Thursday, April 16, 2015

Who's in Charge Here?

"There is a perfect rout of characters in every man - and every man is like an actors trunk full of strange creatures, new & old. But an actor and his trunk are two different things"
Wallace Stevens: A mythology of Self

     There is a character inside my head I like to call Ms. Dread Ahead. She visited me again last night as I surveyed the mess in the kitchen and thought not only of cleaning it up, but of the work I had to do the next day and my homework and, and, and .... my never ending responsibilities descended like a heavy woolen cloak shutting out all the light and casting me into darkness. But here's the thing, Ms. Dread Ahead and I have danced this dance before and I have begun to recognize her puppet master: The Victim. The Victim sets up scenarios where all I can see is my foot in a trap and sometimes I forget it is I who put my foot in that "trap" and I alone have the power to take it out. We all have so much on our plates these days, but sometimes it's hard to remember that we piled it all on our plates ourselves. Instead we stare at the plate in despair and wonder how were going to eat all we served ourselves. Remember this though: all you have to do today is breath and drink a little water. THAT IS ALL. But but, what about picking my kids up from school? What about feeding my family, what about .... Yea, I hear the objections. But I still maintain all you have to do today is breath and stay hydrated. you can send someone else for the kids, or keep them out of school, or home school them, or not have them to start with. The thing is know that it is you who piled up your plate.

     So, taking ownership of our choices and our lives is a good start. But once you realize you have orchestrated your life to have all of your particular challenges in it you still have to either take action or face consequences. How you take action is everything. If you are doing your dishes with resentment you are enforcing a victim mentality that slowly saps your power and energy. I chose to own a home, I chose to have a kitchen in it, I chose to cook dinner and I choose to do the dishes.  But that's not the end, I had to choose to do the dishes with presence and gratitude or invite The Victim along for my sudsy ride. One would bring pleasure and softness into my moment the other choice would disconnect me from joy. It seems a fairly obvious choice, doesn't it? So why do so many of us choose to be The Victim so often? perhaps because The Victim is not the deepest layer in this story. Underlying The Victim is fear: Fear of Shame, Shame of Fear, this is not a cycle that leads towards Love.

     What does it mean that we truly are the authors of our lives and yet the stories are often such a mess and this mess brings shame and fear? What it may mean for you is your journey to discover, but I'll tell you what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean your incompetent or deficient. It doesn't mean you are shameful or less than. it doesn't mean your bad or unlovable. It means you're a human who has made a mess in the kitchen and you either clean it up or you don't. It doesn't mean you have to dance with Ms. Dread Ahead or let The Victim into your house. It doesn't mean that fear is going to swallow you whole. It means that this mess is the mess that can move you towards Love. it means you recognized you weren't being present and that wonderful recognition can either lead towards light or darkness. But whichever path you chose, remember it truly is your choice!

     Which of the cast of characters in your head is along for the ride today? How about finding your Inner Guru, your Wise Woman, your Highest Self (Namaste) and letting them ride along on your adventures today? And the next time Ms. Dread Ahead or The Victim pops their head up, give them a hug, but say no thank you and send them on their way. Not acknowledging that we all have a cast of characters in our psyches can lead to disassociation and numbness and letting some of the less mature characters lead us around can lead to stunted psychoemotional and spiritual growth. But the awesome news is everyone of us, yes everyone, has a super kind, super smart, super present character in us, our Highest Self, our Compassionate Witness. This character pops up when we take loving responsibility for our circumstances,. Or maybe it's just time to wash the dishes with a heart full of gratitude. Either way, it's your choice. Are you gonna let your Highest Self drive today because where you end up might just surpass your wildest imagination? You may think you need a retreat or a fast to grow, but really you just need to do the dishes!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Joy: The Sequel

"So I commend the enjoyment of life, For there is nothing better for a person under the sun to eat and drink and be glad"
Ecclesiastes 8:15

     Yes, I used the same scripture as a blog heading just a few days ago. Apparently I am not done with this topic! I have been meditating on this scripture for awhile and also remembering that "The Joy of the Lord is our strength". It's amazing to me that joy makes us stronger. But here's the truth of the situation. I really wrote that last blog as a kind of cathartic exercise to try to get rid of some angst I had been feeling about someone else's complete lack of joy. Ironic at the very least, also pretty judgmental and a little prideful of me to try to will another person to be joyful. There is an older woman I have been working with  meddling in her life that I care about a lot who unfortunately has a very dissatisfied worldview which results in a joyless demeanor. Her lack of joy has manifested into painful physical symptoms that limit her ability to move and further decrease her joy, a downward spiral that I cannot stop no matter how many blog posts I write about it. Another irony is that I am 99% sure she doesn't read my blog anyways. So, my best "yoga therapy: has not shifted this womans demeanor, My best attempt at encouraging her to be joyful fell on stony ground. My blog didn't even reach her and in all of my attempts to shift and change this person I have suppressed my own joy.

     I guess I am a slow learner, or perhaps overly emotionally invested here but it took me awhile to remember that resistance is the cause of suffering and if I resist her suffering I only add my own suffering to hers. Perhaps it is her lot to suffer, perhaps she has played this role for so long it is a comfortable old shoe. Perhaps I am misperceiving her and she's really a female Walter Matthau reveling in being a grumpy old person. None of that matters. What matters is that I want to increase the joy in the world and resisting her suffering is not the way to do it. All lessons really do lead back to being in the present moment and accepting what is. 

      So, back to the Ecclesiates quote! There is nothing better under the sun than eating and drinking? We'll lets not forget the "be glad" part. A little bit of something delicious always makes me glad, a lot of it usually makes me ill. A cocktail or two drunk mindfully and joyfully indeed makes me glad. A cocktail or three drunk to escape always makes me sad. I do not think I am alone in this, less really is more.  So it is not just the eating and drinking that brings joy but the act of being present and mindful as we eat and drink. Stopping to say grace and really smell, taste & see our food. Preparing it with gratitude, remembering how fortunate we are to have food. Paying attention to the moment we are full and stopping  Before getting that martini shaker down really sitting still for a moment and examining if we are looking for an escape or perhaps just a little icing on the day. Anything we use to escape the present will stifle our joy and in turn weaken us.

     Whatever happens with this woman is not my responsibility. I can and will continue to work with her in a loving manner, I will endeavor to be present and nonjudgmental with her. I will not disengage just because I cannot "fix" her. I will remember that maybe she doesn't need fixing and even if she does it is ultimately each persons responsibility to "fix" themselves and offer themselves to God to refine. And,it is accepting this cranky old person for exactly who they are that opens the door to joy. If there is anyone in your life that you are trying to "fix" besides yourself you are stifling your joy. I may have to write a thousand more blogs on joy before its all said and done. But, you know there are some things worth fighting for and joy is right at the top of that list. Our spiritual growth is like a garden. we have to till the soil getting rid of obstacles and we have to plant seeds to see blooms. But without joy in the soil all we get are weeds, joy is our fertilizer, joy is our strength and joy is our inheritance. Joy to you today!