Tag Archives: Self-love

Open Heart Meditation

 “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.” — Ho’oponopono prayer

For a long time in my morning sitting meditation, I would feel spacey, and tend to fall asleep. When I tried to go inside, it felt fuzzy, ill-defined. Like I was trying really hard to look at something through wavy glasses or trying to hear something through lots of static. I felt frustrated.  I stuck with it.

Lately I noticed that my sitting meditations have become more grounded and clearer. This morning, I found my way to a very sensitive, raw, pulsating, knotted spot about a foot away from my chest, connected to my heart. It hurt, in shimmery waves of tightness down my arms. And it was angry, in big waves of gritty intensity pushing out. Most importantly, I could FEEL it – it didn’t disappear in waves of unconscious sleepiness. I stayed connected to it in meditation long after the timer went off. And then I continued to feel connected to it through my drive to work, when I suddenly had an urge to cry. Then I was crying in big sobbing tears, and yelling big yells of pain for about 15 minutes.

What did I uncover? I can only describe it as knotted-up energy of the pain of being alive. In it, there is a deep love for all the people in my life and the raw agony of all the ways in which I hold myself back from expressing that love fully in whatever form it might take (anger, compassion, joy, frustration, hurt), and instead settling for a numb niceness that denies I am feeling anything. A numb niceness that cuts me off from you. As I allowed myself to feel this agony, it would soften and turn sweet, and turn to an aching tenderness. I felt a deep forgiving towards everyone, and towards myself, because we are all undergoing this separation together and it is not our fault.

The Ho’oponopono phrase kept coming up, and touching the exact spot that hurt: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.” I don’t care if being alive hurts, I want to feel it ALL so that I can really love and live in truth.

Thank you for reading. Knowing that there are people out there who read this and connect with this feeling encourages me to open my heart more.

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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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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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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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Tantric Love Bomb

“Everybody wants to let go, but how do you let go if you don’t hold things, if you don’t touch things in full consciousness, with a totally open heart?  In Tantrism, the first thing is having the experience of touch, of profound contact with things, with the universe, without mental commotion.  Everything begins there: touching the universe deeply . . . In seeking to let go before taking hold, one doesn’t understand the profound dynamic of love, the fabulous power we all possess.  We are all like bombs ready to explode with love . . . Agreeing to touch the other is agreeing to make this bomb explode.”  – Devi, in “Tantric Quest” by Daniel Odier

This post offers the naked energy of my own being.  I touch my Self in your presence, so that both of our hearts can wake up.

Like dropping over a cliff, I let go of all questions, all defenses, all doubts.  There is no resistance.  A tingly rush sweeps through my body as I free-fall.

I EMBRACE this moment, exactly as it is.  I feel every part of my body say yes.  I invite the universe in to myself.  I shiver when I touch the ground of the present moment.  The wind is full.  My body is full.  The taste of my mouth is full.  The movement of my breath is full and complete.  I feel the fullness of me.  I ache with this fullness.

Let this very moment touch you too.  As the sunlight hits your face, let it penetrate your ribs, your stomach, your pelvis, your lips, your heart.  Let the emotion stirred by these words enter your heart, your body.  Let yourself grow warm.  Let your heart out from its cage, let its desire for connection sweep through you.

I ALLOW myself to be, exactly as I am.  I am complete.  My beauty–the fact that I EXIST–takes my breath away.  I possess a fabulous power.  I see myself, and I have no end.  There is nowhere to go with myself, nothing to do.  I burst into being.  I am here!

Unfurl yourself, and let yourself be vast.  Touch your own beauty.  Let the sensation of being alive electrocute you.  Feel your fierceness.  You are on fire.  Go deep, deep within the center of your own being, and find that you have no end too.  You are infinite.  You EXIST.

I OPEN to your gaze.  I let you see me.  I stand unadorned.  I allow myself to be magnificent.  I open my heart completely to you.

Allow me to see you.  Stay connected to the ground of your being as you meet my gaze.  We connect.  You are noble, and utterly powerful.  Your sheer gorgeousness breaks my heart.

How deeply can you let yourself be touched?  How much can you stand?  Can you admit how beautiful you are? Even if you close up the next moment, for just this moment right now can you let the Universe in?  Let me in?

Let your longing take over, even if it starts out as no more than a half-remembered ecstasy.  Give yourself permission to feel.  Let it grow, become unbearable.  Connect with that constant, underlying ache to fully open to life, and allow it to rip through you.  That longing IS your own power . .  . the bomb ticking.  Open to it.  It is who you are.

For just a second, allow yourself to explode.

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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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We Are All Stuck Being Human, Together

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

— Pema Chodron

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

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

Lesson learned right?  Not so fast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wisdom From a Bartender

I have had a great week so far.   Major highlights: new friends, local dinner parties, and of course, attending the Watch the Throne Tour.  Nothing gets me excited and alive like dancing to some music that goes HAM.   And yes, musings about dance parties belong on this blog.  As do poems about walking home at night.  This is all about finding the light in the daily.

But I want to bring it back a bit to my post about Letting Go.  When I wrote that post I was in a local restaurant/bar down the street from my house called Fishbar.   While I was there, the bartender asked me what I was writing about.   Now, not only was this guy a bartender, he also had a striking resemblance to Paul Bunyon.  Full facial beard, stalwart disposition, tall, strapping.  So I had my misgivings as I took a leap of faith and told him I was blogging about spirituality and daily life, and described my post about Letting Go.  Turns out that beneath his mountain man exterior was an open heart.  When I finished, he nodded, and said, “Yup, that sounds about right.  But you also have to remember that it is okay to have that feeling of need in the first place.”

WHAT!  Bunyon the Bartender broke. it. down.   He actually hit on one of the key parts of Letting Go.  See, the thing is that you can not force yourself to Let Go.  Like, I cannot say, “Nicole, you are being stupid, how could you have been so foolish at to have these needs, stop it immediately.”  I am not a robot.  I am not trying to be hard.

We are vulnerable people who want love.  We have to love and forgive and have compassion for that part of us that wants connection.  And the moment we forgive ourselves for having those feelings, we actually see them for what they are: a very sweet part of ourselves that wants and needs our own love.  In loving ourselves, we stop demanding things from the outside world that are not realistic.  This is not a one-time deal.  When I am going through something where I have to let go, I sometimes feel like I am walking around just cradling my heart in my hands, going “It’s okay.  I love you.”  Over and over and over until I regain my power.

Alright people, that is it for this post.  And remember: don’t be afraid to get deep with your local bartender.   They might have some real-life wisdom to share.

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