Extreme Can Be Good

Some extremes are necessary. For example, being a conscientious objector is extreme and yet it is an expression of profound dedication to the principle “Do No Harm.”

I played it safe most of my life because I did not want to hurt the people that I loved so I did what I was told even if it denied my personality and what I believed. I did not have the courage to go to the extreme and live my Truth. I chose a novel at random the other day at the library. Never heard of the book or the author and it s blowing my mind! What I read this morning is causing me to rethink the meaning of “extreme.”

The book is The Gadfly by Jennifer Miller. I would like to quote a character, Mr. Kaplan, science teacher in a private school in the year 2012:

“Difference is the essence of extremity. To be extreme, you must assert yourself. No matter how much pressure you feel to obey.  Because, I assure you, the pressure is everywhere.” p. 42

In making this statement to his high school students, Mr. Kaplan is reminding them of micro-organisms that cannot thrive except in the extreme pressure of the deepest ocean depths.

I am now filled with deeper gratitude for the experiences of my life that forced me inward to the Truth of Who I Am…because I have and am thriving because of the pressure.

Love and Peace all ways.

Today Is A Gift

Today is a gift. Please unwrap it gently and open your mind and heart to its many aspects and layers. May you experience this gift with grace, peace,  understanding, and joy. May you be a blessing to each person you encounter for you are sharing that moment with a brother or a sister.  May you  openly and lovingly receive the blessing each person brings to you.  And me these mutual blessings radiate out to our world.

Namaste.

What Ahimsa (Do No Harm) Doesn’t Mean

As many of you know, Ahimsa or Do No Violence/Harm is a fundamental principle of yoga and meditation. This morning I am feeling a different aspect of this divine legacy.

In order to live my Truth so that I am not harming myself, I will at times make decisions that upset other people. It isn’t my desire to do that and yet it can happen. I may be told that I have hurt another and that person may truly feel hurt or angry with me. My response must come from love and compassion rather than defensive righteousness and yet I must remain true to my path, my guidance. I must also allow the other person their feelings.

There are times when my tender understanding can ease another’s suffering though I may not be able to alleviate the source of it. When the reaction of another is frustration and anger because I am behaving in a way that they cannot relate to or that they cannot control, it is not helpful for me to plead my case or try to make that person feel better. I must honor their journey and allow them to experience their own discomfort. Most often this is what stimulates us to expand our understanding and to grow.

Compassion does not require me to take responsibility for another person’s journey. It does require me to be faithful to mine with an awareness of the sensitivity or suffering of another so that I do so with wisdom and understanding. Divine Love will allow me to be frustrated and to suffer when I am beating my head against a wall of my own making. It is my responsibility to become willing to see that wall and then be willing to tear it down. I must allow others to do the same.

The only spiritual journey I am able to walk is my own. Wisdom and understanding call me to follow the teachings and guidance of the Masters so that my journey shows compassion for myself and others. If I try too hard to help another person feel better, I may be interfering with Divine Grace in their life.

Live with awareness and love today, dear hearts.

My Heart is Heavy

Yesterday brought sorrow to my heart and mind. I wept as I watched the reports from France. During 9/11 I realized the importance of only taking in enough of the images and sounds to know what had happened so that I could be a loving and compassionate presence in the midst of such terror and fear. For any of us to bombard ourselves with the videos and witness descriptions is self-destructive. In yoga we are called to ahimsa, to do no violence. This applies to ourselves as well as others. The terrorists brought injury and death to a specific number of people. That violence extends outward to families, witnesses, and to all who let themselves feel the sorrow and fear. We hurt for each other. BUT, if I subject myself over and over again to all of that, I am now doing violence to myself. My brain doesn’t know anything about past, present, and future. It only knows right now. Every time I watch or listen to this, my brain thinks it is happening all over again and my body releases the chemicals and experiences the emotion over and over again.

So, who is doing the violence now?

Dear hearts, those directly traumatized need the rest of us to stay calm and turn within to the Source of Love, Compassion and Healing. They need us to radiate the Divine Love and Light that we are. They need us to send them Love and Compassion so that they can heal and be restored to health emotionally, mentally, and physically. Visualize the Love and Radiance that you Are radiating out and blanketing our world – and France in particular right now. Love yourself in the process by being in your moment, in your life as fully as you can. Be at peace, dear hearts, be at peace.

Now is the true challenge. Send love and compassion to those who are taught and who embrace the beliefs of separation, anger, fear, and hatred. Can you even imagine what their internal dialogues and feelings must be like? I hope not. If I even begin to go there, I shudder and pull away. They have no concept of what I know to be true:  when I harm another, I harm myself. They do not understand what they are doing to their own Souls. How does a mother give over her son to these beliefs, to these actions? How does she raise her daughter to do as she has done. How does a father close his heart to the consequences of what he leads his family into? How does he tell the mother of his children this is a worthy thing? I don’t know and I am grateful that I cannot understand.

What I do know is that I cannot go where they go so I must be All That I Am. I must send Love and Compassion to All even as I weep in the process. I must go deep within to the very heart of my being, to the very Essence of my Soul and I must live from there, from my Truth:

We Are One. Aum shanti shanti shanti. Aum peace peace peace.

What Is The Real Issue?

Self-destructive behavior in someone I love. Being a target of that behavior. Controlling, even mean behavior from someone. Being a target of that behavior.

Can I change that person?

Can I help that person?

What is the real issue that is compromising my peace, my happiness, my joy?

The real issue is what I think and how I feel about that behavior. This is where my focus needs to be if I am to restore my peace, my happiness, my joy. I am responsible for my thoughts and my feelings and my behaviors; this is where my practice of enlightened living unfolds and evolves. Not out there. Right here.

And so it is.

Namaste.

Authentic Expression

Many years ago, I was a committed member of a bible study group that offered a great deal of loving support. I was a young military wife and the mother of two toddlers, living in a very remote part of the world. These people were my heart’s community. One of the women came to a decision to always speak the truth which sounds noble and wise. She lacked the wisdom and compassion of life experience that brings balance to this choice and her “truth” became a battering ram. It was painful to witness and, even more painful when on the receiving end. When questioned or challenged, her answer was always the same: I’m only telling the truth.

I sit here forty years later and, as I remember those experiences with her, my heart rate increases slightly and I also remember the anxiety and discomfort her truth created. Intense.

I now know that an authentic expression of truth results from balance throughout our energy system, the chakra centers below and above our vehicle of expression which is the fourth or throat chakra. The centers below ground me, align me with others and with my own sense of self. They allow me to have an open heart that leads from compassion for myself and others. Authentic expression also results from openness in the higher chakras so that I listen and hear another before speaking and that I am aware of the oneness, the nonduality, of All That Is. The balance of all of this, being able to hear the truth of others even as I seek to speak my own, remains central to my spiritual walk in this lifetime.

I am learning that awareness is not passive even though it is discovered and nurtured in the quiet stillness of silence. Awareness empowers healing, wholeness, oneness, and freedom. Higher awareness is the vital and necessary part of authentic expression.

Authentic Expression results from experience, maturity, courage, insight, compassion, and diplomacy. It is the tender, loving manifestation of my highest truth, which is the awareness of the oneness of All That Is. It is the spiritual practice that I must nurture and maintain with love and tenderness within myself. It is the ultimate “labor” of Love.

I’m sorry you…

In the early years of my marriage, when conflict arose, my husband would see that I was upset and say to me, “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt.” In my naivety I thought he was truly sorry for what he had said or done that wounded my tender heart. We are vulnerable to those we love, yes? At some point it occurred to me that he never said, “I was wrong to have said that and I am sorry I hurt you.” He wasn’t apologizing at all. An apology is about taking responsibility for your own attitudes and/or behaviors. As I came to learn, he was seldom able to recognize when he was inflicting hurt on others. He felt their hurt was due to being weak mentally and emotionally.

I am grateful for those experiences, as difficult as they were, because I learned valuable lessons that made me more aware of my own attitudes and actions. I came to understand that I am capable of wounding another person and that I am responsible for that behavior, even when it is not my intention to do so.

In Sanskrit, the word for inflicting harm or doing violence to another is himsa. Yoga philosophy teaches us to live without doing harm or violence, to embrace ahimsa.

Recognizing my own attitudes and behaviors is, of course, a process. Awareness is the key to knowing when I have done harm and when I haven’t. Awareness is also the key to making amends in loving and honest ways. A supervising manager that I worked for years ago taught me a priceless lesson for life. I wasted precious hours and days trying to fix an error I had made because I did not want to admit to her that I had made a mistake. I never figured it out and ended up having to go to her with it. I was embarrassed by the mistake and by having to admit how long I had been trying to fix it. She had me close the door and sit down. My heart was pounding. She looked at me and quietly said, “Catherine, I don’t expect you to know everything. You have wasted valuable time on this. In the future, just come to me and ask for help. Now, let me show you what needs to be done.” At the end of our meeting, I thanked her and apologized for not coming to her sooner. I walked out feeling free to be wrong!

Saying “I messed up” is powerful. In personal relationships, more is at stake. So finding this level of self-awareness and honesty is even more powerful. That experience from my youth made me very aware of how I take responsibility, how I apologize when I have injured another. Which would you rather hear:

“I know my words were hurtful to you and I will be more gentle in the future. I am not always kind when my emotions are running high.”

OR

“You are so sensitive and you get your feelings hurt so easily; I am sorry your feelings are hurt.”

Which one releases you to deal with your own hurt and let it heal? Which one shows that I am taking responsibility and am willing to learn and grow in the way I relate to others?

Enlightenment does not mean it is impossible to hurt me. Enlightenment doesn’t mean I will never again wound another person. Enlightenment means that true awareness will enable us to deal with any harm done honestly, lovingly, and compassionately.

May you be blessed with gentle awareness and the ability to speak your truth with love and compassion for yourself and others.

Namaste.

Eye Contact

Are you aware when you make eye contact with someone? Do you really see that person? If it is a stranger, perhaps the cashier at a grocery store or restaurant, do you notice the color of their eyes? Are you aware of their Inner Being or just their outward appearance?

We’ve all heard it said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. It is true. In yoga we do eye gazing as part of our practice. For many people it is extremely uncomfortable. For some, it is an opportunity to connect with another without words. You simply soften your face, your eyes and your gaze and look, without interruption, into that person’s eyes.

As you stand or sit across from each other in silence, barriers begin to fade and a gentle awareness arises. This is a soul manifesting in a body. This is a Being seeing you through the portals we call eyes. You become aware of your own eyes as portals. You feel the Being, the soul that you are, seeing through the portals of your own eyes. The two of you are allowing your True Selves to see and to be seen.

Mindful eye contact or eye gazing done in a group or with a loved one prepares us for those momentary opportunities to look into the eyes of a stranger in a way that lets them know they have been seen. Once on a very busy day, I looked softly into the eyes of a cashier and simply said, “Good morning, Susan.” Yes, I had read her name tag. Because I said her name, she looked at my face and then into my eyes which, of course, were softly focused on hers. She whispered, “You are the first person since I was hired here to actually say my name!” She stood a little taller and smiled at the customer behind me as I left.

Oh, how we all need to be seen, to hear our names spoken with respect, to know that we are not invisible.

There were several effects of this type of mindful interaction that were a surprise for me when I first began to practice with others. When I look softly into the eyes of another person and have the intention of seeing the Being inhabiting that body, I am incapable of doing that person harm in my behavior or my thoughts. I see myself in their eyes as well. I cannot look into your soul without connecting with my own. When I allow myself to see you, I see myself as well and the love that wells up within me is for both of us. In the moment I experience this depth of connection, I know the Oneness that We Are. I cannot harm you without harming myself. Feeling love and compassion for you is feeling it toward myself because everything that touches you also touches me.

In the Oneness of All That Is, We Are.

Gentle Path to Ahimsa

My last entry was intense, especially if you look at ahimsa, non-violence, as behavior or a state of being that you have to “make” happen. Even the idea of that journey is exhausting when viewed as a standard so high, so perfect, that it becomes the impossible goal. “I’ll do the best I can but I’ll never make it.”

Let’s make it simple, remembering that simple isn’t always easy. Mindfulness, compassion toward myself, honesty about what I think and feel are all necessary to live a non-violent life. However, changing thought patterns and behaviors is not the best place to begin. It can be frustrating and fruitless if these changes are not emanating from a fundamental shift in what I believe about mySelf, my True Nature.

If I continue to believe that I am born a sinner who must gain the approval and love of a judgmental God, then judging myself and attempting to control my thoughts and behaviors will be my path. This path brings me right back into himsa, violence toward myself. What then?

The most loving and compassionate path toward changed patterns and behaviors is to come to believe something different about my fundamental nature, the true essence of my being. There is a lovely legend about the creation of the universe. It says that this Being, This Divine Love Energy we call God existed pure and complete within Itself. The nature of Love is that It must be expressed so The Divine looked into Itself and the expression of Love was so profound it expanded, imploded, then exploded into the vast expanse of All That Is and universes came into being. Everything from that moment on became an expression of Divine Love in form…

including you and me and all others that exist in form.

Yes, you are Love Divine in human form. Love manifesting in the physical world. This is where you begin to manifest ahimsa, from the Love that you are, your True Essence, True Self, your Soul. This is a beautiful, loving, simple way to live. Simple but is the process easy? Letting go of what has always been is not easy for most people.

So, the path begins within rather than in trying to control your thoughts and behaviors. It is good to exercise wisdom in your thoughts and expressions as you begin this journey. The discovery of the True Essence of your being will ultimately shift the source of your patterns and exerting effort will fade away as love and compassion motivate your thoughts and behaviors naturally; because that is who you are at the core of your being.

Where to begin? Right here by reading blogs and other spiritual offerings that are different from what has brought you to believing you are something other than Love in Form. Open the mind and heart. Sit with what you read and let yourself feel it. What would change if you came to believe Divine Love abides (to stay, remain, continue) in you, giving you life and sustaining your being? What would you think of yourself if you believed that you don’t just “have” Divine Love in you but that you ARE Divine Love manifested? What would change if you believed, on every level of awareness, that there is no separation, that there is only the Oneness and Wholeness of All That Is (God, Divine Love).

It begins with practices like yoga and meditation. Take a walk without music to distract the mind. Let the mind take in your surroundings and the movement of your body, the sound of your breath. Sit quietly and, if the mind does not cooperate (there is a reason we name it the monkey mind!), watch it roam. Laugh at its need to see everything, think everything, fix everything! It is a little monkey exploring its world. Sit without music and count your breath, inhaling to a very slow count of four and exhaling to an equally slow count of six. Abide in these practices without judgement. How many years have you believed you were not spiritual enough? Can you give yourself a few minutes (5-10) every day for a few months, maybe a year, to shift those beliefs? If you skip a day, can you let that be okay and begin the next day? Is there a deadline or is this an unfolding of something new and wonderful? Why not show up and let it unfold? I promise it will happen in spite of you.

In the Oneness of All That Is I AM Whole.   In the Wholeness of All That Is I AM One.

Divine Love Abides in Me; I Abide in the Love of My Soul.