Monday, December 31, 2012

Let's Be Friends

     Like most people, I have had lots of good times, travels to far away lands and parties full of vibrant people have added fun and flavor. I have sat down to thousands of delicious meals and been on the receiving end of many a great massages. And for all of these moments I am grateful, they are the icing on the cake of  life. However eating just icing quickly leaves you malnourished and even hungrier. Nourishment comes from connection, a tree to the soil, a baby to it's mothers breast. Connection to our inner lives, connection to other people who are light for us and mostly connection to God are what feed us. And that is why I am more grateful for all the times in my life I have labeled as "bad" and "hard". The times addiction spiraled out of control, the times I left restraint behind and allowed my anger free reign. The times I felt sufficient pain to venture into that dark room in my soul are the times that ironically led me to a more self nourishing place. A place of connection to true self. If the good times had been a constant I would have never met the pain that led me to the best times. The times of connection and deep soul satisfaction were birthed in pain. So I humbly thank that pain.

     For years when I would feel pain part of me would recognize that I was in a dark place and that I needed to do something about it. But not having acquired many tools I tried to banish the darkness in my soul by willing it to go away or perhaps cussing it or perhaps talking about it with a friend or therapist, fighting darkness with darkness. Not realizing that my pain could lead me closer to God I would cry out for comfort and relief. But here's the lesson I am sure many of you learned long ago, darkness cannot banish darkness. When I will myself to be better because I don't like who I am I am only adding darkness to darkness heaviness to heaviness and clothing my soul with muddy shoes that make it harder to travel. Self loathing leads to self loathing which leads to dark behaviours which leads to self endless spiral into darkness which can seem pretty overwhelming. But here's the awesome part: all it takes to banish darkness is one tiny little speck of light. Even a glimpse of self compassion lights up a soul enough that the darkness fades. It took me a long time to quit fighting my dark side. It felt scary and defeatist to do so. It felt like if I stopped the struggle to be good I would cycle down into being completely bad. But when I stopped the struggle, well the struggle stopped. And when the struggle stops we can reallocate our energy towards tending the spark to light the candle of our souls. To stop begging God for relief and begin appreciating the Infinite Love of the Divine. To rest... Our culture doesn't support this much, rather we are encouraged to "fight the good fight", to "suck it up" to "just do it". All of these attitudes have a time and a place but for the tender work of soul healing they aren't particularly useful.

     Rather bringing light to my dark soul has looked a little more like a warm fuzzy hug and a little less like fisticuffs. I needed to make a new friend and that friend was me. Thinking about the qualities I value in a friend (kindness, honesty, humor) gave me clues as to how to begin to treat myself. And as I nurtured this new little friendship with myself I barley noticed as the internal darkness turned to grey then slowly began fading into light. When I quit fighting, I began winning. "The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still" Exodus 14:14. Today I remind myself what I value in a friend and I endeavour to apply those qualities to my own internal relationship. I stop beating at the darkness and instead reach for a light. The spark in my soul is lit by kindness, nourished with love and sustained by an awesome new friend I have in me. Is it time you made a new friend in you?  Become your own advocate and enjoy the bright flowers the spring up in the soil of your soul. Whatever you do today do it with an attitude of kindness towards yourself, a little patience for yourself and loving words to yourself and you will make a friend to last a lifetime!

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom....
Marcel Proust

Monday, December 3, 2012

Let Your (Christmas) Light Shine

     I wonder how many more outraged and sad conversations I will have this year with people about Christmas being ruined by either a) commercialism b) atheists or c) politically correct people insisting on "Happy Holidays. Not many I hope because, yogis, let's face it nothing can ruin the holidays for you like your own judgement and dissatisfaction. Every time you say Merry Christmas and someone answers Happy Holidays you can choose to let yourself bristle at their audacity of taking Christ out of Christmas. After all Christmas is not Christmas without Christ, right? But did you know the origin of the word Holiday is Holy Day? And when someone wishes you Happy Holidays they can be simply reminding you that we do take time out at the end of December to celebrate a few Holy Days. We should not allow semantics to cause us pain or create distance and judgement. If we want to be holy we have to love God and if we want to love God we have to love His creation and sometimes His creation takes the form of challenging people who don't think like you do.

     I loved finding out about the origin of the word holiday, it made me feel like I had a warm fuzzy secret everytime someone wished me Happy Holidays. But I have to admit to you that until Christmas 2010 I was also one of those railing against the commercialization of Christmas. I let my holiday spirit be eclipsed by preThanksgiving Christmas merchandise in the stores and I felt so righteous in my anger against devilish retailers out to "ruin my Christmas". It feels good to be self righteous sometimes, doesn't it?  However, like a bird, I am easily distracted and attracted to shiny things and it brings me much joy to see the lights adorning everything this time of year.
Being half Jewish we also celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. So one night walking the hood checking out the lights I started to ponder all the lights, the purpose of the lights, the cross cultural desire for lights, the brightly lit malls, and Griswold style houses of some of my neighbors. What is it with humans and winter and lights? I don't think we desire lights at all, rather I now see a universal longing for Light. The Light of God connecting us to one another can never be outshone by a million twinkling Christmas lights. The Light of God shining through us in the form of a smile, a hug, a helping hand can never be replaced by mulitcolored bulbs.

     This universal desire for connection and growth is there year round but during the winter season we express our desire for Light literally with lights. So when I see a retailer pushing an early Christmas season now I remember they too are searching for light. They may be confused in thinking that money and sales will bring Light into their lives but still I remember the human desire for Light is being played out with their awkward displays. A neighbors over the top light display is just another cry for Light and connection. A parents desperate search for a popular toy is the really the quest for the Light of their childs smile. This desire for Light is not a JudeoChristian phenomenon nor even an exclusively theistic desire. It is a human desire to live in Light and the more I can see through the big crass Christmas displays to the quiet yearnings of the soul the more I can focus on being light for someone else this year. The next time someone starts to complain about the downfall of Christmas I am ready with my answer. I am going to ask them two things : what they like about the season (let's refocus) and how they plan on being light for someone else this Season (let's quit complaining and start doing).
     So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays bring on the lights the glitz the crass commercialization so we can remember to be a light for someone else. Being a light in this dark and (supposed to be) cold season has nothing to do with Black Friday or getting that perfect toy. Rather light can shine from a genuine smile, from a moment of presence and awareness as we gift someone our ear. Light can emanate from us as we find our calm and eternal center and operate from our core rather than continuing to squawk about how other people are ruining Christmas. So this season I remember that it is alright to go see the lights but it is far better to Be the Light and I will use every display and every obnoxious chipmunk song  to remind myself this over and over. Nothing wrong with presents it's just that the true gift is presence. Nothing wrong with hanging lights it's just better to Be A LIGHT!!

"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and
more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness:
they know not at what they stumble."
Proverbs 4:18-19