.
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Keeping it Real: Know Your Ego’s Defenses!

hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil

Are there things in your life you are not allowing yourself to fully see?  Are you keeping them tucked away on the edge of your awareness where you can’t feel them?  What would happen if you let those things come fully into your awareness?

To live in a manner fully consistent with our truth, we must confront reality as it IS.  Not as we would like it to be.  Not as we imagine it might be some day.  What. are. you. feeling. and. experiencing. in. your. life. right. now.  There is pain there, and vulnerability, yes.  But guess what else is there?  YOUR LIFE.   True reality is that shaky, vulnerable place where you actually FEEL alive.  It is that open, spacious freedom where you realize you can actually ask for what you want, that it is okay to desire, that you are allowed to be human, and true love and connection are possible.  There is an incredible amount of vibrant energy there.

How do we live from this shaky open, true place?  If you are like most people, you have become so skilled at escaping reality that you do not even realize that you are doing it.  Our wonderful egos have protected our spirits in various ingenious ways.  When we were young and our egos were developing, these defenses helped us survive.  Now that we are grown, these same defenses constrict our awareness and distort our perception.

To be able to unravel our egos’ work and meet reality head-on, it helps to become familiar with the ego’s tricks.  With assistance from a book I am reading now, The Inward Arc: Healing in Psychotherapy and Spirituality by Frances Vaughan, here is a wonderful list of ego defenses.  Read them, know them, and learn to recognize when you are doing them.  As you become familiar with the ways you struggle to gain control OVER life, you will naturally relax these defenses and gain more clarity.  (I find that it is possible to sense the ego kicking in at an energetic level, a slight escaping or lessening of intensity.  This is part (all?) of what we are beginning to notice when we sit in meditation.)

Woo!  What a rush.  When you can SEE the truth, you can LIVE from the truth.  Like plunging into a cold pool, and laughing because the water is shocking but oh so refreshing . . .

EGO DEFENSES: COMMON WAYS TO ESCAPE REALITY

Denial (“Everything is fine.”)
Simply, the blank refusal to acknowledge what you do not want to see or feel.  When unconscious, you will not be aware that you are in denial.  All you will be aware of is that you think things are “fine” or “manageable” or you “can handle it” (often, denial can manifest as a weird insistence on your own strength to handle things).  You numb yourself out to your own pain or destructive patterns.  (Positive affirmations can work to increase denial.)

Projection/Blame (“It is THEIR Fault…”)
The inability to accept a part of your own consciousness, so you project it out onto other people.  Because you deny your own anger for example, others appear overly angry to you, and their anger might feel overwhelming or intense.  You then assume that the “cause” of your discomfort is the other person, rather than owning and accepting that the original discomfort comes from within.

Shame/Repression (“It is MY fault. . . “)
You are aware that you are feeling a certain way (angry, sad, vulnerable), but you do not think that it is safe or okay for you to actually be feeling that way, so you bury it.  Instead of just feeling that feeling, you feel shame and low self-worth.  I think of shame/repression as the flip side of blame.  Instead of pushing the energy OUT towards to the other, you pull it INTO yourself.  Either way, you are escaping the full brunt of reality.

Reaction Formation (“I’ll do it first.”)
To avoid being hurt, you become what you fear.  If what you are actually experiencing is a deep fear of abandonment, you might avoid this feeling by becoming really good at leaving people quickly.  If you are afraid of aggression and violence, you might become a bully to avoid feeling your fear and pain around this issue.  I am rubber and you are glue . . .

Rationalization (“Well maybe I didn’t actually feel that way . . .”)
You explain and justify whatever thoughts/feelings/action you judge to be unacceptable.  You feel something in the moment, but later on, you talk yourself out of it.  If you felt hurt or angry, you convince yourself that you did not have a “reason” to feel that way.  You move an intense feeling from your HEART to your HEAD, where you can dissect it.  In the process, you avoid processing your feelings and actions as they actually manifested.  (If we consistently cling to spiritual “knowledge” that does not yet exist at a heart level, we can rationalize away reality and actually increase our separation from life.  “We are all one . . .” “I forgive you, because we are all love . . . ”  There is a reason why this often comes off as inauthentic!)

Regression (“I am so hurt!  Rescue me!”)
You feel pain/anger, but instead of taking ownership of it, you make the other person responsible for fixing it.  You don’t recognize the ways that you are creating the conditions that allow this pain to arise.  In a sense, you project your own power onto the other person because it is too scary to recognize it in your self.  (As Marianne Williamson says: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”)

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