absurdity

comments 7
poetry / Rumi / spirituality

I thought it might be time to come clean lest you think that I believe everything Rumi says is pure solid gold. I do not. He is a master to be sure. He has a way with words unlike many others. I resonate with him. I groove to his beat, so to speak. But I certainly know utter shite when I hear it. Rumi was human. He uttered as much shite as anyone else.

It is a source of great pride for me that I think for myself. I don’t like to be seen toeing the party line or more importantly, I don’t like to be seen being towed by it. So, I have elected this time to choose a poem I believe to be complete bunk.

And here it is…

“The Core of Masculinity”

The core of masculinity does not derive
from being male,
nor friendliness from those who console. (I’m with ya so far.)

Your old grandmother says, “Maybe you shouldn’t
go to school. You look a little pale.” (she sounds nice.)

Run when you hear that. (what?)
A father’s stern slaps are better. (double what?)

Your bodily soul wants comforting. (yes, it does.)
The severe father wants spiritual clarity. (or perhaps he is just a jerk.)

He scolds but eventually
leads you into the open. (maybe.  maybe not.  mostly not.)

Pray for a tough instructor
to hear and act and stay within you. (certainly can be useful at times but not in all things.)

We have been busy accumulating solace. (so? what’s wrong with that?)
Make us afraid of how we were. (umm, fear? no, thank you.)

I honor those who try
to rid themselves of any lying, (yes!)
who empty the self
and have only clear being there. (and, we’re back.)

Some of you might agree with our friend here and that’s okay. I have certainly heard the argument in favor of a tough instructor many, many times. It has a long-standing tradition in the sporty world, so maybe it works. In the sporty world.  (to be clear, as a yoga instructor, I promise not to yell at you if you come to my class.  there is no yelling in yoga.)  🙂

Toughness also has a long history in the military field. I can see that it might have a useful application when you need everyone to be on the same page for life or death reasons, so maybe it works. In the military world.

However, most of us don’t live constantly in either of those worlds. We may step into and out of those worlds for a while each week, perhaps even each day. I’m guessing most of us don’t dwell there though. I definitely do not.

I have always run from anything and anyone who says I have to believe any specific thing or be any specific way. That is the surest way to get me to do the opposite.

Most tough instructors bring out defiance in me. I had an English teacher in high school who took the “tough love” approach. “What on earth is there to be all ‘tough love’ about in English class?,” you are likely asking. (you are good at this questions thing.) I spent a year with that man and I still do not know. He actually threw a notebook at me one time. Yes, creative-writing-turned-dodgeball.  An experience common to us all, I’m sure.  No?

I shut down when he did that. I’m actually a very compliant student most of the time, but I will not put up with disrespect from anyone, especially those who should know better.  That’s how I regard “tough instructors.” I find them disrespectful. You may find them useful and that is okay if you do, but they are not for everyone. They have the opposite effect for some of us. A teacher who cannot read their students is no teacher at all.  That’s a lecturer.  And we all love lectures, right?

I have found that most of us respond better to someone who acknowledges how far we have already come and how close we are to where we want to go. Those are the Rumi poems with which I resonate. Tell me about what I already know and how I need only rediscover it. Tell me about the wisdom already living in my heart and soul. I will work hard. I will seek. I will find. I will be your devoted pupil.

Tell me I’m an idiot who knows nothing and I check out. Some would say that is giving up and proving them right. On the contrary. Clearly I am not an idiot. None of us are.  I know they are lying to me. They know they are lying to me. I know they are using reverse psychology. They know it too. I simply refuse to play the game. It’s beneath me. It’s beneath them too.

The first time I read this poem I felt quite betrayed. Who wrote this one?  It can’t have been my beloved Rumi!  (it was.) Mostly I skipped over this one each time I encountered it. I wish I could tell you that now I get it. That I’m on page with him and I understand the hidden meaning. Blah, blah, blah.

Nope.

I think he meant exactly what he said. I think I understand him perfectly. I just don’t agree with him.

And I love it! I think he would love it too.

I don’t agree with him on everything. I don’t need to. I can love him both when he strings the most profound and beautiful words together and also when he’s basically trying to sell me a turd on a stick. (nice try but I have no need for turds on sticks today. or tomorrow. basically, I’m set when it comes to turds on sticks.)

I’m not here to prove Rumi (or you. or anyone.) wrong on this score. Believe as you wish. Please. What I am here to say is that it’s okay to think for ourselves. I can love 90% of what someone has to say and think the rest is complete rubbish. Still the love and respect abides. (as long as they don’t throw a notebook at me.)

I know sometimes we might feel guilty at questioning our guru-of-choice, but I’m lucky. My guru already told me what to do in just such an instance:

“…don’t believe an absurdity no matter who says it.”

And that right there is pure solid gold you can take to the bank.

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo Credit:  Shutterstock/Jack Nevitt

let the lover be

comment 1
poetry / Rumi / spirituality

“Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,
absentminded. Someone sober will worry about things going badly.
Let the lover be.”

I totally had a different path planned for this month’s post but the time just wasn’t right for that one yet. At least the Universe didn’t seem to think so anyway because I could not find the poem… So I took it as a sign that the above quatrain really spoke to me while I was thumbing for the intended one.

If I haven’t said it before, I should point out that when Rumi uses the word “lover” it can mean a few different things. Sometimes he literally means a romantic lover and sometimes he means something more along the lines of someone who loves with no particular object implied. The third way he uses it, which is pretty common, is that he means it as one who loves Spirit (capital S). Another way to say that might be “devotee.” One could even possibly assume that sometimes he means all three interpretations at the same time.

For what I want to talk about here, I am going to work it from the angle of the devotee, one absorbed in Spirit or their own soul.

This is really speaking to me now because I’ve started to take notice of when I worry about things going badly. I don’t mean that I sit huddled in the corner in a dark room, eyes shifting left and right, looking for the first sign of danger. (I save that for special worries.) It’s not quite that dramatic, thank goodness.

I’m talking about the more subtle sort. The kind where we buy a raffle ticket but immediately write-off any chance of winning. We sign-up for an online dating service but we’ve already told ourselves it will lead nowhere. Perhaps we apply for the job, we even score an interview, but we convince ourselves that we won’t get the job for no real reason. Any positive hope or dream that comes up we bat it away before it has a chance to fully develop into a heartfelt wish.  So it stays in this wasteland of not quite a failure but not quite a wish either.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why attempt anything if we’re so sure it’s going to go horribly awry?  Why get up in the morning?

We know that taking action is the only way to possibly do the thing, get the job, go on the date, meet the one, whatever. However, we’re also convinced that it won’t be this particular action that leads to any of that. We sort of have this big-picture hope, but small-picture doubt. At least I do anyway.

I am totally the person who believes that everything will work out in the long run and I see lots of evidence to support that, even in the short run. Yet I still find myself thinking “someday” at the end of every statement of faith. It will all work out. Someday.

Why couldn’t that day be today? What’s stopping it? What makes someday different from a day just like today? It was probably at least 300 somedays ago that we first uttered “someday.” So, here we are at this particular someday. What if we just stepped aside and got out of its way? What if this were the someday that we let it do what it wants? Let it have its way with us?

Oh, I know, scary stuff. What if we’re wrong? Well, what if we are? If it’s not *the* someday will that really have grand implications or will it just mean we’ve gotten one more someday out of the way to bring us closer to the someday that really is the one? I’m betting on the latter. So really that is no loss at all.

Nonetheless, these are the questions that run (stomp?) through my mind. I’ve decided that mostly it comes down to a fear of being wrong. Or worse, a fear of others seeing me be wrong. I know I’m not alone. No one likes being wrong. But I do notice that happy people get a lot less worked-up about being wrong than everyone else does. So, there must be something to that…

Recently I started playing with getting out of the way. By that I mean that if I had a hopeful thought or a wish that was followed by a negative doubt, as they often were, I deliberately ignored the negative thought. I pushed it out of my mind. People will tell you “what you resist persists.” I think that is often true, but sometimes, especially in the early stages of habit formation (notice I didn’t say habit-breaking), we have to be a little more forceful in shifting gears. This phase didn’t last long for me. I found after about of week of pushing those thoughts away, I could move on to the next phase where they weren’t fully formed thoughts but more like foreshadowing of doubts. I pushed those away too and shortly thereafter I found that sometimes they don’t come up at all. They’re not completely gone yet and maybe they never will be but they’re mostly gone. I’ll take it.

I’ve heard it said that to do something great we have to be willing to look foolish. (I think maybe it was Cher who said that, if the internet can be trusted) (not usually) I really believe that it’s true. We have to be willing to sacrifice our obsession with being right and our aversion to being wrong in order to get anywhere.

I think that this is what Rumi was getting at with “let the lover be.” Only in this state of bliss, founded or unfounded, can we truly have any hope of manifesting something wonderful. Sure there are all sorts of reasons why this or that is unlikely. However, I bet there are just as many, if not more, reasons why it is possible. As long as we’re able to live our life and function everyday, why not dream?

Some would argue that it’s silly to walk around with your head in the clouds, disconnected from reality. I can understand that viewpoint but I would argue that being overly certain of negative outcomes is not being connected with reality either. We’ve been programmed to see negative expectations as the only real expectation. Hogwash!  This is not about ignoring reality but rather accepting and embracing a wider range of reality.  🙂

Something unexpected happened as I was getting out of the way of my hopeful somedays. When I stopped following every positive hope with a doubtful fear, not only did the doubtful fears disappear, but I spent less time future-tripping, good or bad, overall. I was doing less fearing but I was also doing less daydreaming. It freed up a lot of brain space. I noticed that it was easier to relax and just flow with life. I feel less and less need to wonder and more serenity, allowing it to unfold. I am better able to expect that things will work out just fine, not just someday, but today.  I can let today be someday or I can at least let someday inch ever closer day by day.

By being more intentional about my thoughts, I was able to access the active role of visualizing. It’s quite different. It’s not like chasing a rabbit as much as it’s like being the rabbit you’re after. The more I did this, the more I began feeling the energy I wanted to create for and in my life. The energy started to emanate from me. Then it started beaming back at me from other people. It was and is amazing.

I don’t mean that there is nothing more to work toward. That’s not even what I want for myself. I hope always to be working toward something. But I found that I am happier. I am more relaxed. I am more patient. I am more authentic. Even if it sounds crazy to some, I’d wager that I find myself in a happier spot than many people. We all have a choice, do we want to be right or do we want to be happy? For me, the choice is clear.

So, even if you have a hard time letting go of being right or perhaps more so of not being wrong, I beg you, at least once a day get out of your own way.

There is a lover of people, a lover of life, a lover of the light, a lover of love inside you waiting for you to embrace its presence. Just for today see if you can get out of the way and let the lover be.

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo Credit:  Rusty Dodson/Dreamstime

might as well believe

comments 2
poetry / Rumi / spirituality

So, you all come to see me blather on about this or that because you know how perfect I am and that I’ve always got it together, right? What? Wait…no? That’s not it?

The whole notion is laughable of course. I have it no more together than anyone else. The good news is that I have it no less together than anyone else either. I choose to be encouraged by that.

People often ask me what my religion is or what I believe. I don’t mind the asking as long as they don’t mind the answer. The truth is I have a religion of one and for one. I have a strict no-conversion policy so you don’t have to worry about me accosting you on the street, knocking on your door, or sending you spam (either the mystery meat or emails).

I have many beliefs and they change a lot, which to some is the essence of non-belief but I disagree. One of my main beliefs is that we must ever be open to new insights and new information which can lead to new revelations. Our beliefs and our spirits are better served by our presence in and response to the world as it is now rather than hunkered down in a bomb shelter of “faith” where it’s still 1955. Or worse, 70 AD. (a very bad year for most. look it up.)

All that said, I’m not actually here to get into the nuts and bolts of what I believe or what any of us should or shouldn’t believe. That’s part of how a strict no-conversion policy works.

Anyway, the point is not what we believe so much as that we believe in something. Are we correct in thinking there is a higher power of some sort?  Are we correct in thinking there is not?  In truth, our accuracy matters not at all.  We don’t have to believe in God or the devil or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (a thing. look it up.).  We don’t have to believe in anything remotely metaphysical.  (free will is beautiful, isn’t it?)  It can be science that we believe in. It can be a system of values that we believe in. And yes, it can be God. Or Goddess as she is sometimes known.  🙂

In fact, there is a study that shows that the more you believe in a higher power of some sort, the less susceptible you are to depression. That makes a lot of sense to me.

I’ve spent a lot of time throughout my life thinking about what it is that I believe. I have believed many things I no longer believe. I fully expect there will be things I believe in the future that I do not believe today, and vice versa. However, I will say that I was never closer to depression and general bad-attitudeness than when I felt disconnected from my spirit, my soul. I went to an ugly place after my mom died. I don’t say that to beat up on myself. I’m just telling the truth. It was not pretty but it had to be done. I had to go there. For it was in the depths of that place that I figured out what fit and what didn’t. It was from that valley that I learned which mountain I wanted to climb. Most importantly, it was in that dark place that I learned who it was that would bring a candle to lead me out. Or sit with me until I was ready to lead myself out. Gratefully, there was more than one of these angels.

They reconnected me to my spirit and helped me to find meaning and purpose in my new reality.  If I had tried to scrap and claw my way out of there with nothing but pure “well, I guess this is my life now,” I’d still be there.  Instead, they invited me to look for something deeper…”since this is my life now, what am I going to do with it?”  Am I living in a way that lifts me and others up or am I just going through the motions?  Back then, it was the latter.

Now, I’m writing perhaps not from the mountain top, but I am on that mountain and at least half way up that mutha! It feels great when this is where I find myself.  I am grateful that today is one of those days. They’re not all like this though.

It reminds me of a story that Rumi tells in his poem, The Visions of Daquqi. (it is entirely too long to include the whole thing, but click on the poem title if you want to read it all.) He tells a story about thousands of people milling about looking for food and shade from the sun. They are unable to see a grove of fruit-bearing trees all around them. They try anything and everything to get their needs met all the while ignoring these trees. Daquqi, an onlooker in their midst, cannot fathom why they are still searching surrounded by such abundance. He begins to question if perhaps he is seeing things. Maybe he’s dreaming. Maybe he’s the crazy one. He walks up to a tree and picks a ripe fruit. He eats it. With the taste still on his tongue and the feel of fruit in his hand, he drops this bomb:

“I might as well believe.”

I might as well believe.

Wow. So simple. So elegant.

It matters not what the others are doing. It matters not what they see or don’t see. It matters only that Daquqi is being met literally with the fruits of his belief. He believes and so there is fruit. There is fruit and so he believes. It is hard to say which came first. In some situations the fruit will produce the belief, in others the belief will produce the fruit. Both paths are holy.

Sometimes I am Daquqi sitting in the middle of the orchard, blissed-out on fruit, and I have an unshakable faith! Sometimes I am the thousands milling about, wandering the desert mirage to mirage.

All of this is okay. We are not meant to stay stuck in any one place or be any one thing. Daquqi comes to see clearly through his own bewildered wandering. The more questioning we do, and the less answering we do, the more that is revealed to us. From where? By who? What for? I have no idea. I just know that the quieter I become, the more I listen, the more I comprehend.  I also sense there is so much more that we can not comprehend.  It does not frighten me. It exhilarates me. It ignites my curiosity and sets my soul ablaze with love for the journey. Pardon the dramatic language, but it’s kinda like that.  (cue Chariots of Fire music)

So how do we get to be more like Daquqi and less like the thousands? We don’t. We’re all already both of them. There is nothing that we have to do. We might as well believe but even if we don’t, then that’s going to be okay too.

Rumi explains it best with a line from another poem, “For sixty years I have been forgetful, every minute, but not for a second has this flowing toward me stopped or slowed.”

So I might as well believe.

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo Credit:  Joan Egert/Dreamstime (just a note about this photo:  it’s a picture of a laughing falcon.  quite fitting, methinks.)

Links:

The Visions of Daquqi, full poem:  http://devotionlovers.blogspot.com/2010/10/rumi-visions-of-daquqi.html

Belief as an anti-depressant:  http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/belief-higher-power-may-improve-depression-outcomes

let the sea be you

comments 4
poetry / Rumi / spirituality

For some while now I keep seeing quotes about the ocean. It’s coming at me from all directions. When that happens I try to look at whatever it is, a feather, a certain animal, or a word and see what I can learn from it. So for now the ocean is my teacher.

Which ocean quality, among so many, is it that I’m meant to learn from? It is at times calm and at times stormy. It is both trapped and free, frightening and calming. It is the giver of life and the bringer of death…

Well, I’m pretty sure I’m not intended to get more in touch with my “bringer of death” side, so we’ll keep going.

I made a long list of terms I could use to describe the ocean. I might add the list to the comments section so that you can see how obsessive I am. Uh…what I meant was, so you can see what you might be able to add to the list. (yeah.  totally.)  Truly we could probably sit here all decade thinking of words to describe the ocean and only cover the tip of the iceberg. 🙂

I thought perhaps I should pick a quality that especially speaks to me and see what I can learn from that. I kept looking over the list and nothing really jumped out at me.  What slowly did dawn on me is not just that the ocean is so changeable but that it is full of opposite qualities and states.  It is all that it is and also the counterpart of all that it is.

The ocean dwells (and swells) in duality!

This is not new territory that I am exploring here. However, what if it’s even more than duality? Perhaps it’s something more akin to multiplicity. The ocean is many things, known and unknown, alike and opposite.

With the ocean so varied, why should we be any different? After all, we’re mostly salt water too.

Often we put pressure on ourselves and others to always be this and never be that. Does anyone actually know anyone this perfectly boring? Gratefully, I do not.

Before you think I’ve left Rumi out of it this time, do not despair! (because that’s what you were doing, right?)  I had a hard time choosing which Rumi words to pick. You could read almost any of his poems and there will likely be a line about the ocean in there somewhere. He often uses the sea as a metaphor for the soul or Spirit (capital S). It was clearly one of his favorite metaphors. He even has a line where he proclaims, “I know I am drunk when I start with this ocean talk!”  I love that. Own it. Most people get super-lovey when drunk but there’s always that one guy that won’t shut-up about the ocean… If you can’t think of one then chances are, it’s you.

I decided that the best choice for this whole idea of ocean diversity mirrored in a single human being is the following line:

“You are not a drop in the ocean…you are the entire ocean in a drop.”

This very quote was posted to my wall by a friend as I was working out all of this “ocean is my teacher” business. She did not have any idea I was meditating on this. I love synchronicity.

Most likely Rumi is referring to the idea that everything is connected to everything else.  Everything and everyone is made up of the same stuff.  Carl Sagan called it “star stuff.”  I am you, you are me, we are those people over there.  Yes, even those people.  (gasp!)

I chose to work this quote from a different angle while hopefully keeping true to the spirit (little s) of it.

Recently I found myself answering difficult questions among mostly strangers. Many of you know how uncomfortable and unnerving this can be no matter how well you know what you’re talking about. As I was listening to myself, it struck me that sometimes I hear what must sound like over-confidence. (arrogance?) At other times I hear humility.

My first reaction, thanks to my old friend, Ego, was to push away the arrogant label and embrace humility. I didn’t want to look at anything that might be construed as arrogance. It even smarts a little to admit it here. We have such an aversion to anything akin to arrogance in this society that most of us would rather be forced to listen to William Shatner (speaking of arrogant) shout Nickelback songs at us while we’re being water-boarded than admit that perhaps, sometimes, maybe we can be slightly arrogant. On Tuesdays. In May.

It was while thinking about my ocean teacher with its multiple-personality disorder that I had a bit of an a-ha moment. The truth is I am both of these things. I am arrogant. I am humble. Sometimes both about the very same thing.  Weird truth.

Surely I must strive to eliminate all arrogance, yes? No? Well, if I am the entire ocean in a drop, then I must be both the sea during and after a storm. I must be both the frigid north and the warm tropics. I must be shallow and deep.

And why the hell shouldn’t I be? Everyone else is. Why are we all striving so hard to eliminate these less desirable aspects of ourselves? It is particularly daft when you consider that our faults and our strengths are usually the very same things.

We’re chasing this illusion that So-n-so is always acting in only pleasant, appropriate, and honorable ways. Horsepucky! I assure you So-n-so is as deeply flawed as the rest of us. I don’t mean they’re better at hiding their flaws either. The only thing they might actually be is better at accepting them. Have you ever noticed that when another accepts their own flaws, the rest of us not only accept them too but find them quite endearing? Yeah.  Noodle on that for a minute.

So I am the entire ocean in a drop. You are too. Same ocean, same drop. At times dark, at times light. At times ugly, at times beautiful.  At times salty, at times…uh, briny?  Okay forget that last one.

I am not saying it’s time to turn our inner jackass loose on the world, but let’s be real, our jackass only ever comes out to defend our insecurities or to deal with someone else’s. Maybe if we embrace the jackass, he or she will be less likely to crash the party. We can choose when to let it out to play.  For there will be times when we need our jackass. There will. Maybe it’s not when our coworker took the last donut though or when somebody cut us off in traffic. Maybe we can save it for when we really do need the mightier roar.

Whatever we believe about nature whether it is designed or just came to be, we generally accept it as is. We do not judge the ocean good or bad for its moods and changes. We love its many faces.  Perhaps we could extend this same loving eye to ourselves. Maybe we can learn to love our shortcomings in order to be better able to love all the pieces of others. We really can leave this life of judging to find a new way to live, love, and be. We can be more like the sea, as nature intended… dynamic…vast…flawed. Magnificent.

I’ll end with one final quote from Rumi, one of my early favorites.

“Don’t wait any longer.
Dive in the ocean,
leave, and let the sea be you.”

It already is anyway.

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo credit:  Shutterstock/Rich Carey

blessed bewilderment

comments 2
Rumi / spirituality / yoga

“Sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment.”

I am not ashamed to tell you that the first time I read these words many years ago, I was completely bewildered. And I didn’t even have to pay for it!

I couldn’t comprehend why on earth anyone would want to be bewildered. What could possibly be gained other than an undesirable reputation for airheadedness? The worst thing ever! (not really) I admit that to be thought of as less than pretty darn smart was like the worst possible thing to me at the time. Boy was that airheaded.

Those who know me, and a few who really don’t, would agree that I have had a reputation for cleverness in its varied forms. I can be a nerd of the first order about some things and often still am. I sure hope they never revoke my nerd card! In fact, my pet word is “actually.” Yes, I’m that girl. When you call it a monkey, I’m the one who’s going to point out that “actually, it’s an ape.” Go ahead, throw your rotten fruit. Preferably bananas, if you don’t mind. 😉

As I’ve mentioned before I went through a period where I was unrecognizable to myself. I spent many years in a job that did not fill me up but drained me. Authenticity was less valued at that organization than “doing it So N. So’s way.”  It scares me a bit now to think how skilled I got at thinking like someone else. This is not always a bad thing to do. It can certainly help to be able to step into another’s shoes and see things from their perspective. That’s healthy. This was something else. I completely lost myself in the process.  I felt like a phony.

However, I was never not clever. Sure, I ruffled some feathers. Sure, I made mistakes. But it was not for a lack of being clever. I learned how to play the game. Too well. I sometimes chose not to play it but frankly, not often enough, in hindsight.

Yoga and meditation have served to bring me back to myself from that long, strange trip. The words of my chosen gurus have played a big role as well. I am emerging anew, but also a-old. (wait…that sounds wrong…) I’m getting back in touch with myself while developing new strengths and insights.

Recently, much to the dismay of my trivia team, I have a severe case of yoga brain some days. Yoga brain? What? Yes. Yoga brain. It’s a thing. It’s like “pregnant brain” but without the nausea. More granola, less pickles and ice cream.

There is a lot of evidence out there for how yoga and meditation affect the brain. Essentially, as you spend more and more time in present-moment awareness, aka mindfulness, the brain starts to create new pathways and trim old pathways. The brain can get a little ruthless, cutting away the branches that it feels no longer serve. It’s probably not necessarily wrong. I mean do I really need to remember the Latin word for queen? (regina) Okay, so it doesn’t get rid of everything, but you get the idea.

The other side of it is not just the trimming but also this new feeling of just not caring that it’s been trimmed. Don’t worry, yoga is not going to cause me not to remember how to drive a car or to forget anything I actually care about. However, it does do a mighty fine job of cutting loose the BS, enabling me to see what I can afford to lose.

It is beautiful.

I am less attached to my cleverness and no longer averse to bewilderment. I delight now in saying, “Ya know, I just don’t know.” Other people seem to delight in hearing this sentence come out of my mouth, if their Cheshire-like grins are any indication.

I am also particularly observant of my own attachment to pleasure and aversion to pain. It’s normal. I’m not special in this way as we all have this. It’s hard-wired into us. We’ve all heard the many lectures against attachment to pleasure but we rarely think about how aversion to pain is also a block. It was while reading Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates that I really started to explore this idea further in my own life. Where am I attached and what am I avoiding?

Some of you may remember from my last post about non-hoarding that I was getting ready to re-home one of my dogs. It’s really a lovely arc that the very same experience has led me to a deep exploration of attachment and aversion. Now that I am acutely aware of my dog’s absence, I realize that I have kept him with me for many years out of pure attachment. His new life is further testimony to this fact.  I do miss him but I know down to my toes that it’s just my attachment to his presence in my life and my aversion to his absence. I acknowledge that I wanted desperately to be a better leader for him but I didn’t want it enough.

If you’ve been here before you will remember that my quest is to settle into my authentic self, not to impose more “shoulds” on myself or anyone else for that matter. “Shoulda, woulda, coulda.”  Shouldn’t. Wouldn’t. Couldn’t. And that’s okay.

Truthfully, in the days before he left I had many second thoughts. Am I doing the right thing? Should I just try harder? Am I being selfish? What would Lassie do? (I figured since this didn’t involve Timmy or a well, she might not have any expertise in this area so I let that one go.)

Where the other questions were concerned, I stopped myself each time and remembered that I was just experiencing aversion to pain. I wanted to turn around and run from it. I wanted to just pull my dog close and swear that I would keep him until the end of time no matter how miserable we both might be! After all, adopting a pet is not anything I go into lightly.

It was while grappling with this dilemma that a friend unwittingly said the perfect thing: “make great commitments *and* be open to change.”  *And*  That’s powerful stuff. One small word and the whole tone changes. Not “but”… And. We really can dwell in duality without compromising our sense of self. I can be both someone who commits *and* someone who can change her mind.

We can make the best of plans. We can be sure of so many things. We can have it all together and follow the map. We can heed the omens. We can keep our promises. But maybe there is a sublime quality to change… Maybe there is a lovely madness in not knowing what comes next or why or from where.

I can honestly say that I do not suffer more for not knowing. I have suffered far more in the trying to know. I still occasionally try to control outcomes without intentionally doing so. It is rarely my intention but rather my lack of intention that gets me into trouble. When I catch myself doing this, I try to take a step back and assess “am I being attached here or am I trying to swerve away from pain?” Once I know what my motivation is I can get clearer on how to let go.

I’m not advocating that we all become blathering idiots. There’s already plenty of that going on!  Perhaps we do have a little room for the occasional madness though. I can only speak for myself but the glimpse that I’ve been provided thus far leads me to believe that genius and madness are closer than we think. Furthermore, when the two link arms there’s a certain quality of godliness that joins the dance.

If this resonates with you and you find yourself exhausted from all the striving and trying, then perhaps you too can explore the advice of our friend from long ago, Rumi.

Sell your cleverness, and buy bewilderment. Hell, give it away.

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo Credit:  Michael Ninger/ShutterStock

Additional Links:

Scientific American:  How Yoga Changes the Brain

release… expand… grow…

comments 3
Rumi / spirituality / yamas / yoga
Embed from Getty Images

“It’s good to leave each day behind,
like flowing water, free of sadness.
Yesterday is gone and its tale told.
Today, new seeds are growing.”

This month’s “work” has been releasing and letting go, illustrated so beautifully by the above quatrain from Rumi, our favorite genius.  Well, my favorite anyway.

As mentioned before, I’m currently undergoing a yoga teacher training program. Those of you who are familiar with yoga know that it is a lot more than just stretching and being all bendy-bendy.

We’ve been working on “non-hoarding” or aparigrahaNo, it’s not about how not to become an unintended reality TV star. Yes, literal hoarding would certainly apply but there are many ways to interpret aparigraha: letting go, non-greed, non-grasping, non-attachment, simplicity, taking only what you need, and so on.  For our purposes here today, we’ll start simple with your basic not-quite-diagnosable hoarding.  This is an important distinction.  For my ego.  🙂

I noticed all the ridiculous things that I keep around “just in case.” I have a large box devoted to Halloween costumes. My friends know to come to me if they need a costume. (crap. I have a reputation!) Feather boa? I got you covered. Cowgirl hat? Yup. Fairy wings, platform heels, black capes, crushed velvet dresses in case Stevie Nicks drops by for a spell. (get it…? if you’re not from the South, you actually might not get it.)

Too. Much. Stuff. What on earth for?! Worst case scenario, I have to buy these things again if I really need them. (not terribly likely)

That part of letting go was not so hard. The next phase cut a little deeper.

I’ve lost a lot of loved ones, some too soon. Most of the adults from my childhood are gone, including my mother. In the absence of these people I assigned deeper and deeper importance to their belongings or things they had given to me. All normal, but where the loss of my mother was concerned I took it too far. I built an unintentional shrine to the past. I developed an emotional attachment to everything that was hers or that she had given me or that she looked at once on a Tuesday in 1989. Out of control.

Furthermore, it was a deep dishonoring of this woman. She could not stand to keep things around that were no longer of any use. She got rid of things. Doesn’t fit? Get rid of it. Doesn’t work? Get rid of it. Doesn’t speak to your soul? Get rid of it! I have mostly been the opposite. I remember being 5 years old when my mother disposed of a worn out pair of my socks. I was despondent. Tears, pulling of hair, wringing of clothes, wailing. There was a look of utter confusion (or was it disgust?) on her face as though she was beholding me for the first time. “Whose child is this and what is this all about?”

Clearly, our souls were well matched. Retain and release.

I have long retained. But I never saw myself as a hoarder. Until now.  So many ways to hoard…so little space…

These people I love are not in belongings. They’re not in things at all or even places. They exist where they can never be taken from me: my heart, my soul. I hear them when I speak, when I laugh, when I pray, when I meditate, when I dream.

I can now honor my mother in a way that she could get behind. Each time I throw something away or put it in the donate pile I can almost feel her glee. It even becomes my glee. I delight in finding something else to banish from my kingdom!

It also enabled me to appreciate more the items that really do have meaning. Every day I wear the simple, elegant necklace that my mom often wore. I remember playing with it as a child while she held me in her arms.  I was wearing it as I held her in mine the moment she left this world. Her spirit is in this item. But so is mine. I will never willingly part with this.

Then came the third (final?…?) phase: relinquishing something I still love but it no longer fits my life. The last cut is the deepest. Apologies to Rod Stewart, but you were wrong.  I am really dating myself with these 70s rockstar references.

I love my dog, Romeo. I’ve had him for six years.  He’s a very sweet dog.  He needs a lot more from life than I can give him at this time.

It is not a lack of love. We are just not a good or natural fit. We really never were. It is completely my fault for not having admitted it sooner. So…I finally sent it out into the cosmos (and onto Facebook) that I was ready to give him a better life, with someone else. There were many tears and much guilt and lots of doubt. All me. Romeo remained his usual aloof self.

The Universe responded quickly with a resounding “Yes! We’ve been waiting for this!” Shortly thereafter I had two great options for him. The family I went with are good friends who frequently go hiking, camping, snowshoeing, you name it. Romeo loves snow!  They already love my dog and he loves them, especially their son. He will be so much happier and I’ll still get to see him. Proof that when we’re real, things have a way of working out for the best. The Universe supports our authentic choices.

Not the least of all, I can now be free of the guilt for not being who he needs me to be, who he deserves.

Letting go is not for the faint of heart. It hurts. However, once you get through the tough part, the breath comes easier. I’m certainly not “cured” but I can already feel new energy surging into my life. Every day my home feels less like a museum. I am more free, physically and spiritually.

Through release we can expand in all the right ways. Expand our breath. Expand our love. Expand our freedom. Expand our soul.

Yesterday is gone. Its tale has been told. I have created the space for new seeds to grow.

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Links:

Three Trees Yoga Teacher Training Program

Further reading on Aparigraha from Centered Yoga

the sweet balance of in between

comments 2
poetry / Rumi / spirituality

I’ve been on this spiritual path, whatever that is, for some time now and it has largely been a consistently gradual upward and forward movement. Within the past year I had the pleasure of experiencing quite a burst of spiritual energy and connectedness. I can’t say exactly what accounts for it. I do have a few ideas but that’s another topic for another day.

After this intense period of increasing spiritual awareness, I began to feel a disconnect of sorts a few months ago. Again, not entirely sure why but I also have a few ideas about that. But then, I have a few ideas about a lot of things. Or a lot of ideas about a few things. Whatever, you get the point. I’ve got a lot of mind chatter!

The truth is, I found this disconnect profoundly disturbing. I did not like it one bit. It was a little like the color draining from my world, but not quite so dramatic. Maybe more like the color draining from my favorite pair of shoes. Tragic but not a tragedy.

It just felt like something was missing. Yet, I knew it was there, intellectually speaking, which really one should never do where Spirit is concerned. But I digress.

At no point did I question my connectedness. I knew that no matter what we do, we are always worthy and always connected. To Spirit. To each other. To the universe. To ourselves. To the mosquito we just swatted. (chew on that! not really. mosquitoes are gross.)

However, I did not feel connected. I felt completely alone some days, even in rooms full of people. I would say the words, speaking of connectedness as though I was actively experiencing it at the time. It was just words. It was me dancing the steps but completely without any heart. I don’t dance without heart! It was a foreign feeling. Prior to experiencing that period of higher sensitivity, I didn’t know there was a whole other level to this thing. This time I knew exactly what I was missing and its disappearance took the wind right out of my sails. (Is anyone keeping track of all these metaphors?)

I was deflated. (and another one!) Everything became harder. I found meditating almost as difficult as when I first attempted it many years ago. I continued to “act as if” but it didn’t feel authentic.

Then I ran across the Rumi poem, “Birdwings”:

“Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.”

It took my breath away. This poem served to show that I was too attached to the flow and was fighting the ebb of life. The tide cannot be locked in a high state any more than it can be locked in a low state. But low tide sure does stink, literally and figuratively! So it’s no great mystery why we do not prefer it. Why we turn away.

After considering the sweet balance that can be found “in between”, I began to see other quotes and images that served to remind me of this ever more. I even started to apply what I know about birds.

I swear this really is not a blog about birds, but it’s starting to look that way…

As we all know, it is the downward thrust of the wings, coupled with a pushing down of the legs that lifts the bird to fly.

Our soaring will happen, but we must push down to lift up. Pushing down feels like work. Because it is. We think of expanded wings as the position of power, but really that is a position of rest and trust. The real power is in the push. Ground then soar.

Even mid-flight birds will push down on air currents…so here is the ultimate trick: staying grounded while soaring! If that’s too much for now, appreciating the two as separate moments and separate momentums is enough. Give the push all that you have and then rest in the soaring. Savor each action or inaction for what it is. Soon enough you will have the other again.

I cannot say that everything has completely turned around for me. Rather I would say that it is still shifting but it is shifting. I am finding a returning ease in meditation and other such things. I find I am no longer “acting as if” but am genuinely lighthearted. Slowly but most assuredly, here’s the joyful face I’ve been wanting to see.

Namaste.

Love and Light,
Holly

Links and Credits:

Photo credit
Steve Oehlenschlager/ShutterStock

“Birdwings” from The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barkes with John Moyne
http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Rumi/dp/0965064875/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1429239759&sr=8-2&keywords=the+essential+rumi