Tag Archives: Acceptance

The Tender Place Between Shame and Blame

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image from neatorama.com

When I was a younger, I was bullied and excluded a lot.  It happened in elementary school, and in middle school, and in high school.  The people and the circumstances changed.  But the feeling inside didn’t.  It felt numb and distant and hot.  It still feels that way.  It felt that way this past weekend.

It is hard for me to not carry inside of me the belief that I deserve to be excluded or ignored if I act a certain way.  To avoid being excluded, over the years I have learned to push out and be charming and witty and social.  I like that “me” much better.  Other people like her better.  I am ashamed of the “me” that is awkward and silent, that doesn’t know how to be part of the group.  I am angry she still exists.

If I am not blaming myself, I get angry at the world.  At the way that we hurt each other so deeply.  At how heartless it can feel.  But as much as I hate the system, the truth is that I have been in the other position.  I exclude others.  I would exclude the “awkward me” too.

There’s a middle place in between the shame and the blame.  It is soft.  It is the part that can actually feel pain.  No story that anyone is right or wrong.  I just let myself hurt.  And strangely, it feels oddly peaceful in this soft painful place.

I can feel that my mind wants to pull me out of there.  It feels nervous, like it has nothing to do. It wants to get back to the shaming and blaming, where it can comfortably gnaw away for eternity.

I have this one particularly strong reoccurring belief that there are some incredibly cool, gorgeous, perfectly loved people who never have to visit this place–so if I am here then it must confirm that I am a loser.  I really used to believe that story. I would inevitably respond by doing anything to avoid admitting I felt pain.  Now, the story has loosened its grip, but it hasn’t entirely left.  It gets really close and scary and I have to remember not to buy into it.   It’s just a story.  It’s not real.   I practice letting it go by me.  I can feel the whoosh as it whizzes by my cheek.

Today, when I did yoga, I made my whole practice about staying in that tender open place. At first, I felt like an animal who is so used to protecting her wound that she doesn’t even realize that she is doing it anymore. I was nervous and skittish on the mat.  My breath sucked in with a rush every time I thought about how awkward I can be, about the pain of being ignored or disrespected. I left my body regularly.

Gradually, with each breath, I asked myself for permission to enter that space, to feel how hurt I was.  Slowly, slowly, I relaxed.  Slowly, I opened up to myself.  I stayed present with the pain.  It really hurt.  I cried.

And then, when I came home, I felt the desire to share this place with you.  I am learning to stay in the spot that hurts.  I can even open it up and let you in here.  I want you to know that if you have a place that hurts, you can learn to stay there too.  I think a compassionate wisdom arises when we learn to stay in this place, and can greet each other from that place.  It feels welcoming and kind.  I am glad for the thing that brought me here.  I want to be a person that knows this pain.

As Pema Chodron (“When Things Fall Apart, p. 109-110) says:

“Compassionate action, being there for others, being able to act and speak in a way that communicates, starts with seeing ourselves when we start to make ourselves right or make ourselves wrong.  At that particular point, we could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where we could love.  This place, if we can touch it, will help us train ourselves through our lives to open further to whatever we feel, to open further rather than shut down more.  We’ll find that as we begin to commit ourselves to this practice, as we begin to have a sense of celebrating the aspects of ourselves that we found so impossible before, something will shift in us.  Something will shift permanently in us.  Our ancient habitual patterns will begin to soften, and we’ll begin to see the faces and hear the words of people who are talking to us.”

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Today is my birthday. And so far my best present was an insight.  It felt like when the clouds part on a grey day and you can see that the sun had been shining the whole time.

The backstory:  I fell in love with someone in the last few months.  Falling in love is funny.  One minute you like them, they’re great.  The next minute they are in your heart.  And it’s like: wait I don’t remember opening that door.  How did you get inside?  But there they are.  And suddenly you are vulnerable in a way you never agreed to be.

The second backstory: I ended it.  We were dating and he was travelling and I wanted more contact than he did.  Which was the right move for both of us.  It felt good that we could both own what we wanted and respect the other person.  I felt solid.

The current story:  We still see each other on a regular basis as we are in the same group of friends.  And the thing is: he’s still in here.  WTF.  I thought I asked him to leave.  Apparently, my heart did not get the message from my brain.  Most of the time it is fine, and the love feels like warm friendly tenderness and laughter.  Other times, it feels like sad isolation, a tightness and mopiness for his inability to give me what I want.   Or an anger at myself and my stupid heart for not being able to “let go.”

The insight:  This morning we were at breakfast together with a group of friends, joking about Will Ferrell movies and the paleo diet.  After I blew out the candle on my birthday cupcake, everyone at the table told me an intimate reflection/communication as a way to celebrate me.  And his to me was: “You have this ability to go into these high places, and that’s where I get knocked out.”  And with that short sentence, he let me know that he still feels me, even when he can’t always follow me where I want to go.

And then I saw it.  How we are like two circles in a Venn diagram, overlapping, yet pulling at the edge’s of each other’s comfort zones.

For me, he represents the ability to keep loving even when that love cannot be returned the way I want.  I am exercising my heart to be strong and robust.  One that gives without getting stuck like a sad kitten at his emotional front door, scratching to be let in.  One that stays open even when every bone in my body wants to deny that I feel anything, or make him responsible for “making” me feel this way.  And yes, this means that my tender heart gets to be cracked open in ways that don’t always feel pleasurable.  If you ask me on a bad day, I will most likely chalk this post up to a birthday sugar-overload, and play the role of a sad victim of unavailable men.

And for him, I represent being able to receive a full, open love.  He wants to shut down and close it off and kick me out of his heart.  But I know that I am still in there too.  And little by little, I can feel that he is relaxing into it, letting me love him.  And maybe he’ll never return it in the way I want.  Most likely, I won’t be the one that he throws open the doors for.  But I have my own special place inside that is still growing, and breaking up walls like shoots of grass rising through pavement.  There is a deepening.

Seeing this, I stopped seeing our current situation as a “problem.” Sure, there’s a comfort and energy that happens when two people’s circles overlap more completely.  You can draw a tight circle around yourselves and call it a relationship.  Within that space, you can create things together and maybe even plan for the future.  But there’s also a magic that happens when the circles don’t entirely overlap.  To stay connected while respecting the distance that exists between you challenges you to grow and expand. You get to experience bigger and bigger versions of love.

A Lesson in Unconditional Love

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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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Finding Energy to Move Through Daily Life

Tonight I had dinner with two close women friends.  We are all in different stages of our lives.  One is not currently working, but managing property.  One is running her own spirituality-based business.  And I am currently working for a company.

Despite the different stages in our lives, we all connected deeply when the entrepreneur among us spoke of the feeling of having to drag herself to accomplish things.  “It seems like there are always things to do, and it gets overwhelming, and I just don’t want to do them anymore.”

Our conversation made me realize two things that I wanted to share with you.

First, if you also feel secretly overwhelmed and exhausted by the seemingly endless demands of life, you are not alone.  You are not doing anything wrong.  There is nothing wrong with you.  This is life.  It is demanding and requires us to meet its challenges again and again.  I know that I have a hidden belief that other people–especially those who are doing fulfilling things like running their own spirituality-based businesses-don’t have to deal with everyday crap.  It is a relief to know that I am not in the remedial class of life.  No matter how much you love what you are doing, it can be a drag to get things done.

The second thing I realized is based off of what Thomas Huebl shared this weekend.  (See here for my other post on his speech.)  He said that when we end the day depleted, the issue is not what we did.  The issue is how we approached our day, how deeply we connected with what was going on.  When we learn to be fully present, then we emerge energized and vibrant.

What these two insights open up for me is this.  The idea that there is some “end” out there . . .  just around the corner . . . maybe if we fixed a few things. . . took care of a a few more . . . is an illusion. Something else will always arise.  We can, however, find freedom and peace and ease by completely surrendering to what is on our plate.  If we give ourselves 100% to the task in front of us, there is no friction and no drain.

Rather than pretending I have the answer to how this is actually accomplished, I will honor these insights by shifting the question I am asking.  Instead of daydreaming about some alternative life where there are no more demands (“When does this end?”), I will ask myself: “How can I dive more deeply into the life I already have?  How can I open more fully to the demands of daily life?  Does the rhythm of my daily life require a break right now?”  Oftentimes by shifting our perspective, we find the answer we are looking for.

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It’s OK to Be Sad: How and Why to Experience Difficult Emotions

eggshells

I wrote this last Sunday, but didn’t post it until now…enjoy. xoxo Nicole

Today I feel sad.  Normally, I might be moving too fast to notice it.  I might miss it because I am busy skipping from one event to the next.  But today is a slow, grey, Easter Sunday afternoon, and I don’t have any plans for the rest of the day.  I am purposefully not turning on my TV or calling friends.  Instead, I am meditating and writing and allowing myself to feel what is coming up in my heart.

We don’t usually just allow ourselves to just feel sad.  We tend to feel like we have to do something to lift ourselves out of this state:  we go for a walk, talk a bath, drink a glass of wine, re-read a positive book.  Maybe we call a friend and discuss the situation until we have figured out a “solution.”  When we feel better, we might even congratulate ourselves on our great self-care skills.   We assume that we are doing well when we have stopped feeling these negative emotions–the faster we can get out of them, the better we are doing.   This belief in the power of positive thought has been further exacerbated by the misunderstood teachings of the Law of Attraction (i.e., the belief that to manifest what you want you must be constantly joyful).

Some of you might immediately be thinking:  ugh–I don’t want to turn into a mess or wallow in the things that get me down.  But this sense of “wallowing” is not due to the emotion itself, but the unskilful way it is processed.  There is another, more skillful way to experience difficult emotions.

The skillful way is to be able to experience pain without fully identifying with it.  Thus, your awareness is large enough to allow room for the difficult emotion AND maintain contact with your fundamental power, peace, and confidence.   You can stay in touch with joy even as you allow yourself to feel sad.  You can feel strong and secure even as you experience vulnerability.  You can feel connected and lonely at the same time.

The best way to develop this enlarged awareness is meditation.  When you meditate, you develop your ability to stay grounded no matter what your mind or heart tosses up at you.  As you practice, you expand your capacity for presence.  Over time, you can handle more rocky stuff without needing to check-out, go unconscious, or otherwise distract yourself from the intensity of experience.  You can use this capacity to experience difficult emotions during your daily life without becoming overwhelmed or confused.

So, okay, we can experience difficult emotions more skillfully.  Why would we want to stay present for difficult emotions?  Why shouldn’t we be practicing getting rid of them, or transforming them into positive ones?

Because something important and valuable happens when we fully experience difficult emotions.  A lot of difficult emotions are tied up around our desire for life to be different than it actually is.  We want to be somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else.  When we avoid those emotions, we avoid directly experiencing life on its own terms. We live partly in our dreams and hopes.  This dream-world might be more comfortable, but its protection becomes our jail.  We lock ourselves up inside the belief that things needs to be a certain way for us to be happy.

When we experience difficult emotions, we come face to face with the way things are.  Even  though facing reality may hurt, the world does not end.  Instead, all of the energy we were using to avoid pain is loosed.   Instead of struggling and fighting the emotion and the circumstances that gave it birth, we relax.  We can LET things be the way they are, AND be happy.  Yes, we may have to wade through some pain and sadness on the way, but we are no longer afraid to experience them.  We acknowledge our pain and vulnerability with a soft, gentle compassion, not with fear or rejection.

With this softening, a new space opens up inside of us.  It is a new place for life to flow, to move, to breath.  Nothing has been solved or changed, and yet all is well.  This well-being is not a mere “belief” in the abundance and goodness of life–it is an energetic death of a closed/constricted consciousness (things must be so!) and the birth of a spacious awareness (surrendering to what is).  How appropriate for Easter Sunday that I find myself writing about allowing ourselves to die, so that we can be reborn.

 

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How do I Stop Thinking and Feeling? Answer, You Don’t!

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from a higher perspective, there is beauty and peace in a hurricane

 

“We have to make a relationship with our emotional energy. Usually, when we speak of expressing our energies, we are more concerned with the expression than with the energy itself, which seems to be rushing too fast. We are afraid the energy will overwhelm us, so we try to get rid of it through action. However, once you develop a harmonious relationship with your energy, then you can actually express it, and the style of expression becomes very sane, right to the point.” — Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

 

One of the biggest misconceptions about Buddhism is that it is about getting rid of things: thoughts, feelings, the ego.  It is not.  If you focus your efforts on getting rid of things, all you do is spend even more energy caught up in the very thing you are trying to throw out.    At first you might start out angry about something.  If you try and resist that anger, all you end up with is anger AND guilt about being angry.  If you try and make a thought go away, all you end up with is a new thought: I should not be thinking about that thing (which you then immediately think about again).

It’s like those Chinese finger toys–the harder you pull, the tighter it holds you.

What you can do is develop a higher level of awareness so you can watch these thoughts and emotions arise, rather than identify with them.  I think about the process of disidentification very simply.  The thoughts/emotions are visitors. I stay present and watch/hear them do their thing.  I keep an open heart and a grounded presence, even as I feel/experience anger, sadness, mental jumpiness, ect.  I give them my full attention, but I do NOT let them live inside me and start pulling my strings.  And after a while, they run out of energy.  Then, I let them go.

So the idea is not to get rid of stuff.  The idea is to practice operating from another level that doesn’t get caught in the drama.   Actually, our thoughts and feelings can be important and valued guides.  If anything, I am working towards becoming even more open to my feelings and thoughts.   This helps me develop kindness towards myself and others, and grow more spacious and grounded internally.

It also helps relationships.  The more deeply I allow myself to feel sadness and pain around something, the less I need to create a story about why I feel this way (he is to blame, I am to blame, she is to blame).  Sadness is just sadness.  Anger is just anger.  Both of them are just strong energy moving through me.  Just feel them without pushing them away.

If , after feeling my emotions, it seems appropriate to express them, I can do so with a clear mind, taking full ownership of what I am feeling (see my last post on non-violent communication for more about owning your emotions).  People are much more receptive to you when you come from this place.  As Chogyam says, you can be sane, right to the point.  If you hurl your emotions at someone and say: “This is your fault!” you can’t be too surprised when they throw that ball of sh*t right back at you.  If you can approach someone and say: “I felt really hurt when you did this.” then you have created a safe space for them to empathize.

So, bottom line:  don’t try and get rid of your feelings and thoughts.  Just work on developing a better, saner relationship with them.

What is your relationship with your emotions?  Do you believe them?  Do you act on them?  Do you try and ignore them becuase they scare you?  Or are you strong enough to let feelings move through you without getting confused?

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Meeting Other Pilgrims on the Road: Nepal Before the Trek

“Omens are a language, its the alphabet we develop to speak to the world’s soul, or the universe’s, or God’s, whatever name you want to give it. Like any alphabet, it is individual, you only learn it by making mistakes . . . . You start in the darkness, not knowing what you’ll find, although wanting to find clues to meet up with yourself, your destiny. And these clues come to us by way of a richer alphabet, which allows us to intuit what we should or should not do.” — Paolo Coelho

Three days in Nepal (okay, five as I finally get around to posting this), and I already feel like I am in full travel mode. Every day/night I have met new people to share a beer, a meal, a bottle of wine. I have wandered through temple-filled squares, held on tight to the back of a motorbike as it wound its way through the streets of Kathmandu, walked quietly through a monastery at dawn, done yoga in the attic of an old royal residence, and smoked hash in an small Nepali-style bungalow in the hills of the Himalayas.

Before I left, I had a friend ask me what the goal of my travel was. When I was at the Deida retreat, I had a realization: I did not want any goal other than travel itself. My only aim was to embrace a directionless life open to the possibilities in every moment, sinking into the richness of experience. As the expression goes, travelers see what is there, tourists see what they came to see.

Take a few nights ago. Simply sharing a bottle of wine with a new friend by candlelight. The strangeness of our surroundings, coupled with the sheer improbability of our meeting, made our conversation hushed and intimate. It also highlighted a fragile and sweet truth: we are on our separate journeys. All we can share is this moment. The more you can really get this, the more you can love the person in front of you. They are just another person living life, laughing, growing old, doing the best they can, just like you. Wish them well.

That night was a wonderful meeting. But I am learning to carry the same attitude to even the unpleasant meetings. Two nights ago I went out with someone who was probably one of the most arrogant and self-centered people I have ever met. I say that in a pretty matter of fact tone. Actually, he admitted that he was that way (although to be fair, he was also fairly generous). I kept on finding myself tense up around him to shield myself from his endless commentary on himself, and falling silent because there was nothing to say to someone who doesn’t listen. My challenge that night was to still see him on his journey, and wish him well. Not because it was the “right” thing to do, but because the moment I started to close off to him I could feel myself closing off to myself and becoming uptight and irritable. When I perceived him in an unfavorable light, I was the one who changed, not him! When I could see him in a favorable light, as just another person struggling along the best he could, I changed back into my open and relaxed self. By making the choice to adopt a positive attitude, I also found him more vulnerable and human.

So my motto for this travel (and for life, as is happens), is to totally accept whatever is happening and practice keeping an open heart. It is what life is offering as a teaching and a gift. As I fall into the rhythm of traveling and stay open to the experiences, I fall into a deeper conversation with life. The crowded bus, the tourist packed streets, all have something to say.

So I am going to be silent here for a bit as I leave for my Everest hike tomorrow. I have pages and pages of journal writing which I would love to turn into more posts if I find a computer along the way…until then much love from the road. Returning from the trek October 29th.

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Relaxing into the Rush of Daily Life

The past month has swept me away in a rush of things to do.  Early rising straight to the gym, long commute, lots of work, writing an article searching for a new job, finding a new job, weddings, bachelorette parties, dinners with friends.

On the surface, there is a lot of activity, but underneath I feel a bit stuck in the eddies of everyday life.  I want a spark.  I long for a transformative experience to touch me deeply.  I want an AHA!  Or an Ahhhh . . .

Part of this intuition is probably right–I need to create some more space for me to connect with my higher self in the midst of all this running around.  Some breathing room for my inner voice to come through.  Some down-time to set my intentions and delve into my creativity.

AND there is also another lesson I am learning here, and one that this blog is all about.  It is about not needing to escape every day life to feel connected to a higher sense of purpose.  It is about opening up to this deeper connectedness by fully meeting the rough and tumble of daily life.

Viewed from this perspective, the way out is through.   In addition to creating “time out” from life, I am also being called to embrace the messy mad rush of life more deeply.  I am being challenged to let go of my ideas about what feels spiritual and connected, and find new and different ways to open my heart.  Instead of rejecting whatever is in front of me, I am being asked to live it more fully.

My Tantra teacher, Charu Morgan, refers to this continual process of accepting whatever is rising up in life as “softening into” our experience.  When we feel something uncomfortable, we tend to harden against it.  We resist.  When we resist, we fight life.  When we soften, we let life have its way.  We let life move through us.  We let life touch us.

Writing this post is an acknowledgment of where I am at right now, and a way for me to embrace and soften into it.  By naming and owning up to my current level of consciousness, I am bringing this pattern into the light.   I am also helping myself honor and understand that being in touch with the spiritual side of life does not mean I have to be in a super-fired up state all the time.

Actually, the more I hold on to a rigid concept of what my spiritual path “should” look like, the further away I get from what life is offering me right now.  The mundane experiences of life are a great chance to wake up, to get out of my head about what things should be like, and experience them as they actually are–which is way beyond anything I could imagine.  That about sums up the point of Buddhist meditation in many respects.

As I write this, as I acknowledge and soften into my discomfort, I also feel another layer of truth coming through.  The truth is that there is a purpose and spirit and divinity moving through life, even when it is not hitting me over the head.  I am relaxing into faith and gratitude.

Where are you right now?  How are you feeling?  Is there some sensation, some intuition tickling the back of your mind that you can acknowledge, feel, and soften into?  When you relax into it, what new insights come to you?

Love and blessings for your journeys,

N

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A Full Experience of Helplessness

“The only way to ease our pain is to experience it fully. Learn to stay with uneasiness, learn to stay with the tightening, so that the habitual chain reaction doesn’t continue to rule your life.” –Pema Chodron

I love discovering spiritual principles at work in the world around me.  They are unexpected and surprising, yet perfectly formed.  Like a nautilus shell, or a starfish.

Recently, I have discovered the beautiful symmetry of helplessness.

I have always hated feeling helpless.  So I make sure I am not helpless.  I am the one flagging the waiter down to get the check, making an extra call to double-check that there is really no availability, finding a way, someway somehow.  Useful, yes.  Rewarded, often.  And also, a way to escape the feeling of helplessness itself: a refusal to admit that nothing can be done, that I lost, that I am vulnerable, that I can be hurt.

In my last relationship, I often struggled with feeling helpless.  The person I was with at times chose not to listen to me, or could not hear me.  And so . . . I talked calmly, I talked loudly, I argued rationally, I made emotional pleas, I threatened, I begged.  And maybe, eventually, I got my way.  Until it all fell down and the cycle started again.  Rather than truly own up to this cycle and my part in it, I simply insisted all over again that this person would hear me.  Rather than admit that this person could not meet me, I worked hard to hold up their end of the relationship for them.  Until one day life gave me the gift of making the dysfunction so bad I could not ignore it any longer, and I paid life back by paying attention.  And so I left.

Right now, I am in the final stages of ending this relationship, wrapping up loose ends.  And this person is still repeating the same patterns of broken promises.  And I–the new, strong me, who left–what do I do?  I feel helpless.  So  I leap right into my part: “He can’t do this to me,” or “I will figure out a way to get him to listen.”  The same broken record, stuck in the same broken groove.

But this time I catch myself.  Okay: I took the big step of ending the relationship, but I find myself back here again.  What do I still need to learn?  The answer arises naturally: the very thing I am struggling with IS the answer to my question.  I am back here so I can FEEL what helpless feels like.

The more I resist feeling a certain way, the more likely it is that I will “find” myself in situations that cause that emotion to arise.   To break the cycle, I need to surrender and let myself feel.    

I am trying to wake myself up, and my feelings are my alarm clock.  

Okay.  What does it feel like to experience helplessness?  The very first thing I become aware of is how much effort I have been putting into avoiding this feeling.  I was approaching life with a big sign that says “YOU CAN’T HURT ME.”

I surrender– I take down the sign.  Life can hurt!  It is life!  And people disappoint you and accidents happen and sometimes you lose.   Surprisingly, this admission feels like cool relief.  It feels sweet to be human.  It feels sweet to be capable of being hurt.  This IS life.  I can feel life touching me, because I am not trying to hold it at a distance.

Emotions are like a knot that only tightens the more I pull against it, and then as I relax it slips free.

I let the messy, vibrant energy of LIFE sweep into this vulnerable place I have been trying so hard to protect.  My heart relaxes as I release my grip.  And as I relax, light and space and movement rush in and blow away the last shred of my resistance.

And I laugh because I suddenly understand why I have been trying so hard to not let down my guard.  I thought that if I experienced pain, if I “lost,” if a situation got messy . . . that it was my fault.  More than my fault: it meant I was not good enough to get it right.   I have compassion for the part of me that believed this.   I send love to myself, and gently let go of this belief.   Encountering obstacles does not mean I am a failure.  It is just part of being human.

Opening wide to the uncomfortable experience lets it become just that: an experience–a bird flapping through my sky.  I can experience it without identifying with it, without confusing it with who I a fundamentally am. 

Having reconnected with my own basic worthiness, I regain my true power.  Deep, full, expansive breath.   Suddenly, I have many choices before me.  YES I have the power to enter into this situation holding the highest intentions for both me and him.  YES I have the power to protect and honor my own needs–or, to give up the fight if that ultimately brings me greater peace and joy.  YES I have the power to forgive him.  YES I have the power to refuse to get drawn into a negative cycle.

Ultimately, I replace the illusion of control I tried so hard to maintain with a much more profound power.  Although I can not stop painful experiences from arising in my life, I always have the choice to meet them with love and integrity.

So what does all this mean?  Externally, nothing has changed.  I still have a tough situation on my plate.  But now I accept that it may not turn out perfectly–and that is okay.   I am no longer struggling with myself.

The symmetry is complete:  by experiencing ‘helplessness’  fully, I can let it go.

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I Am Not Loveable, I Am Love

Today is the first time in twelve years I do not have a Valentine.  Well, my mom did send me a super sweet card from across the country.  Okay, correction.  Today is the first time in twelve years I do not have a Valentine other than my awesome loving mom.

When I think of other solo Valentine Days, my mind kicks me back to grade school.  Ah, grade school.  I remember that my enlightened school cleverly designed an anonymous Valentine’s Day carnation ceremony, with the obvious goal of traumatizing grade school girls.  The way it worked is that guys would go and secretly buy $1 carnations in the cafeteria.  They could attach a secret message professing their love and giving clues about their identity.  Giggle giggle.  Later that day, the people in charge would deliver the carnations to the lucky girls.  Super-squealy fun if you got a carnation.  Apparently, painful memories that last until your thirties if you did not.  Rejection sucks.

The whole Carnation Ceremony thing might sound juvenile, but I just got done watching The Bachelor, which is basically a grown-up version of this same ritual.   Come to think of it, it is exactly the same thing–they actually have Rose Ceremonies, for god sake.  And just like the little girls in my middle school, the women on the Bachelor really, really want the magic and wonderfulness of love.  More than anything, they want to BE loved.  When rejection looms, even the strongest, cattiest woman among them breaks down into gut-wrenching tears and sobs about how she is heartbroken.

Let’s be real here.  The majority of these women are not crying because they are not going to be with this specific guy.  Lots of guys could look pretty hot diving for sharks and routinely picking you up in a helicopter.  The guy is just a placeholder symbolizing the possibility of love.  When the guy turns them away, but not the other women, the women interpret this as a message saying: “Love is not possible for you, in particular.”  These women are crying because they are secretly worried–just like my sixth grade self–that they are unlovable.

What a crappy story to tell ourselves.  Seriously, to believe that just because someone else–for whatever reason–does not want to be with us, that we are cut off from love?  And wow, what a lot of power to give someone else.  How crazy to think that if a person does not want to be with you, your inner spirit is lacking.  When we tell ourselves this story, we literally deliver our self-worth into someone else’s hands.

Today, I am working on consciously changing my story (sixth-grade old Nicole, you better listen good sweetie).  The truth is that no one can ever cut me off from love.  Call it Basic Goodness, call it Buddha Nature, call it God, call it Spirit.  My fundamental, uncluttered awareness is alive (as I wrote at the beginning of this month)!  It is full.  It is vibrant.  It is all inclusive.  It is joyful.  I am not “loveable.”  I AM love.

So I am going to stop worrying about whether or not I get a carnation.  I officially choose to opt out of the Bachelor game.  To put it bluntly, it seems ass-backwards to beg other people to give me something that is already part of me–that is me.  Instead of waiting around for someone to tell me I am special, I am going to fall into my own wide-open heart.  I am going to focus on tuning into the free and abundant and ever-present love inside of me.  Rejection and loneliness will probably always hurt, but I am going to stop believing that they say anything about who I am.

And you know what else?  I am also going to practice loving others, regardless of whether they love me.  Guy in sixth grade who I secretly pined for but didn’t send me a stupid $1 Carnation?  I love you.  Friend who has not called me back in a while?  I love you.  Guy who I told that we should just be friends after one date?  I love you too.  Not the romantic, messy, I-want-something-from-you kind of love.  The I-sincerely-wish-you-the-best-as-another-person-on-this-path-of-life-no-matter-what kind of love.  There is no loss of dignity in loving someone when you do not need anything from them.  There is also no danger in becoming blind to the current state of someone’s character when your love has no strings.  Practicing unconditional love is entirely consistent with healthy boundaries and skillful discernment.

So happy Valentine’s Day to me and you.  Carnations and roses for all.  It’s pretty amazing to realize I do not have to wait for anyone to love me to (a) be connected to love, or (b) love them back.  I can just open my heart.  It is just that simple.

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