Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Rant on Enlightenment

"Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is"
Peggy Lee

      We are all hopefully far enough along our spiritual paths that we recognize we are simultaneously dark and light, love and fear and it is our job to simply hold all of the shards of our psyche in the light of compassion. If a darker part of our nature causes us to despair and we try to push it away it simply grows. And so we sit with ourselves in the light of the present moment. This realization for me was kinda a bummer. For decades I have been reaching for a place, an illusion I labeled enlightenment. A mystical place where unicorns pull Gods chariot. When I got there everything was going to be super shiny and I would have a direct line to the Divine Mystery and little sparkles would shoot out of my fingertips. I yearned for this lofty place to finally emerge on the horizon. And perhaps it does exist, maybe there is some heaven on earth and then again maybe its just opening our eyes to the here and now. And that, my friend, is much less sexy than the journey to the mythical village of Enlightenment.

     Is this all really just about paying attention to this moment, feeling my fingers keyboard and my body breathe and then feeling my feet walk away from the computer? Is the entire point to feel pleasure and just notice and feel pain and just notice? What about the sparkles? What about the unicorns? Coming to the realization that all there is for us to work with is quality attention to the moment was kind of a blow to my goal oriented self. As much as I love the idea of sitting by a stream with Walt Whitman examining the changing leaves in reality I am a lover of speed, of cities, of the hustle and bustle of going somewhere and sitting in present moment sounds so mundane.
But, it is because I have harbored the desire to know Divinity and the belief that heaven on earth can exist that I very grudgingly began to sit with present moments. First it was washing dishes. mmmm warm water on my hands could feel pretty good and a little gratitude for a good meal did give me a small tingle. then I began being present washing my face and moisturizing became an exercise in self compassion as I gazed at my sweet aging face. My face and body are always doing their best even when I am abusive to them. Simply being present turned out to be the path for me to body love. Then it turned into the path of actually caring for people I wasn't naturally close to challenging clients, strangers, other drivers... Being present in the moment is melting my walls I have hidden behind in order to avoid the other. And people became a lot more interesting.

     And a funny thing happened after I passed the speed bump of disillusionment with present moment and became present (at least some of the time). Thing did begin to sparkle sometimes. The yellow flowers blooming in our yard became as rich as the sun. my husbands eyes sparkled with the appreciation of being seen. I noticed a lot more laughter around me. Was it always there? I'm not sure, I wasn't present for much of it as I was busy yearning for a better place than here. But I'm here now and while I know I will go on auto pilot many more times in this precious life I have tasted the present moment enough now to know that it is where the sparkles reside.

     So, if like me, the idea of simply being present makes you want to shoot yourself from the tedium take heart. Whether you are sitting quietly by that bubbling brook, driving way too fast on the highway, washing dishes or leaving on a jet plane to Istanbul every moment of your life has the potential to sparkle, to take your breath away as presence births gratitude. So, no in the beginning practicing present moment awareness is so not a sexy idea. But the more you notice your here and now the shinier life gets. Being present when you're troubled and in pain allows the moment to be a little softer. Being present when things are going swimmingly allows the moment to be a little richer. And, who knows we all may be surprised to find ourselves a little bit lighter. And these days my favorite definition of Enlightenment is "to lighten up". And by that definition I am here for a moment as my hands relax. Listening and feeling the discomfort I felt this morning working with a softwear update and being present with my bodies tension allowed me to lighten up. And feeling the joy I felt this morning watching our new chickens explore the freshly mowed backyard things got a little sparkly just for the moment. And then the moment was gone and a new one came,

Thursday, September 17, 2015

And This Too

And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him
Romans 8:28

     Each one of us is a unique and beautiful mix of humanity, complete with bright and shining moments of love and light and also suffering and darkness. And while it is a very human impulse to look towards the light and turn our backs on our darkness we cannot selectively numb emotions and ignoring our suffering can dull our capability for pleasure. And so in order to grow we find we must become witnesses to all our lives hold. We must notice and savor the moments of joy that sparkle like a diamond in the sun but we must not try to hold onto them or they transform into suffering. When suffering arises as it will in every life we must hold that suffering lightly and lovingly. It is such a fine balance to grow from suffering. Some people hold their suffering so close to their hearts they become professional martyrs and victims. Some people think the can push their suffering away, but it doesn't go "away" it merely goes down deeper into us to fester and grow and volcanically erupts at a later date in perhaps anger or addiction. And so we tell our suffering "I am here for you" and we hold our suffering lightly watching it curiously. Perhaps we find the physical manifestation of suffering as in anger manifesting as a tight jaw and we let our affectionate awareness rest on the body. And much like sunlight shining on a block of ice our loving awareness begins to transform our suffering. So, this is all good and lovely but how do we get there? We are so conditioned to believe our thoughts and react to them that cultivating this kind of awareness may seem like a unreachable dream.

     Well, dreams do come true sometimes. And the dream of waking up to live our lives fully is at your fingertips. The key to living your life more fully seems a little ironic. We must cultivate our Inner Witness. This may seem like witnessing your life would distance you from it but it is just the opposite. When we have a thought like "I am angry" and we believe that thought to be the only truth then we hold that thought in our minds until our bodies become angry and our actions reflect anger. But when we cultivate our Inner Witness we may have the thought "I am angry" and just notice it. Hmmm, I just thought I was angry. Then we can search our bodies for any angry tension and rest our loving awareness in that tension until the "charge" of the thought is gone. We have then created an internal atmosphere in which we can examine what triggered our angry thought and turn potential suffering into growth.

     Cultivating this Inner Witness begins when we notice what is happening in this exact moment and just allowing it. We suffer and we think "and this too is a part of life" we laugh with a loved one and we notice it and think "and this too" and our joy expannds. And every wave that crosses the ocean of us is met with "and this too". Every single thing that happens to us becomes fodder for growth. I have been practicing this "and this too" mantra for awhile and recently is became so helpful in two situations. The first was when I found myself hungover and full of self loathing in front of a class on a Sunday morning. My hubby and I had celebrated our 22nd anniversary the night before and perhaps we were both a little too happy to be free of driving responsibilities. But, anyways, I found myself in front of the class knowing I could not hide or fake my energy but still holding the desire to serve the students. So I held my feelings in the awareness of "And this too". And I remembered that this miserable moment was not the entirety of my life. Then a few days later another yoga teacher whom I really respect asked me to lunch to share some very complimentary things about me she wanted to say. Normally I shy away from such effusive praise, but listening to her this day "And this too" whispered in my mind. And I allowed myself a moment of joy and satisfaction at having been a positive part of this persons journey. And this too. Even when something terrible is happening we use "and this too". We can have a situation we are trying hard to change and at the same time allowing that it is our current reality/ The mantra "and this too" simply allows us a clear eyed assessment of out current moment. And when enough of these clear eyes moments accumulate we have the potential to become loving Witnesses to this precious life we've been given. You, yes, you are awesome, allow that (and this too) and yes at times you can be a jerk, allow that (and this too). Embrace all of yourself, especially the parts you want to sweep under the rug because those parts when allowed to exist (and this too) may become your biggest teachers. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly and think "and this too" and you are on your way ...