Tag Archives: Surrender

The Tender Place Between Shame and Blame

old stuffed

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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dusk

this is the middle of the hero’s tale
the long walk through the desert
where there is no triumph
just windmills
and a forced forgetfulness
that only gradually fades
like a hot day cooling
into the soft down of forgiveness

in the broad view,
the one she likes to take
there is nothing to escape
its all just a small part of the endless
chasing and loving and running
around in circles
broken hearts littering
the ground
in messy webs of desire
an interlacing of he loves her loves him

but then her mind slips away
and there it is again,
the close-up,
the dredged memory
of his arms
stuck at his sides
as she pressed her lips
over his dead ones

she read somewhere
that you should breath
in the pain–not just hers,
but all who had suffered similar fates
a deep inhale of united hurt

she tries it
and finds a balance
in the up and down
of her rising chest
her answer
no more
and no less
than each next breath

at some point
the sun drops low enough
that she can look up into the sky
and see the stars winking

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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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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!

imagesCA0HR36I

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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David Deida Workshop: Masculine and Feminine Energies

Mykonos: Paco, what do you feel right now in your heart?
Paco: I don’t know, not much.
Mykonos: Your friends are going to die. You are going to die. This is a fine woman. She wants to feel your heart. We all want to feel your heart.
Paco: Well, maybe I dont want to give you my heart.
Mykonos: Fuck you, Paco. — David Deida, Wild Nights

Our world is divided into two forces: the masculine and the feminine. The bee pollinates the flower. The man penetrates the woman. Consciousness pierces space.

All of us carry the capacity for both masculine and feminine energy. Masculine energy is presence and purpose. It is solid. Feminine energy is life, motion, light, beauty.

Sexual energy arises out of the polarity of feminine and masculine energy. The male energy is attracted by the radiance of the feminine energy. The female is drawn to the masculine’s presence and depth. His undivided attention provides a structure and support for the female energy to shine even brighter, letting go of all defenses that would block her beauty.

In our modern world, the artfulness and sacredness of this polarity has been lost. Or it appears in a degraded form. Women (and some men) dress provocatively to get praise and attention for their egos, rather than as an outward manifestation of a deeper power. Men (and some women) chase after money and status to prove their worth, without learning how to cultivate real masculine integrity and presence.

This weekend I attended a workshop by David Deida, who has published many books on sexuality and spirituality. I came away in love with the raw power of feminine energy. I felt like a temple-keeper for this incredible goddess that happened to live in my body, ancient and nameless, that makes flowers grow, waves move, and bodies rot. And I also felt like the Goddess herself.

Now I understand why I have repeatedly gotten feedback not to over-structure my travels over the next few months. I thrive off of unstructured freedom because it is a feminine mode of existence. It makes me feel more vibrant, alive, and creative to not have a specific plan.

I also came away with a better understanding of what I am looking for in a man. Deida’s description of the feminine longing for connection echoes the part of me that is vast and intense, and that craves an equally powerful force that is capable of diving deep enough to meet me.

I want a man to let me feel his heart. Not a touchy-feely sharing circle, or a pseudo-spiritual staring contest that substitutes for real connection. I want the rootedness and strength of a man: alive, present, open, and attentive. Willing to share himself and be touched.

Many guys are scared of intimacy because they are afraid of being vulnerable. I get it. Connection with many potential dangers: heartache, shame, possessiveness, jealousy. These may be avoided by staying unconscious, superficial, at a distance, unavailable. But what else is life for? Let me feel your heart Paco!

Okay, so what about the juicy Tantric sex stuff? Deida shared stories of what sex is like when the masculine and feminine forces are fully activated. The couple synchronizes their breath. The man breathes through the woman so that he starts to be able to guide her energy. Instead of ejaculating, the man recirculates this sexual energy through the woman. Not only is the man flooding the woman with sexual energy, he is also flooding her with consciousness (the essence of masculine energy). He does this in part by being infinitely receptive to her responses. The woman loses self control–her physical responses become spontaneous as her normal boundaries disappear into a vast bliss. As Deida put it, she has been fucked to God.

And these teachings go beyond sex. We will all be too old for physical sex at some point. Or we may not want to have sex for other reasons. What do we do with this longing, this power, then?

Ultimately, the union of the masculine and feminine is a vital expression of our our own longing to merge with God. The world is the feminine– ever in motion, changing, full of beauty, but also merciless and harsh. She is all things, full of life even as it changes to death. The masculine is our own consciousness. Union happens when, no matter what shit or amazing pleasures the world throws at us, we keep our hearts open instead of collapsing or hiding. Stand strong and let the world crack you open with her beauty and pain. Let me feel your heart Paco.

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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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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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Finding the Strength to Be Vulnerable

A friend of mine asked a beautiful question the other day that I think many of us have asked ourselves before.  He said (I am para-phrasing):  “I have no problem being angry.  Anger is a STRONG emotion.  I can be present for that.  But how do I stay present with fear and self-doubt?  Those are such weak, wimpy, non-masculine emotions.  Plus, when I stay with them, sometimes I end up unable to effectively run my business or be with my family.”

My friend is on the right track.  We do not want to stuff fear and self-doubt down our mental toilet, only to have the piping back up.  These emotions as a natural part of being alive–if we cut them off we distance ourselves from the brightness of life.

But feeling emotions is very different from letting them consume us (that is where my friend was running into trouble with his work and family).   We need to open our hearts without getting lost in our experiences and confusing them for reality.  So in a sense, we need to be really strong in order to be truly vulnerable. 

So the deeper question is: How can we develop the strength to truly face fear and self-doubt?

I have two different practices that I would like to share with you.  One is mine, and the other is from renowned vulnerability expert Brene Brown.

Me:  Cultivate the Heart of a Warrior

To develop this strength, I consciously cultivate a relationship with my awareness/witness mind.  This awareness is spacious, vibrant, and tender.  As I walk to work in the parking lot, I connect with this awareness through my heart, body, and breath.  As I brush my teeth.  As I do my work.   Definitely, when I meditate.

Then, when a big oh-shit wave of fear and self-doubt comes, I can watch it rise and fall with compassion, even curiosity.   Because I know the emotion is not me, I can let the fear and doubt be as deep and wide as they want to be without getting sucked in.  This is what Shambhala calls developing the heart of a spiritual warrior.  A warrior heart is strong and open enough to face even the scariest fear.

Brene Brown: Release the Fears to God

Brene Brown is a well-known speaker who has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.  (Agh-LOVE!)  She just posted this beautiful post about her practice of “Turning Things Over.”  When she has any fears (or even great hopes) come up, she writes them down on a piece of paper.  I would encourage anyone doing this practice to take a few minutes to sit with that fear and feel it in your body.  Then she puts them in a bowl or box that symbolizes turning over those fears to God.   (The bowl in the picture was given to her by an admiring potter.)  This is a concrete way to allow yourself to FEEL and ACKNOWLEDGE the fear, but then release it to a higher power.  Again, a great way not to get sucked up in the Fear Trap my friend was worried about.

Brene’s practice might be especially great for specific problem-related “nagging” fears, while my Shambhala-based practice might be especially suited for pervasive self-doubt.  I hope that they both serve you.

With love and light,

N

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