Tag Archives: Authenticity

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.

—————-

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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Diamond Approach: Desire is the Language of the Heart

What do you want right now?

What do you want most of all?

When you let go of worrying about whether or not you can have it, how does desire feel?

 

Last weekend, I participated in my second Diamond Approach workshop.  The approach was developed by a man named A.H. Almaas as a synthesis between spiritual and the psychological experience.  The group uses meditation and focused inquiry to help people gain a direct experiential understanding of a situation.  As a person gains direct experiential insight into a situation, their ego structure is both repaired and abandoned, so that their essential spiritual nature is more fully expressed (i.e., more LIGHT can shine through).

 

This weekend, our insight process focused around desire.  Buddhist teachings might leave one believing that ALL desire is bad.  Wanting brings suffering.  To stop suffering, stop wanting.

This weekend we explored a different, more subtle approach to desire.  Basically, some desire leads us AWAY from ourselves.  We desire things because we feel deficient in ourselves.  We crave things because we are seeking to not feel something.  We desire things to give us a sense of self.  This is the type of craving that Buddhism counsels against.

But there is another kind of desire.  The kind that is borne out of love.  The kind that rises in your chest, bubbly and yellow like champagne.  The kind that feels so good to allow, you want to sink your toes into it.  And this second kind of desire arises from a sense of fullness, not deficiency.

This second type of desire is a natural activity of the heart.  It is the heart’s GPS.  Follow these desires, and you will find the things in life that affirm you.  And even if you never get the things you desire, the sheer pleasure of loving them, wanting them, is what the heart wants and needs to feel alive.  This type of desire is a sacred movement, profound in and of itself, regardless of whether it is actually fulfilled.

One type of desire brings you closer to yourself, one takes you away. 

How do you distinguish one type of desire from another?  You can tell by how it makes you feel.  Let’s say you crave chocolate.  Do you feel happy and excited about the deliciousness of the treat, a pure and innocent joy in this treat?  Enjoy the pleasure of wanting, free from any attachment to actually eating the chocolate.  Or do you feel an anxious craving, and a gnawing sense that you are ignoring what is really bothering you?  If that is the case, then dig deeper to see what you really want.

So all weekend, this group of people, slowly at first, and then in a joyful rush, shared all of the things that we desired truly, with our hearts.  When we let go of whether or not we could actually have them, the energy shifted from one of frustration or tentativeness, to one of freedom and play.  We desired fun and travel and lovely work and intimate conversations and hot sex (as a seventy-year old woman gamely volunteered).

We were like children who had not yet learned the harsh rules of the world, and were free to love everything we wanted to love.

And we also discussed the things that kept us from our desires.

The most poignant scene of the weekend for me was the inquiry with a man in his late 50s.  He recalled that when he was a little boy, he loved women.  Worshipped them.  He could vividly recall sneaking behind a girl’s desk when he was just starting school (6 or 7 years old), so that he could breath in her scent and stare at the pattern on her dress.  But he quickly learned, because he was brought up Catholic, that such desires were a sin.  So for most of his life, he has had a tortured relationship to women.  He buried his desires because they were bad.

As this man recalled the bright red and white check pattern of the girl’s dress that he so loved over forty years ago, tears streamed down his face.  Together, we sat in silence, letting him cry, sharing the beauty of this innocent desire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Standing Up for Yourself

I used to think of standing up for yourself as something you did when someone was being obviously rude and mean.  “Hey, you can’t do that to me!” you might shout.  But I have learned that standing up for yourself can come in many different forms, some much less obvious.

For example, you may have to protect yourself against someone you love: a friend, a lover, a family member.   That can make it that much more difficult because we are conditioned to believe that being close to someone means tolerating their hurtful or painful behavior.  We feel guilty cutting off someone we love (or we don’t want to admit that someone we love can treat us this way).  These self-limiting beliefs often prevent us from realizing that even in these intimate relationships, we are still in charge of taking care of ourselves.

To claim our full power, we must redefine what it means to stand up for ourselves.  It is not just a situation where we give a piece of our mind to a bully.  It is the hundreds of small ways that we say YES to ourselves, even if it means saying NO to someone else.   It can be done quietly, with love and grace.  It is often doorway to greater intimacy, not less.  For how can you truly love someone else if you are feeling vulnerable and unsafe?

Let’s examine how this works in practice.

How do you learn to identify situations where you need to stand up for yourself?  Every situation is different, but often you may not recognize it until it happens a few times.  So look for situations that keep on re-occuring with a friend that feels uncomfortable to you.  Each time, you might react in a slightly different way.  Maybe you dismiss it because you think you are strong enough to handle the pain, and the other person’s action are unconscious.  It’s not that “big of a deal.”  Maybe you “have a talk” with the other person, during which they recognize the issue and vow to change.  Maybe you question whether you have a right to feel uncomfortable.  Maybe you hide your uncomfortableness because you don’t want to scare the other person away.

All of these reactions have one thing in common:  you set yourself up to allow the situation to occur again.

At first it may be wise to take that risk, to see if the other person can change.  But when it happens again and again, that is a signal that it is YOU who must make a change in the situation.  The other person is not going to make that change for you.  You are sticking your foot out so that they can step on it.  Because they don’t realize that they are doing so (or they do realize, but can’t stop), it is you who must move your foot.

So the next question:  how do you make this change?  Often, we recognize that we need to act with more self-respect, but we feel totally stuck in this negative patterns.  Here are some insights from my own experience:

  • Allow life to change.  It can be brutally hard to realize that an era is over, a certain innocence and dreams are gone.  Grieve if you must, but adjust.  Make your life fit YOU, don’t cut yourself down to fit life.  If you can let go of the past, you will naturally find the courage to face the future.  (A helpful exercise is when you catch yourself wishing things were different, don’t push that thought away.  Instead, examine it closely.  Recognize what you are trying to hold on to.  Then, with a deep breath, let it go.  Feel the freedom of not fighting to hold on.  Notice the lightness in your body.  You are still here.  Life will go on.)
  • Act out of love for yourself, not anger or resentment towards the other person.  When you act of anger towards the other person, your resolve is muddy and weak.  When you act of love for yourself, your choices are firmly grounded and clear.  This does not mean that you may not experience anger–that is perfectly normal.  Greet it with compassion and recognize that you are larger than it.  Then out of that larger awareness, decide what is best for you.  Remember that you are not here to teach anyone else a lesson, you are just here to grow yourself.  Wish the other person well on their own path.
  • What feels right to you does not have to make sense.  Don’t try and analyze what your heart is telling you.  You don’t have to justify it to anyone, even yourself.  Accept who you are fully and wholly, along with your unique preferences and boundaries.

I hope these insights are helpful to you on your journey.  If you have any stories about your own journey on the path to self-respect and standing up for yourself, please share.  Much love and light!

 

 

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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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What Does it Mean to Live a Spiritual Life?

We don’t have to concoct or contrive or conceptualize a “spiritual” life.  The life process is Self-recognition, and it is already underway in  its myriad manifestations.  Our purpose is non-different from this world process of Self-recognition.  The only question is, are we going to move with the life process or fight against it until we die of exhaustion.  — Pilgrims to Openness: Direct Realization Tantra in Everyday Life, Shambhavi Sarasvati

Sometimes, our lives are full of vivid meaning and awakenings and new understandings.  When we go through big, obvious changes, it can be easy to connect with our spirituality.  We feel life moving through us.  We feel our hearts widen.  There is a lot of power in times of transition and growth.

And sometimes, life just quietly powers along in a series of small pleasures and disappointments.  We do not sense anything moving.  We are just living our days.  In those moments, our spiritual path might become unclear.  What comes next?  How do we continue to connect with our spirituality?

In those moments, we might take action.  There is an endless parade of spiritual books and tapes and events designed to help us on our path.  We search for a spiritual project to work on.  Some issue to heal, some prayer to say, some transformation to undergo.  When we feel things moving again, we feel better.  We are on our way!

Effort can be wonderful.  It can even be necessary.

But what if we stay with “not knowing”?  What if drop the idea that we know what our spiritual path looks like?

There is a beauty in admitting that we do not know, of letting go of our affirmations and positive thoughts and things to improve.  It returns us to humbleness.  It can also be a relief, a healing rest.

When I relax into not-knowing, life tastes fresh and full of possibility.  It is so much larger than me!  I also feel a sense of playfulness and joy.  There is nothing to fix or improve.   There is no lesson to be learned.  I do not need to be involved in any story with a clear beginning, middle, and end.  All I need is to open my heart to my own deep longing for connection.

As I write these words, I am reminded of people who have asked me: so, what does it mean to live a spiritual life?  The answer is that I have no idea.  Sometimes it appears big and dramatic and awe-inspiring.  Sometimes it is so basic and good, just about people becoming more themselves.  Sometimes it is rigorous, and demands particular shifts and growth.  Sometimes it is about freely expressing love and gratitude, without any particular thing to achieve.   And often, it is about forgetting all of these concepts, and just laying your heart bare to whatever unfolds.

To me, the only thing spirituality really means is that you acknowledge a call to meet yourself more deeply.  Sometimes the call is loud, sometimes it is soft.  You do not know where it will take you or what it will ask of you.  And that is okay.  Just keep hearing the call, and follow it wherever it takes you.

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