Tag Archives: Staying Present

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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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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Transparent Communication– teachings from Thomas Huebl

This morning, I participated in a free 75 minute talk by Thomas Huebl, sponsored through the SHIFT network.   For those who are not familiar with the SHIFT network, check-it-check-it out.  It is a hub of conscious teachers who are offering courses and lectures online.

I had not heard of Thomas Huebl before, but the SHIFT network sent me an email about the talk.  My attention was caught by the fact that part of his teachings focused on Transparent Communication.  More and more I am realizing that my spiritual path lies in embodied spirituality–not how to transcend, but how to bring more presence and clarity to my every day existence, with an emphasis on conscious communication and interpersonal relations.  So I was very intrigued.  Although somewhat put off by his Jesus-like flowing locks.

Despite his obvious need for a makeover, Thomas ended up being an intense and obviously highly evolved teacher.  His wisdom and clarity were magnetic, and kept me engrossed for the full 75 minutes.  He talks about working at an energetic level as well as an intellectual one, and I could definitely feel that.  I felt incredibly charged.   To share a bit of what he discussed, here are the two main questions driving Transparent Communication:

1) How can I live my life so that my heart and presence stay available for the next moment instead of getting “stuck” or “caught” in past?  For example, if we have an interaction and something about it throws me off, I will still be processing it even when the conversation is over.  That makes me less available for whatever comes next.  To be 100% available for whatever is arising in any given moment, we need to learn to allow experiences to flow through us cleanly, rather than contracting around them.
Why do we contract, and how can we stay present?  When we leave a conversation feeling unsettled it is not because the other person made us feel this way.  It is because we did not want to feel what we were feeling.  If we can stay present to ourselves and not abandon ourselves when we experience difficult things, we can stay present to the other and not abandon them when those difficult feelings arise.  The other person no longer poses a threat to us because we are willing to experience discomfort.   We must allow ourselves to get comfortable with feeling discomfort so that we can find freedom.  (love this)
2)  How can I not only express myself, but feel into your reality so I can understand how my communication is being received?  This requires enlarging your awareness so you can not just empathize with another, but actually feel into their experience.  As you become more sensitive to the reality of the other person, you can communicate more effectively because you understand not just what you want to say, but how to say it so that it can actually be heard (or realize that it cannot be heard).  This ability to feel in to a reality different than ours is also the basis for true connection and exchange.
After the call, I took some of what he said and applied it to a conversation I was having with a friend.  Before, I had been dancing around my own discomfort with what she had been saying about her interactions with another friend.  I was worried that she was being judgmental.  After the talk, I faced and accepted my own discomfort.  I found a new found freedom to express myself to her in a direct manner (before I had been trying to avoid my discomfort by working on getting her to change her views).  I told my friend I could listen to her if she was willing to take responsibility for her own role in the situation.   But I was not willing to listen to her if the goal of the conversation was to blame the other friend, because I did not believe that was productive.  To my surprise, she readily shifted into discussing the conflict as a reflection of her own limitations, rather than what this other friend was “doing” to her.  Once she made that shift, I not only understood what she was trying to say, I truly respected what she was saying.  We ended up having an amazing discussion that helped both of us gain clarity and insight.  I physically felt nourished.
I felt so fired up about the teachings of Thomas Huebl that I signed up for a nine-month course of his advanced teachings through the SHIFT network!!  I am excited to go deeper into his work, and will definitely share them on this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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Ripping Away the Band-Aid of TV

For about four months, I did not have a TV.  I was also in the middle of a lot of changes (new apartment, new job, ending of a relationship, living alone for the first time in a while).  Suddenly, everything became very new.  And not having a TV in the middle of that newness was another element that woke me up to what the present moment actually felt like.

Before, a typical routine (when I didn’t go out) would go something like this.  Come home to my floor-plan B apartment on the top floor of a managed building (complete with carpet and sound-proofed walls).  Put on pajamas, get food, and turn on TV.  For just a little bit.  A little bit would turn into an hour, while I watched whatever reality show happened to be on.  Get caught up in the drama on the screen.  My partner would get home and we would cuddle and chat and then next thing I knew it would be time for bed.

The way I come home over the past four months has been very different.  I moved to the top floor of a duplex in Manhattan Beach.  It feels like such a big, creaky space, with high wooden ceilings and full of the smell of ocean air.  I open the door, and take off my shoes.  Feel my feet on the hardwood floor as I walk across the living room.  Listen to the wind rip across the roof, and the neighbors play music across the street (no sound-proof walls).  Get into pajamas.  Pause.  Then, maybe . . . get food, write, or read.  Feel that small moment when I crawl into bed and realize I am not waiting for anyone else.

As I get re-adjust to life in all of its little ways, I have done it without the band-aid of having a TV.  I kind of miss it.  But TV enables an automatic life.  It lets you come home and skip right past all of the bumpy parts, and instead watch someone else tough it out (or pretend to live life, at least).  Without it, I have had to come face-to-face with some pretty empty times.  Sometimes, I have felt like I have nothing to fill them with.  I am just alone.  No partner and no TV.  But other times, something quiet and beautiful emerges, and I happy to be alive.  Or I feel inspired to create something.  For example, I have (re)-discovered how much I like to write.

I recently got a TV again, and a roommate.  Part of me is drawn to just . . . flipping that switch . . . and getting sucked back into a “comfortable” routine.  Especially when that comfort lets me ignore the  part of me that really wishes I had someone coming to bed with me.  But I like staying alive, and vulnerable, and awake.  I like not having a set, mindless routine.  So I will try and keep my TV for movies (small concession for the Bachelor and roommate time), and life–new, uncertain, sometimes empty–for me.

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The Power of Naming

First, let me just say last night’s Black Star concert was unbelievable.  Tuesday night’s Watch the Throne concert was incredible for its brilliant production, both lyrically and visually.  But Black Star kept it simple–just Mos, Talib, and J. Rocc.  Instead of flash, they brought about 1000 watts of soul, heart, and beats.   It was full of SPIRIT, and the crowd was moved.   Good music opens your heart!

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Alright, so to the point of today’s post.  I was en route to the concert last night with my friend (in the most amazing cargo van ever…just picture a van about 3 stories high, which 6 rows of seats.  Apologies to the environment, but it is a killer ride.)  My friend is hilarious, so I was trying to come up with some stories to tell him and keep the laughter going.   I decided to tell him about how my friend Matty and I have this really funny character we created…who is from Lowell…and has this funny accent…and who drunkenly berates inanimate objects and calls them “Skippy”….and….umm…..

About half-way through the story it becomes totally clear to me that this ship is sinking fast.   If I try and  finish this story, it is definitely going to require a:  “Guess you had to be there” disqualifier.   We would then both uncomfortably ignore the fact that the story was super lame, and then try and switch the conversation to something that actually made sense.   I hate those moments, although they happen to the best of us.

I decided to go Neo on it.  Instead of trying to force it, I was going to call it out for what it was.  “Ummm…I just realized in the middle of this story that it is actually not going to be funny at all and I have no idea why I even began telling it to you.”  And my friend breathed a sigh of relief and told me “Yeah, I was actually getting the sense it was going to be one of those horrible, ‘Guess you had to be there,’ stories.”  And then we had a whole conversation about how you have those moments in stories when you can tell they are not going to work out, and how you handle that, which was hilarious and oh-so-true.   (For those who find themselves in this situation, another fun tactic is to just randomly finish the story with: “And then I found $200 dollars on the sidewalk.”  Who doesn’t love stories about free money?  Or maybe you could go the Kanye route: “And then, I told her to run a bubble bath, and float in that motherfucker like a hovercraft….”  I mean, who says shit like that and doesn’t laugh?)

Well, it turns out that how we handle these small moments of uncomfortableness (or large ones) are an important part of spiritual practice.  The bottom line is that most people do not like to feel uncomfortable.   Make sense.  So what happens is that we tend to ignore anything that makes us feel ickey– or run away from it, or beat ourselves up about it in an effort to get rid of it, or blame another person for making us feel bad.  We do anything but just FEEL the bad stuff.   While logical, this actually has some pretty powerful consequences.  One of the consequences is that we are subtly teaching ourselves that these bad feelings have power over us.   And the truth is that, they don’t.  They are just feelings.  They come and go.  They are not the truth about ourselves.  They are smaller than us.   We can feel them AND remain connected to our hearts and to our center.

So it is important to stay present during these uncomfortable moments.  To stay present with them means that instead of trying to “fix” them or ignore them or push them away, you just notice them.  you investigate them.  You feel how they manifest in your body.  When you allow hidden fears to fully emerge in your conscious mind and physical body, you are taking them out of the dark into the light.  Once in the light, we have power over them.   Step by step, you are building your spiritual strength.  Shambhala Buddhism refers to this general idea of battling self-ignorance and self-delusion as the way of the “spiritual (or sacred) warrior.”

A big example of this practice, and my favorite, comes from an older Buddhist gentleman suffering from Parkinson’s.  The gentleman went to go give a lecture on Buddhism at this local center.  He sat down at the front of the room.  He opened his mouth.  And then he realized he had absolutely no idea what to say.  Total fear and embarrassment filled him.  Even a bit of terror.  So what does he do?   He does not gloss over the situation, and pretend like nothing is wrong.  He does not walk off in shame, or take a break to go cry in the bathroom.   He sits there with dignity and compassion.   And he begins to name exactly what is happening… “I have no idea why I am here.  I feel fear… embarrassment… confusion….”  He was totally vulnerable.  He was unbelievably brave.   His openness and humanity brought people in the audience to tears.  And as he sat there, he gradually remembered why he was there and was able to continue with the rest of his lecture.  Many people in the audience later said it was one of the most powerful teaching they had ever received.

So,  staying present to uncomfortable feelings through naming is a powerful practice.  It can shift an otherwise difficult situation, and allow you to stay connected to your own power even as you experience self-doubt.  Next time you feel something uncomfortable, try becoming aware of it.  What does it feel like?  Where is it coming from?  And then instead of denying it, see if you can acknowledge it.  Depending on the situation, you can just acknowledge it to yourself and give a little shout out to the feeling (OK, fear, I see you!).  Send it love.  Feel how, in the light, it is suddenly not as scary as your first thought.  Or you can even name it out loud and reveal yourself to the other person.  As both my story and the story with the old Buddhist shows (although to very different degrees), it can be a relief and a blessing when someone is willing to be vulnerable and real.  And even allow for some shared laughter or tears.

If you have a story with naming (when you used it, a time when you wished you had used it, when someone else used it), share it below!

With love,

N

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