Monthly Archives: April 2017

You Just Are… Beautiful

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“Who am I?”

“What is my purpose?”

There are probably two kinds of people in the world: those that are curious about who they are and what their purpose is in this world, and then those who either don’t care or simply don’t worry about it.

For those that simply don’t care, life is probably pretty straight forward. They get up and just do whatever it is they think they have to do in that moment. While it seems unproductive, it also sounds pretty nice… Just to “be”…

Then there’s the curious ones (like me), the ones who spend a large chunk of their time on what feels like an endless journey trying to get the answers to this existential crisis.

What would it be like to just “be”?

Take flowers for instance: Jasmine never wishes to be lavender. And while both smell amazing, both are equally beautiful and wonderful just as they are. Jasmine doesn’t compare herself, wishing to smell a little more “lavendery” and lavender doesn’t build up resentment because jasmine can vine all over the place. Neither get jealous of the other if someone picks them instead of the other. They just “are”. They serve their purpose in the world, and thrive. They fill the air with their fantastic aromas, bringing joy and inspiration and peace to all around them.

What is their purpose? Some kids pick them and rip them apart, some get eaten or even pooed on by animals, some get trampled on, some get to be decor in some old lady’s hair, some get to run free in the wild living out a long life…and some get to be put in pretty vases in someone’s kitchen table having their lives cut a little shorter than planned…You just never know…

A flower never knows, nor has an awareness of “who am I?” or “am I beautiful?”, it just is. It may spend it’s entire lifetime never knowing or feeling or being aware of the amazing beauty it has… but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful.

So perhaps we must be more like flowers in this sense. If we become aware of who we are, what is our purpose, or even if we are “beautiful”, that is great! But even if we don’t, it doesn’t mean we have no purpose. It doesn’t take away our value. It doesn’t mean we are not beautiful. We just “are”.

You Just Are…BEAUTIFUL.

Work In a Relationship 

I was with a friend at lunch who was talking about struggles with her boyfriend and I was caught of guard when she said, “I want to get married. If we get married, all these problems will go away…”

This morning I reflected on that. What is it that makes a relationship “work”? I can’t speak for everyone but what I’ve come to believe is that, regardless of a paper document confirming the legal connection between two people, what really makes a relationship work, is…”work”.

I know I’m going to get a lot of people that are going to say “if it takes work then it’s too much and you should just walk away.” That’s of course not the kind of work I’m talking about. The work I’m talking about isn’t helping around the house or being patient enough to sit and listen to your partner complain or talk about stuff you’re not interested in.

The kind of work I’m talking about is the commitment to stay when you want to run away. The capacity to hold your partner’s flaws and not hold it against them. The work of doing your own personal and emotional healing so that your own emotional baggage doesn’t become a subconscious and silent weapon of attack on them. The work of being able to say you’re sorry and admit when you’re wrong. The strength to overcome your own fears and insecurities so that they don’t cloud your judgement and bring you to do or say things you’ll later regret. The capacity to step back and allow your partner to work on their own problems without your intervention. The work of trust, faith, acceptance. The work of looking at a flaw and instead of seeing it as a problem needing fixed, a starting point in the relationship to ask yourself, “can I fully and wholly embrace and accept this or is it a deal breaker?” And if you’re already in a relationship, being able to see the flaw and ask yourself, “is this something I can let go and be content with?”

The list is probably endless, but it really all boils down to the work we do internally, learning what it really means to LOVE another person, to love yourself, and not get stuck in that one way road of “what my partner is or can do for me” or the masochistic “I must kill all parts of me to make my partner happy, and then once they are happy I can be happy.”

It’s about being real with what is. Because what is is all that there is. What comes after that is the result of love or lack of.

This Takes Courage, But Mostly Determination To Heal

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Finishing up the book, “Love Your Enemies” (Salzberg and Thurman) they provide some “at home” meditation practices. Since I’ve taken several meditation courses and practice daily, the loving kindness/compassion meditations were no stranger to me. The idea that you wish well everyone, including those that you don’t like, is actually very effective in cultivating compassion and getting over a lot of unresolved anger and bitterness- the poison to your soul.

But one of the meditations the authors recommended in this book, while similar to the “I pray that ___ receives all he/she wants in life, including the experience of inner peace, joy, and unconditional love” thing I’ve been doing, had a drastic difference in that it required me to see my “enemy” as my “partner”, my teammate, and someone “winning the battle with me”.

It’s hard to change our image of someone we’ve determined to be an enemy into genuinely believing they are an ally. And maybe this isn’t something that can be applied universally…I don’t know… but you never know until you try! So I tried.

The idea was to open your mind just enough to consider that your enemy sees you just as horribly as you see them, and then see yourself just as they see you. I know my ex-husband saw me as a controlling, selfish, bitch. He said I was manipulative, judgmental, and crazy. Of course I didn’t want to see myself as that kind of person! Me? Nooooo… All of those horrible things? But seriously… why not just try it? So I did.

Ok.. So here I am, standing in front of him (this is in my imagination) and I’m a manipulative, judgmental, crazy, controlling selfish bitch. Ugh… I don’t want to be anywhere near this person. I can’t talk to her, I can’t share my feelings. I don’t feel safe, and I want to be defensive with everything she says and does. I want to give her the cold shoulder or maybe just pretend she doesn’t exist! I can feel my bitterness and anger toward her grow. She talks of love and forgiveness, but she’s so bitchy and crazy! I hate her!

Ok…now step out of that. How did it feel? How does this person feel whenever they think of you or see you?

It felt horrible! I am not that person!

Great! Now think how the other person feels when you put ALL of your judgments and opinions about them on them. Even if you don’t say it out loud, even if you think you can fake your way to a “pleasant” encounter with them, your feelings about that person pour out of you through your attitude and behavior even if you don’t think they do.

Can you now try and paint a positive picture of them in your mind? Can you? Just for pretend. Just for fun. Try. Try to see them as being extremely happy, full of joy, and having all the things they want in life, a new lover, a new child, a new home, maybe even having tons of money and going on really awesome vacations with their new family… (oh…I can feel my heart sinking already…)

As Salzberg and Thurman put it, “if you’re really daring, imagine your enemy winning the battle with you, imagine your enemy being happy to see you!”

Yes…the natural instinct/reaction for me was a defiant “NO!”

But keep in mind, this is all just pretend. You are safe. You can pretend…

Ok…So I did…

The end result… magic.

Salzberg and Thurman state, “in visualizing yourself from the enemy’s perspective, you start to see that what makes you vulnerable to your enemies is your SENSE of being fundamentally different from them…When you truly grasp that it is the projection of your own hurt and anger and fear that turns someone into your enemy, it releases the energy you previously invested in defending yourself and your ego.”

It took a bit of creativity and imagination to paint my ex as my co-partner in winning the battle. I had to think of ways in which we were winning together. Where in this life were we partners, happy, successful, and united?

I came to realize that even if the marriage didn’t work out, and even if he never loved me, he and I are the Mommy and Daddy of our baby, literally, FOREVER. We, together, created this magnificent, amazing, miracle. Not only did we create this miracle together, but we are also on the path together to raise him to the best of our abilities. We can make it a pleasant path or a miserable path, and we, together, get to make that decision (the battle!) The commonality may not be the “method” or “beliefs” about what is the best way to raise our baby, but the hope and intentions for making the best life for him are the same. The hope and intentions for making the best life for ourselves as well, is the same. We also partnered up in the marriage, and we now have the same path in life moving forward: both of us have to navigate our future lives, fill our lives with joy, peace, and love. How we go about that might be different, but we are technically on the same boat. So why do I need to get in his way as he navigates his path? And why should I allow him to get in my way?

It’s tempting to hold things against him, the betrayal, the abuse, and hostility. I could hold that story and keep it with me as I move forward on this journey. But why would I do that? What purpose does it serve? How does that benefit me? What joy does it give me? How does it serve my baby and his future? It doesn’t. So let it go already. Let the story go and re-write it into a heroic wonderful ending.

The more I see him as this “partner”, the more I grow to truly love (i.e., accept and respect) him, and genuinely hope, from the bottom of my heart, that he finds all the happiness he can get on his journey. Instead of spending my precious energy feeling bummed that the relationship didn’t turn out the way I had expected, I can spend that energy resolving my personal feelings of anger, fear, and jealousy. How amazing and empowering it is to be able to transform that negative feeling into one of support, compassion, and cooperation.

Yeah, I didn’t get what I want. That’s life. How long do you want to spend bitching and moaning about that? Transforming all that sadness into something so much more powerful and wonderful is where we BOTH come out a winner. As Salzberg and Thurman put it, “now that enemy you so disliked becomes your ally: your teacher, your helper, even – dare I say it – your friend.

He may never know about any of this, but the good news is, it doesn’t matter. The next time you have an encounter, you can be positive knowing that the energy radiating out of you toward him is that of loving kindness, cooperation, support, compassion, and good will.

And the next time you have a slight feeling of negativity creep up, continue to practice this meditation. Because the fact of the matter is, we’re all just walking each other home.

Tasting the Sweetness of Life

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About a block away from my home is an orange field run by local farmers that sells a huge bag of oranges for $5. The look of the oranges is hideous. Even after washing, the oranges come off dirty, with uneven skin, and flawed. But when I eat the inside… it’s the sweetest orange I’ve ever tasted. What’s funny is that I’ve gone to farmer’s markets, organic markets, and even non-organic markets to find the sweetest fruit, and no matter what they look like on the outside, I can never tell (without cutting it open and tasting it) if it’s going to be sweet or not… Have you ever got stuck buying a bunch of fruit that looked delicious and none of it tasting any good?

That famous cliche “it’s not what’s outside, but what’s inside that counts”. We all know it and say it, but do we really “know” it? When we talk about what’s “inside” what are we actually talking about? Our character? Our values? If we’re nice or not? If it’s not our bodies that matter, but what’s inside us that matters, what exactly is that thing inside us that matters? Let’s be honest. Is anyone’s “insides” truly perfectly wonderful and sweet? Sadly, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that more often than not what we often find on the inside is NOT a kind, humble, generous, compassionate amazing human being, but an insecure person in some way- a person who suffers and struggles and, like all human beings, makes tons of mistakes. So if that’s what matters, then I’m not sure either of the two are an ideal “thing” to put all our attention on.

What if what matters, isn’t either of those (neither or body or mind), but something we totally overlooked? We get so distracted with what we look and feel like inside and outside that we completely forget about the possibility that…maybe…we’re still just picking at the surface. We’re obsessing about the peel of the fruit, and totally missing the real sweetness…

Yesterday, a good friend of mine sent me a video of Sadhguru, who spoke of life as we know it as simply the peel of the fruit. He spoke of the surface of life being our body and mind, and the basis of our life being something beyond our immediate five senses. Take for example when we die: Our body and mind are gone, yet our loved ones are grieving us. What is it they were grieving? No one cares about the dead body or the dead organs inside. Yes, while on Earth we have to feed our body and take care of it, but the only reason the peel of the fruit means anything to anyone is because of the fruit it carries inside of it. And so it goes with our own lives, we get so obsessed with the peel that we completely forget about the fruit!

Sadhguru said, “If you are eating the peel of life, how would life be? It would be bitter! The problem with the peel is that it has spots of sweetness in it.” The little chunks of sweetness in the peel are only because of the fruit, but if you go beyond the peel, and taste the fruit, how sweet our life must be!

We spend ridiculous amounts of time looking for joy only within what our immediate five senses can grasp: touch, smell, taste, hear, see… We cling to temporary satisfactions like food, drugs, sex, alcohol, and shallow relationships wishing, hoping, preying that they will keep us satisfied long enough that we won’t realize we’re wasting our life away nibbling at a bitter peel. Those things are not the fruit! It is all the peel…just fleeting moments of temporary satiation that only drop us back into that emptiness…that feeling of…something missing…

What if every day was spent eating the fruit and not the peel? How sweet would life be? Sadhguru said that living our life eating the peel is like living life only with the intention of eat, sleep, reproduce, and die. If that was our only purpose on this Earth, then what is the point of our intelligence? What is the point? The fact is, that “something missing” in all of us is a desperate search for connection, love, meaningful relationship, a sense of purpose. If our only purpose is to eat, sleep, have sex and die, we don’t need this kind of human body to do such primal things. We are better off being a dog, or a cockroach.

We are humans on this Earth, with an AMAZING potential and purpose. Our intelligence has brought us so far and so quickly, but we are currently at a stand-still because we have gotten so used to eating pith and peel, happy when we’ve managed to find a sweet spot, and disappointed when the rest of it is bitter nastiness. Yet we still eat it! We’ve totally lost sight that fruit even exists.

So with that my wish for you, me, and all of us is that when we come across the sweet and the bitter parts of the peel, we recognize it as simply the peel. May we remember that life is not what’s outside, but what’s inside. Life is what is contained within the peel. Life IS the fruit inside all the bitter and sweet spots. The real lasting, juicy, wholesome, unchanging sweetness is…YOU.

A Journey to Inner Peace

I think we spend our whole life wandering for something we lacked at some point in our young lives. For me, it was a relationship bond. Since I didn’t get it from my parents or siblings, my whole childhood and young adult life was spent on a subconscious journey looking for something or someone that would make me feel “bonded” like one would feel in a deeply intimate relationship found in a parent-child relationship. That feeling of being unconditionally loved, protected, supported, maybe even adored… Even if I thought I had found someone to fill my void, somehow I always felt afraid, anxious, and isolated. Would they leave me? Hurt me? Abandon me? Abuse me? Betray me? I felt as if I was a beggar for “love”, and that even a small crumb of affection was enough, so long as I felt someone “cared” about me. This was truly a life lacking inner peace.

What I’ve learned through years of failed relationships, rejection, and loss is that we will always feel fear, anxiety, and “lonesomeness” if we are always looking for strength from external sources (other people, money, sex, drugs, you name it). It’s cliche and frankly pretty annoying to hear that over and over again, but unfortunately (and fortunately) it’s true. It’s unfortunate because that leaves us completely responsible for our own inner peace and strength. It’s fortunate because that gives us complete power over our own inner peace and strength. When we are at peace, genuinely, from the inside, there is no sense of lack. We feel full and are thus not grasping at the false sense of security we cling to on external matters like money, what our body looks like, and the “bonds” of relationships, etc.).  In other words, we are at peace with what we have and who we are, and we are not obsessing over what we feel like we need or currently don’t have.

I was always looking for security in the bonds of relationships when I was supposed to find it in myself. Even now as I am grieving the loss of my marriage, I have to be honest about what it is that is shaking my inner peace. Is it truly grief? If it is grief, how much longer is it going to be grieving before it’s me just throwing an extended self-pity party? Perhaps this sadness is me feeling bitter for not getting the “bond” I was hoping to get through my marriage.

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If I had to be brutally honest, the ironic thing is I never “really” had it in any relationship. That “bond” never existed in any previous relationships, nor did it exist in the marriage I was so desperately trying to hang on to. The reason I didn’t have it wasn’t necessarily because the people I was with were jerks (most of them were! But that’s not why I didn’t get my “bond” I was looking for). The main reason was because I was looking for it in the wrong places.

I was SO desperate for that bond that I kept desperately grasping for that thing that I’ve never had like a mad man blindly grasping for anything in the darkness. I started noticing a pattern in how my relationships developed. When I thought I was close to getting that “bond” or even thinking that maybe I “had it”, somewhere in my subconscious I may have thought that it was something I was naturally entitled to, and thus when my relationships didn’t make me feel secure the way I thought they should, I got angry.  I lashed out. I blamed. Maybe I even subconsciously believed that the other person “owed” it to me…?

But is it possible to miss something you never felt? Is it possible to grieve something you’ve never had and thus never “lost”? If I had never known the flavor of chocolate, would I live my whole life searching for my long lost chocolate? Maybe I had a sniff of it, or thought I saw someone else with it… or maybe I even heard an amazing story about it and it peaked my interest so much that I set out looking for this amazing chocolate…It sounded divine…It sounded like heaven… “I MUST HAVE THIS!” I told myself…

Getting out of meditation is usually when I get my “aha moments” and today I had this one:

“Just let it go. You never had it and you obviously don’t have it now. It doesn’t mean you’ll never have it, but just that you don’t need to throw a fit because you can’t have what you currently don’t have. If you really needed it, you would have it! The fact that you don’t have it and have made it this far in life, means you don’t need it. At least, for now…”

**Granted, I actually do have this with my children, and with so many of my friends and family members. Sadly, I was only looking for it in a romantic partnership and thus couldn’t see that I had it already.

While I can’t say this is true across the board, it just resonated with me today. It told me it was time to get over it and live life already! I’ll be fine! Just like I’ve always been! Me chasing after something I obviously didn’t need has only gotten in my way, kept me from my purpose and passion, and created unnecessary suffering. Ugh…so much needless suffering… Why would I do that to myself?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and valued, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be in a meaningful and loving relationship, but there is something seriously wrong about demanding it and throwing a fit or allowing your happiness and inner peace to disappear if you don’t get it.

Reminder to self: 1) If you want something, you have to be willing to give it, and screaming and demanding shit isn’t going to make you or anyone happy. BE LOVE. That shit makes people happy, including yourself (yup, even when things aren’t going your way). 2) Sit tight! Enjoy the ride. Literally, that’s your only choice at this moment anyway! By being love, you get love. By being present, you find inner peace. And THIS is where true strength and joy are found.

Soulful Detox Moment for Reflection #2: Conscious Evolution

The next phase in your evolution:
It hurts like a bitch. But it’s a good hurt. It’s the hurt of freedom, and that freedom hurts less than the hurt of living life asleep.

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It’s scary, but you have the courage, strength, and determination to go.

It’s time now. Wake up! Let’s go!

I’m Going to Die…Eventually

I’ve been thinking about death a lot these days. I had recurring dreams about my own death for several days in a row that I began to wonder…am I going to die?

 

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Death is serious and I hesitate to talk about it because it hits home to so many, and it hurts. Losing a loved one hurts. A lot. But this week, I took some time out to think about my own death, and what it could actually mean for myself, my family, and my friends. It was dark, and depressing because what I came to conclude was that my children would be left without Mommy, and left to live with very careless, dangerous, and emotionally unavailable men. The feeling of powerlessness over that consumed me and brought me to my knees. What if… this day was my last day? What if this week was my last week? What if this year was my last year? What kind of memories have I left for my children? What kind of hopes and dreams have I inspired in them? How much sense of value, worthiness, and self-love have I instilled in their hearts? How would they remember me? What parts would bring them grief? What parts would bring them joy?

 

It was a sad week for me, but it left me with the conclusion that, I don’t know how much longer I have. I could have another fifty or sixty years. Or, today might be my last day. Because I never know, because tomorrow’s breath is not guaranteed, why would I waste another second not trying to make this day the best?

 

In doing this reflection, I realized that in order for me to take my life seriously, part of me actually DID have to die. Not a physical death, but the death of old, useless beliefs that do not move me forward in my conscious evolution and purposeful intentions of leaving this world just a little better than when I fell into it.

 

When I began my “spiritual journey”, I came across a word that at the time felt threatening to me. The word was “detachment”. In the midst of betrayal and infidelity, the idea of keeping the focus on my own recovery, healing, and overcoming the trauma sounded and felt more like “turn a blind eye to the offender”. It was hard to see that it was actually advising that, if we keep our focus on the offender, we will always be in fight or flight mode, stuck in a state of hypervigilance, stress, anxiety, and fully enmeshed in the other person’s life. This prevents us from attending to inner healing that is put on the back burner and not being tended to.

 

It might be different for everyone, but my understanding of detachment came in phases. The first phase was thinking that I was not allowed to think about the offender (in this case, my husband’s sexual affairs (past or present)). I thought I was not allowed to think or feel about how horrible it felt being betrayed and lied to. It felt like I was being advised to deny my feelings and sadness. What I came to learn through therapy and spiritual practice, was that you gotta grieve, and grief is an absolute MUST in healing. However, grief is only the beginning, not the end, of the healing process. After that, there’s a time to let it go. But to let it go meant that I had to be really honest with myself and identify if I was ruminating over the events/offender, or truly grieving. For me, grieving was about two and a half months. After that it became pretty clear that I was simply ruminating. I was able to recognize the difference as one of the tell-tell signs was me starting to feel bitter, negative, resentful, and angry as I replayed the past grievances that, for the most part, were not even relevant to the real problems, and sometimes the thoughts were putting me into a negative spiral of sadness, despair, and extra pain. It was not helping me heal, but more like “picking at scabs”.

 

When I realized that I was causing myself unnecessary pain by ruminating, I used the 3-second method, which was this: If I found my mind wandering with thoughts about the offense, I would allow myself to think about the issue for 3 seconds and then automatically change my focus onto something positive. Eventually, through this exercise, the next phase of my understanding about detachment came.

 

This required me to change my story around the issues. I decided to stop seeing him as a perpetrator and more of an “angel” of sorts. Through his horrific acts, I was pushed to dig deep within myself, and uncover some pretty embarrassing character defects of my own. I was also pushed far enough to realize my worth, my value, and what I really wanted in life. This “angel” had brought so much darkness into my life, that I had no other choice but to decide if I wanted to stay in darkness or shine as bright as I possibly could so that I could at least find my way out. This “angel of darkness” was a further catalyst to my spiritual growth. Without him, I would have stayed stuck in a stale place in my conscious evolution. I was codependent, and afraid. I put on a façade of strength and confidence when in fact I was a nervous wreck always holding back and making excuses of why I couldn’t move forward or pursue my passions. My goals, my dreams, my passions were all on the back burner. But in all honesty, I am not even sure I recognized or knew what my passions were at that time. Perhaps, it was through the suffering, dark coldness that I discovered them?

 

The monstor image I had of him in my mind, became softer. Anger turned to gratitude. The next phase of my detachment felt like depression though. I was sad. It went to a pretty negative place. I wondered, “if all of this suffering is for some greater purpose, why should I care about anything? Why should I want anything? Why get mad, sad, or even happy, if none of it is supposed to matter? If I can’t do anything about anything, and everything is out of my control, why care? Why bother?” At one point, I was convinced that this life seriously sucked and I had absolutely no hope that it could ever be a life of joy. It felt a little like “punishment”. This was a hard phase to get out of.

 

The key to that part, for me, was realizing how extremely self-centered and self-absorbed I was. I was only looking at it through what I was getting out of it. What we too often fail to remember is that joy comes not out of getting, but giving. When we do good, or see others do good, we feel “good”. When we do bad, see others do bad, or even dwell on our own miseries and failures, we feel “bad”. What’s worse, is especially when we see other’s successes as a threat to our own, or somehow playing a part in our failure, or competition to our personal success, we feel bad (and in most cases, threatened, and angry). So when we see our loved one walk away from us, no matter how many years we swore that we loved them unconditionally, we do not see them as our loved one anymore, but as an enemy or a threat to our goals. We carelessly misuse the phrase “Oh, I’m just detaching…” We confused completely disconnecting that part of us that loved them very much with detaching.

Hell bent on making it clear to the world that this person had strayed from our tightly held expectations that they should be or do differently than what we wanted, and thus they are in the wrong. Instead of caring about their wellbeing and respect their choices, we shut down and say we’re just “detaching” because detaching keeps us focused on ourselves.  This is they way I processed detachment for several years.

 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t helping me heal. Determined to heal, and determined to stop feeling so bad, I saught the advice of a spiritually-awakened friend. I had to commit to praying for my husband morning and night, that he would get everything he wanted in life, and that he was embraced with unconditional love, inner peace, and genuine happiness. The first week was white-knuckling it and took every bit of strength and energy for me to even mumble those words in my mind, much less outloud. Getting through those prayers for the first week was torture. But after 2 or 3 weeks of praying morning and night, it was when I was able to genuinely feel it and mean it.

 

The next phase of my coming to understand and grasp what detachment really was, was learning how to understand and accept that everything was out of my control. I couldn’t control what he thought, felt, said, or did. No matter how much I changed, he continued to be mean, verbally abusive, hostile, and deeper into his sexual addiction, alcoholism, and gambling. But this time, since I no longer saw him as an enemy, but an “angel”, and because now I genuinely wished for total joy and love for him, my attachment to what I wanted to be different was no longer there. I was at peace with the fact that he was who he was, and he does what he does. I no longer felt a need to respond emotionally or verbally to his prompts. Through gratitude and changing the way I saw him, my faith and hope grew. I came to realize that perhaps all of this was an opportunity for me to grow, evolve, and learn something very important. I had a nudging sense that if I could process this “opportunity” I was sure to find…joy. This was something I felt very confident about, and looking at how I had processed everything in the past, and how futile it was, I knew there was no turning back to old thought patterns and behaviors. For sure, something about me had to “die”.

 

Detachment finally meant accepting reality, being honest about my reality, and embracing it. In doing this, we don’t feel sad. We don’t feel depressed, and we don’t feel hopeless, as I had originally thought.

 

The only sad part about it was that loss is a part of life, that just like everything else, must be embraced. We don’t want to do that because we tend to think that if we “embrace loss” it means that we don’t feel anything- that we’re cold-hearted and don’t care. But what I’ve found in doing this spiritual practice, is that only by embracing loss, we are then able to truly value life. The reality of loss, when embraced, shakes you just enough so that you can finally appreciate it ALL, in its entirety. We step out of our selfish expectations of perfect partners and friendly like-minded people, and see that darkness makes light precious. Death makes life precious. Mean people make kindness precious. We begin to truly cherish everything good in our life. We realize all that nonsense, that bullshit- it’s all a distraction from what really matters.

We stop looking at what we’re getting out of it all, and realize that the real power of change is in what we’re willing to give, and how much we’re willing to love.
The death that I was sensing was this belief that I had time to be angry and insecure, and that I was justified and deserved the opportunity to take that bitterness out on another person. What needed to die was the belief that my passions would simply unfold once I got what I wanted, the way I wanted it, and then had the motivation to pursue them. Life is short, and we’ve got a lot of evolving to do on a conscious level. There is tremendous fear in detaching from that which is holding us back from our true potential and conscious evolution. We attach to relationships, jobs, material things, and the false sense of security they bring, and when those relationships, jobs, and material things are torn away from us, we realize and regret that our foundation was mistakenly placed.

 

I am starting to see how easily distracted I become when I see things as “not going my way”. Instead of keeping true to my personal values, morals, and holding strong in my integrity and what I believe my purpose is in life, I get side-tracked and react to things I don’t like in ways that don’t reflect the person I wish to be. This distraction has gotten the best of me. For the majority of my life, however, my reactions to unpleasant events were a protective mechanism. And while it seemed to work in my childhood, as I grew up, my habitual patterns and reactions to those distractions put me further from my goals, and way out of line with my values.  The person I wished to be remembered for, when my time does come, to leave this world.

Soulful Detox Moment for Reflection #1: JOY

Sometimes I don’t have much to say on a topic, so instead of trying to make some lengthy article, I’ll make small reflection bits I’ll call “Soulful Detox Moment for Reflection”. Starting today!

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Reflection #1:

Joy…

What if JOY was not something that you feel; not something that someone “makes you feel” as a result of something outside of your control, but a REWARD that comes to you when you are being “other-focused” and less self-absorbed.

How motivated would you be to stop focusing on yourself?

 

When it hurts just enough…

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From birth to 15, my life was spent looking for acceptance. My father was a functioning alcoholic and my mother MIA. We were financially well off, but my clothes were worn, tattered, and filthy. As a child, I was abused both physically and emotionally. The pain of feeling neglected, abandoned by my mother, not having any parental affection, and so ashamed and embarrassed by my appearance and fear that people would find out about my situation at home, I kept my head down, stayed quiet, and rarely spoke unless spoken to. For 15 years I grew up thinking my voice was not important, my thoughts were worthless, and my life had no value to myself or anyone else. After a series of traumatic events, I attempted suicide twice and was hospitalized. I was diagnosed as depressed and put on medication. I hated that feeling of being on medication. I couldn’t have ups and downs. It was all just…blah…

There was this little spirit inside me that demanded I fight for my freedom, so I did. I decided that I didn’t want to feel blah. I wanted the opportunity to feel ups and downs and to deal with them. So I stopped my medication, did some research, and fought like hell to be free. I started an exercise program, changed my diet, changed my circle of friends to positive supporting people, and started doing things that inspired me. I have never needed medication after that. I’m not saying depressed people reliant on medications should stop their medications. All I am saying is that it was a personal choice that I was able to make and follow through with.

When I was 30, although I was no longer “depressed” I always felt a little anxiety when in social situations. The lack of self-esteem and fear of rejection from childhood was so strong that my tendency was to shut down and avoid social events at all costs. People called me “shy” and an “introvert”. I had liked those labels because it gave me an excuse to not have to get out of that comfort zone. Yet it was so lonely and I didn’t want to feel lonely. So I decided I was going to stop having this social anxiety and just start saying hi to people and make conversations and go to social events. Similar to when I was a teen, the transition was hard. It took so much work and determination (and a few rejections) but I was absolutely, positively committed to bettering my life. As a result, I made tons of friends, tried things I’d never do, and am free from social anxiety.

There are tons of examples of how I saw something I didn’t like about myself, or felt insecure about, and decided I didn’t want it anymore, and determined to change it. But the key to achieving it all was simply determination and a changed mindset.

Here’s a story (not sure of the author) that reiterates my point:

One day, a child was walking down the street and saw a dog on a porch that was just sitting there, whimpering, whining and moaning. The child was curious as to why he was whimpering, so he went and knocked on the door and an older woman came out and said, “Can I help you?” The child said, “what’s wrong with your dog?” The older woman replied, “What do you mean?” The boy went on,”he’s sitting here moaning and groaning.” The older woman said, “Well, he’s actually sitting on a nail.” The boy was startled, “What! Your dog is sitting on a nail!? Why doesn’t he get off?” The older woman replied, “Well, it just doesn’t hurt him enough.”

I loved this story and is one of the reasons why I was able to turn my life around. I was in pain. For years. I was in so much emotional pain I thought it was worth it to end my life. I hated that pain and I didn’t know what to do with it. I had no adult role models, and no one even noticed that I was suffering deeply inside. For years, I did all kinds of manipulative tactics to get people to notice me, give me attention, validate my existence, show me some affection. I wanted people to prove to me that I was lovable. I don’t say this because I was not lovable. I say this because I didn’t feel lovable and was always looking outside of me, desperately, for someone to take on that job of loving me. NEVER in all my years had I thought that I could be the first person to love me…

It hurt so bad, but I stayed on that nail for a long time. If I whimpered loud enough, someone would surely come to my rescue! If I moaned deep enough, someone would surely feel pity for me and give me the attention I wanted and needed. If I cried and whined about my sad, sad stories, someone would swoop me up and save me from my woes and loneliness… I had hoped.

And it never happened. And the pain just kept getting deeper and deeper.

There is a way out of suffering, and it isn’t through something outside of you. It isn’t found in others, it isn’t found in food, drugs, alcohol, sex, anger, fear, and violence. There is a way out of suffering, and it isn’t through preoccupation, distraction, social media, your cell phone, and definitely NOT located in simply working harder towards your goals (yeah, you read that right…).

The only way out is through
and because the problem is within,
you GOTTA GO WITHIN.

I spent years and years in therapy. I looked actively for positive and loving mentors, and I took their advice to heart. I tried things I didn’t think would work. I read things I didn’t fully agree with. I kept an open mind. I did things that made me feel like a fool (like meditation circles). I had to get immensely honest with myself, intimate with my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I had to learn to be humble and say sorry. I had to own my mistakes and make amends when possible. I had to get vulnerable… I did the work required to find what I needed to free myself from suffering and inner turmoil. I had to fight my inner demons, the ones that were screaming distraction, to take the easy way out and blame others or expect others to change.

You see, when I finally took personal responsibility for my life, my goals, my happiness, AND MY PAIN, I had found freedom. Being accountable for who you are, where you are, what you are, how you respond, what you think and feel… it’s an extremely empowering and positive place to be. You can be that dog sitting on the nail, complaining about how bad it hurts… or you can look deep inside yourself, and do whatever it takes to turn that inner turmoil into inner peace. BOTH of them are not easy. BOTH of those paths probably come with some discomfort. But if you wanna stop suffering… get off the nail.

After that is the healing process. Healing is hard work. Healing is NOT distraction and forgetting how bad it hurt. Healing is not “F*** him! I don’t care!” It means cleaning up the wound, so that it is not susceptible to future contamination or infection. It means figuring out why the hell you wanted to sit on that damned nail for so long anyway! Honestly! Why!? And then, CHANGE your thinking, your daily habits, and behavior.  Commit to it. Commit to yourself

The whole moral of the story is this: THIS is YOUR life. Literally, only YOU can decide how bad you want it to hurt and how much longer you want to suffer before you… (gulp)… gotta own it and change.

 

Everyone Can Be a Winner (Even the “Losers”)

The new audio book “The Book of Joy” about Desmund Tutu and the Dalai Lama (by Douglas Carlton) came out and I’ve been listening to it on my long commutes to and from work. This morning they spoke of the famous “Golden Rule” (treat others how you want to be treated) but expanded on it. The topic was about how suffering often leads to joy, and those that have little suffers, tend to complain more and not have much joy. They spoke of how those that suffer (and grow from it) tend to be more capable of maintaining calm in the midst of chaos, and it is this calmness that helps others find calm as well.

Then something clicked when they said, “You must LONG for the best of the other as you want the best for you…”

This meant that deep inside your heart, you had to genuinely wish for the other what you had genuinely wanted for yourself.

To clear myself from any resentment and negative feelings about the loss of my marriage, I have been praying every morning and night for my husband. Although he has left me, I pray that he gets everything he wants, and that he has lasting inner peace, profound joy, and an abundance of unconditional love. This thought did NOT come natural, and for the first few days, it was just “fake it till you make it”. My anger and hurt were too strong for me to actually feel that sincerely. Now, several weeks in, I can say I truly do wish that he receives everything he could possibly desire, and that he is head deep in inner peace, full of joy, and receiving true unconditional love. Why? Because he needs it!

Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman, in their book, “Love Your Enemies” explain it this way:

“Love wishes the real happiness of the beloved. It is a partner to compassion, which wishes the beloved not to suffer. If you think about it, it is highly rational to love our enemies, with LOVE defined as wanting them to be really happy. They are only our enemies because they think of us as preventing their happiness. If they become really happy without having to get us out of their way, then they will not bother being our enemies anymore. The more happiness they feel, they might actually come to love us….or at least leave us alone.”

Yes… This is what I wanted. If he couldn’t love me, at least I could hope that his happiness would be so overly abundant that he would no longer wish to hurt me, verbally attack me, and continue hurting himself and exposing our baby to his sex, alcohol, and gambling addictions (and the emotional negative repercussions that spew out of them). If he was truly happy, would he even want to have those dangerous and hurtful addictions? I bet he wouldn’t…

This thought process, connected with the “Golden Rule” got me thinking: If my husband saw me as the enemy, someone who had taken from him what was so important to him (to get a green card) was there some way I could some how get out of that “enemy spot light” he held me under? What in my behavior was contributing to his thinking that I had literally ruined his life? Granted, there are some things that just won’t change, like his narcissistic thinking that actually believes that me choosing divorce instead of staying in a sham marriage and accepting his cheating and lying was somehow an unloving thing for me to do. That aside, there had to be some way in which my choice of words, or my “method of communication” was coming off, to him, as insulting and offensive. Could there be a way in which we both were “winners”? I.e., can I say what needs to be said in a way that he doesn’t feel like I’m attacking him?

I’m not sure of the author, but I love the quote: ”

“I’m responsible for what I say, not for what you understand”

While this opens the door for me to say what is in my heart, it still remains a very hefty burden. We should always be mindful about what we say. Sometimes it’s not necessary. Sometimes it is not helpful. And sometimes, while we may believe it, it may not be absolutely true. Taking responsibility for our words, being honest with our intentions, and being able to identify what really needs to be said, and what can be left alone, we can then communicate with our best intentions and then leave the interpretation to the listener. If you get a “bad listener” (someone who is always defensive, deflective, or reactive) you have to just let it go. You did your best. If you get a good listener, even if they may take offense, the conversation opens up for a genuine understanding and hopefully, reconciliation.

Unfortunately, my husband is less than skillful in the listening department, but that only means that I can choose to be more skillful in the “delivering necessary messages” department.

Since our separation, my baby has come back from his father’s home sick 3 times. Once with the flu, once with Pneumonia, and once with a fever/cold. While my husband blamed it on everything but himself, my gut reaction was to blame him for not being more careful about where he took the baby, proper hygiene, his choice to refuse my baby my breast milk, and basic parental negligence. Is there a loving way of saying that? NOPE!

Instead of saying:

The baby got sick AGAIN. Every time he comes home from being with you he gets sick…you really need to pay attention to keeping him away from unhealthy places, people, and be mindful about proper hygiene…and for god’s sake, give him my breast milk! I worked hard at pumping all of that!

I could either say nothing and just take care of the baby, or if I really wanted to make it clear that the baby was sick, I could say:

Just wanted to let you know that the baby has a fever. I will take the weekend to let him rest and recover so that he will be healthy and ready to play the next time he sees you.

Here’s another quote I love:

“Since enemies engage our energies of anger and fear,
our main weapons against them are
wisdom, tolerance, compassion, and love.”
-Sharon Salzberg & Robert Thurman

In thinking about how much I long to feel respected, loved, and supported, what greater opportunity to show respect, love, and support!! I was always cringing when my phone went off, hoping, praying, begging the universe that it not be ANOTHER negative and hateful text from my husband… Yet, I too, was equally guilty of sending less than loving, self-victimizing messages. So there you have it.

“You must long for the best of the other as you want the best for you…”

WIN-WIN!

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