We are born human to experience our infinity…

…so that we can be neutral in totality. –Yogi Bhajan

Experiencing the limitations of being human grants us the experience of our spirit. Experiencing darkness helps us appreciate the light.
Experiencing the weight makes the shedding of it feel weightless.
Experiencing sadness helps us to realize joy.
Experiencing the cold gives us great appreciation for warmth.
Experiencing separation gives us yearning for wholeness.

When I think of the back and forth between winter and summer, and how often I wished for summer during the winter, and the relief from the heat of winter during the summer, missing the good that was on the other side…

When I think of all the times that I was crazy busy getting a project done, looking forward to the time I will have when it’s over, and then wishing something would happen when it was over…

When I think back to when I had someone in my life only to want space for myself, and to when I wanted someone in my life feeling I had too much space…

When I couldn’t wait to get better when I was sick in bed, and couldn’t wait to be in bed when I was well enough to live fully…

I realized that it was all the same. There is no good or bad. Just the contrasts to help me see exactly that. With that realization, though I might truly experience sadness, underneath, there is a deeper, underlying joy (not a hurray type of joy) in knowing this is a part of everything. A part of being alive, of being conscious, of being connected. It is a part of being human to experience our infinity. So that we can be neutral in totality.

Changing the daily ups and downs to something better.

There is a chaos in busy-ness. Things are going well. Patience brought its reward, and rather than wondering when things will start happening, suddenly everything happens at once, the to-do list is crazy, and there isn’t enough time. Not long after the initial high, depletion and a sense of feeling taken sets in. Was this the path I signed up for? Is it worth it? Did I say yes to the right thing? Or maybe it is the right thing, but is this it?

I experience this when I drop my non-negotiables. I experience this when I don’t keep my ultimate values at the forefront of consciousness. These non-negotiables and ultimate values are made up of those things which keep me grounded, nourished, and filled with life force. This includes getting enough sleep; having enough alone space to settle back, or deeper, into myself; having the time to make and take in the food that provides me with calm energy rather than depletes or wires me; and honestly practicing my self-care disciplines. It also includes making sure I have enough resources to take care of myself and my household needs. We live in the world, and our rent doesn’t get paid through magical thinking. I just read yesterday a comment by Yogi Bhajan about prosperity, and he said there is one caveat to becoming prosperous: you must be home to receive it. You must be grounded, not flying off into space. Get into your body.

Am I running so fast that I forget to check in with my breath throughout the day? This is not a matter of doing yoga as much as it is a matter of finding the presence in the moment as a practicality; a pragmatic practice to become better tooled and supported, offering an edge and a broader, birds-eye view that we otherwise throw away. When we breathe correctly, it connects our spirit to our body and grounds us while we fly. We respond rather than react. We are better able to not take things so personally. We have the ability to access our neutral mind. This isn’t boring stuff. It’s exciting because it’s empowering.

When my practice in self-care becomes rote, when my eyes on my ultimate values slowly move to the back burner of my consciousness, and when I forget to check in to my breath, the ups and downs happen, and life feels more challenging. When I keep those things sacred, anything can happen, time expands, and I am home, receptive.

When I decide to give the news channel a moment of my attention…

…it’s usually when I’m not home and it’s already on.

I don’t say, “let’s see what’s happening in the world today.”

I say, “let’s see what they want us to know.” What commotion are they scrambling to be the first to tell us? What are they selling? What do they want us to get behind?

Because isn’t that more true?

Positioned that way, I receive what I hear much differently than when I used to actually turn it on to stay informed. I have learned that keeping it off doesn’t make me any less informed; in fact, I feel more informed somehow. Less fearful, more hopeful. Less commotional, more connected. Less in a trance, more in reality, more life-enhanced, and informed.

We don't want to know

A couple of weeks ago, my son and I was having a conversation about climate change, and I was asking the question on why the varying degrees of acceptance in responsibility; why do people ask the same questions repeatedly, and as if they aren’t already answered by scientists; why the ambiguity?

He said, “because people don’t want to know.”

Even last night as we revisited this topic, he said, “and I know, and it’s hard for me to believe it, so imagine those that don’t want to know.”

Since the first time he said that, I’ve been observing my own internal response to things in my life – outside of climate change – in relation to how much I want to know, or how much responsibility I want to take. So far, it seems to correlate directly the level of ownership I want to take and the level of ambiguity I experience around it.

We didn’t want to know about the Holocaust when we first learned about it in America. Right now, we don’t want to know about other genocides. Many still don’t want to know about past and current atrocious behaviors against certain races, genders, and religions. And we don’t want to know about our own individual acts of psychological self dis-memberment, under which we attempt to protect and persecute ourselves all at once, not allowing us to live fully by taking responsibility to re-member who we are, clear out the crap, and make choices that will bring us back to wholeness.

It seems strange to start a paragraph with the Holocaust and end with our individual wholeness, but not so when we look through the lens: as is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm. When we want to change the world, as Michael Jackson sings, we need to look at the Man in the Mirror. Our insistence on closing our eyes to our part in the persecution of the world, including our planet, feels daunting and unproductive when there is work to do. It’s so much easier to point at others and articulate their mistakes. We feel righteous, like we solved something for the moment. But to look in the mirror and to acknowledge our own destructive, persecuting ways is step one in acknowledging something that needs to be looked at and bringing power back to us so that we may honestly begin to turn ourselves around, beginning with small acts of self-care, self-love, and forgiveness. As we see and heal ourselves, we begin to see and heal the world.

Deep Listening: I see you. You are important to me.

The danger of polarization is that we don’t listen. We shut the other side out, tolerance non-existent, and we become righteous. It matters not if it’s socio-political or with family.

I know that, for me, the combination of living in today’s socio-political climate, purposely surrounding myself with enough people that are not a part of my choir, and the speed at which my life is going places me in danger of losing my ability to listen deeply. In fact, I don’t listen the way I used to, and I want to get that back.

Deep listening requires suspending self-orientation and trusting that the other person(s) are speaking from an experience that is true for them. It doesn’t matter how poorly they articulate their position, they own their experiences. I do my best to speak from the truth of my experiences (I mean, that’s all we have, isn’t it?), and I know that I desire others to hear and see me. When the other is speaking, and I interrupt or start preparing what I will say when it’s my turn.. why… to stabilize and right myself, perhaps from the perceived threat of their words, I essentially show up self-oriented. This is different from being grounded in self. In self-orientation, I lack interest in honoring their life experience by failing to suspend my own orientation and simply hearing them. When we don’t get heard, we get stuck, and we dig our heels deeper in our position. We have no way of opening up to what is really being said: that this is my fear, this is my pain, will you – someone – hear me.

Deep listening allows us to open up real dialogue so that we can see and hear the other person.

This makes me think of the Zulu tribe whose greeting is Sawubona, which means I see you. You are important to me, and I value you.”

In order to listen deeply, we need to cultivate greater self awareness: our ability to see ourselves. How paradoxical is that? If we are unable to know or see who we are, that corresponding and desperate yearning and search for our own position and identity in the world often self-orients us, to everyone’s detriment, as we assert our orientation at others in our search for connection.

Meditation and mindful movement – creating the space and flow in our mind and body – allows for that deeper connection with ourselves. Practiced honestly (versus going through the motions to check off our to-do list and get on with our day) meditation and movement gives us opportunity to clean out the garbage, our mental chatter and the emotional commotion, and listen deeply to ourselves. We can begin to see and value ourselves and become self-fulfilled so that we don’t rely on others to fulfill us. We become much less threatened by differing opinions and by the unknown because we see and know who we are. We become the anchor and the healing channel.

I failed to see the “other side” as the expression of their own experience, and so I judged their opinions, and I began to half-listen. I refused to listen fully; perhaps it threatened my values, my sense of self, and I was afraid that I would get lost in them, or perhaps I was afraid that that would mean I was agreeing with them… I don’t know for sure. I didn’t understand that refusing to listen fully undermined what I value most, which is connection to others and to see God in all. I thought that I was protecting myself in some way. Instead, I started building a wall. It makes me wonder if this political insistence on building a wall to separate us from others is a macro cosmic expression of what is really going on in all of us. If we think that the wall proposal is ludicrous, perhaps it’s time to look inward to shift our projection into the energetic pool that is our socio-political system.

This failure to see undermined my own ability to deep listen to myself. It goes both ways. I practice deep listening to myself. But then I need to take that practice out into the world. And then back in. They cannot be compartmentalized.

Sawubona. Namaste. Sat Nam. I see myself. I see you.

Stories in transformation

To realize that EVERYTHING is in a state of transformation raises questions, at least for me, on why we as humans hold this fantasy of finally arriving. That word and idea carries a connotation that we want to be done. Asleep perhaps forever in a bubble bath in our McMansion. Maybe intellectually we don’t agree but in the way we often react to never really getting there, it’s clear we meet our journey with much trepidation and energy trying to desensitize ourselves from the growing pains.

We see the change of seasons and the cycle of all of life. Even the sidewalk is constantly shifting. Eventually it buckles and cracks. The canyons and mountains shift with every blow of the wind. When nothing moves there is atrophy. We know that ultimately things must die to give way to new life. I realize this includes chapters and subchapters in my life.

And these stories are good. If I let them be. Rather than shrink from them, I can flow with the rhythms of change like the trees, canyons, and mountains do; like them, my life would have height, depth, and wonder. As every life does. To appreciate that in the moment, and to enjoy the process.. that’s grace.