The Book of Awakening

One of my most favorite books is Mark Nepo’s “The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.”  This book came to me during the beginning of my own awakening two years ago and I have been in love with it ever since. It is a lovely collection of daily reflections that serve as gentle reminders for accepting our past, living in the present and honoring our highest selves. I find it to be a very important tool in the survival kit I am building for my journey of living, breathing, speaking and being my most authentic self.

My lovingly worn copy of The Book of Awakening

My lovingly worn copy of The Book of Awakening

I didn’t wake up today with plans to post a new blog, but as I caught up with the reflections from this past weekend, and read the reflection for today, I felt moved to share some of Nepo’s words. I highly encourage this book for anyone who is on the path or who is trying to find their way there. I have such a literary crush on Mark Nepo and my hope is to see him speak his words in person one day and possibly have the chance to meet him.

Here’s some of what spoke to me today:

“…I’ve learned that loving yourself requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world – our own self-worth.”

“The great and fierce mystic William Blake said, ‘There is no greater act than putting another before you.’ This speaks to a selfless giving that seems to be at the base of meaningful love. Yet having struggled for a lifetime with letting the needs of others define me, I’ve come to understand that without the healthiest form of self-love – without honoring the essence of life that this thing called ‘self’ carries, the way a pod carries a seed – putting another before you can result in damaging self-sacrifice and endless codependence.” (I went through my own fair share of relationships beholden to the idea that the needs of others should come before mine; to the point that it was mentally, emotionally and spiritually unhealthy. I finally experienced that one relationship – my last serious one – where I truly felt the pain of self-sacrifice and once it ended, I made the decision that enough was enough. Now I am doing the work of loving, honoring and depending on me first and alone.)

“In truth, though, being kind to ourselves is a prerequisite to being kind to others. Honoring ourselves is, in fact, the only lasting way to release a truly selfless kindness to others…So, the real and lasting practice for each of us is to remove what obstructs us so that we can be who we are, holding nothing back. If we can work toward this kind of authenticity, then the living kindness – the water of compassion – will naturally flow. We do not need discipline to be kind, just an open heart.”

“…when we dare to move past hiding, a deeper law arises. When we bare our inwardness fully, exposing our strengths and frailties alike, we discover a kinship in all living things, and from this kinship a kindness moves through us and between us. The mystery is that being authentic is the only thing that reveals to us our kinship with life. In this way, we can unfold the opposite of Blake’s truth and say, there is no greater act than putting yourself before another. Not before another as in coming first, but rather as in opening yourself before another, exposing your essence before another. Only in being this authentic can real kinship be known and real kindness released.”

“When we put ourselves fully before another, it makes love possible, the way the stubborn land goes soft before the sea.”

It has been – and continues to be – one of my goals to experience true, lasting, passionate, full and peaceful self-love. As Nepo so eloquently states, truly loving ourselves opens us up to be able to truly love and be kind to others. This is the essence of “ahimsa,” or compassion. And once the heart has been awakened, it is hard to turn back…

I wish you peace, love, light and all the self-love your heart can hold. Namaste.

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“Sometimes, the greatest battle to win is the battle over ourselves.”

In my last post, I shared a poem that was written by one of my beloved Godmother’s former students. The line quoted above is from that poem and it resonated so strongly with me when I first read it. I ended up quoting it on my social media pages and even use it in the biography section of my Instagram page. Since the beginning of my process of awakening, which I say began in the summer of 2012 after a bad car accident I was in, I have continuously learned and developed a better understanding of the notion that is so simply stated in this one line. Life in and of itself can be challenging, but it is true…the greatest battle we will experience in life is the battle over ourselves.

We are the masters of our thoughts, the captains of our emotions and the vehicles through which our individual “stuff” that we carry around interacts with others. I had often heard similar musings before that 2012 summer, but it finally began to sink in afterwards. Just before the car accident, I was on an emotional brink. I was very stressed out with work, reeling from a painful breakup and was generally not happy overall. I had heavily contemplated quitting my job, although I had nothing else lined up and a 5 year-old son to take care of. I firmly believe the accident was the Creator’s way of slowing me down to a literal halt. Instead of quitting my job and jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, I was given a 6-week reprieve from my job. To this day, I am still so thankful to the doctor who took one look at me sitting in his office, banged up emotionally and physically, and said, “I am taking you out of work until mid-August” and scribbled those same words on his notepad. It was early June when this occurred and I wanted to drop to my knees right there in his office in gratitude.

For a few days after I was written out of work, I sat in total silence in my house and allowed myself to feel EVERYTHING that was running through my veins at the time. Hurt. Anger. Fear. Sadness. Mortality. Once I had gotten to a place where I felt it all, I started to do the work of putting myself back together again. I remained committed to my work in therapy. I threw myself more deeply into my Yoga practice. I bought and avidly read on a daily basis Mark Nepo’s “The Book of Awakening.” I started having conversations with other people on the path. Most of my growth is detailed in blogs I posted during that time in my life. And while my life has been far from perfect since that summer, I have definitely gained a better understanding of my greatest battle in life (besides being a parent) being the battle over self.

On this very morning, I have been dealing with a gamut of feelings and emotions. Rushing my son and myself as we get ready for school and work. Beating myself up for not getting up earlier, so I wouldn’t have to rush and more so, snap at my son. Seeing things on social media that I want to react to, but am trying hard to not let get to me. As these things began to swirl around in my head, somewhere deep down, I heard the line from the poem and I knew I had to blog. Sometimes when I post my writings, it’s the title that comes to me first and then I build the content. Sometimes it’s the content from which I build a title. Today, I couldn’t think of a title that would match the quote and so, I thought to myself, “let’s just leave it untitled”…and that’s what I decided to name this particular blog.

In the song, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” it is said that life is but a dream. And this can be true. But I like to think of it more along the lines of life is but a journey. A confluence of experiences, emotions, thoughts, choices and fate. I used to think it was about attaining those things – a good job, a nice home, stellar wardrobe, etc. – that would make me happy. But I realize now that true happiness comes from deep within and our very thoughts – those things we only tell ourselves – are the foundation upon which to build that happiness. And you are blessed if you have had an awakening. I now better understand that it’s our desires and our attachment to those desires that can cause a feeling of suffering. I am knee-deep in my own awakening experience and my goal…my hope…is to emerge more detached, truly enlightened and most importantly, as the victor in the battle over my self.

When life proves to be a bit more challenging than you feel you can handle, remember the words of the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Here’s to wisdom and all things good. Love and Light, dear readers. Namaste.


Life

Note to readers: I started typing this blog on New Year’s Eve, as it was my intention to get one last post in for 2013. I wasn’t able to get it up in the desired time, but I still wanted to fulfill the intention. So here is what would have been my last post of last year. Much of it is still captured in a December 31 frame of mind…

In my last post, I mentioned that I wanted to end the year with a blog titled, “Alignment.” I’d been holding on to that thought and yesterday, I jotted down some ideas with plans to get the blog written and posted before the official end of the year. Both my 6 year-old son and I are on a holiday break, but I was able to get him out of the house so I could have peace and quiet to write. After lighting my incense and preparing my space, I received some very sad and unexpected news about a co-worker I’ve known for more than 5 years. When you work with someone that long, you get to know their life outside of work. And when something impacts their outside life in a tragic way, it’s hard not to feel it for them. After talking to a few other people I work with, I just sort of sat with my thoughts and feelings, and all I can think about is how delicate life really is. It’s one of those things we know, but definitely something we can also easily take for granted.

I still want to write the other blog I planned for, but I felt the urge to write something about what I’m feeling in this exact moment. So many reflections rolled into my mind. Life is delicate – so that’s why it is imperative that we find and live our purpose. Life is delicate – so that’s why we must take the risk of opening ourselves to giving and receiving love. Life is delicate – so we must take advantage of the opportunities. Life is delicate…

My beloved Godmother transitioned in May 2013. Although she just turned 80 and lived a full life that she defined, I wasn’t prepared for the news of her passing. And I’ve experienced both sides of transition, in the sense that I know what it feels like to lose someone suddenly, and what it feels like to prepare to lose someone. Just as we always have a knowing that life is delicate, we also know that no one lives forever. But as we move along our individual life journeys, there are those certain people we meet or encounter who feel like they’re always going to be there. And my Godmother was one of those people.

Not long after she passed, I wrote on a post-it (I have them everywhere in my house) what my Godmother was to me and I posted it on my closet door. Elder. Educator. Friend. Godmother. Spiritual Guide. She helped to shape and nurture many of the elements that make me who and what I am. She helped me to understand myself as a woman with a unique perspective on life; being and growing up as biologically interracial, but emotionally, socially and mentally identifying as a Black woman. She helped me better understand myself as a Scorpio. She listened to my cries and she celebrated my joys. We traveled to the African countries of Ethiopia and Ghana together. And since my freshman year in college in 1995, when I had the opportunity to take an African-American literature class taught by Sonia Sanchez, she told me I had a gift of writing and that my greatest success would come from it. When I was born, she and my mother together created my middle name. She was and is a part of my fiber; a root in my tree of life. Losing her was definitely losing one of my mother-figures. And I wasn’t prepared for what that would feel like.

What is most amazing to me about my Godmother, is that with all I just wrote about what she was to me, she was all of this and more to countless other people in her life. My Godmother was well-traveled, so I’d always known that she’d met a myriad of people along the way, but it was at her life celebration service where I was able to see her life as a whole. All of the lives that she affected with her presence were joined together in one room. And in actuality, we were just the ones who were able to make the service. For as many people who showed up to share condolences and a kind remembrance, there were others who couldn’t attend or who had already passed on.

“They” say that in the end, what matters most is what you did with the dash between the time you were born and the time you transitioned. My Godmother made her dash count. If you were blessed to know her, you knew that she enjoyed life. And if she loved you, you knew that she wanted the same for you. Her life celebration was a reminder of that. And even though the news I received about my co-worker is different, the reminder is still the same. Life is delicate. We must remember to focus on the dash.

I am still very much trying to define, fine-tune and fully live out my life’s purpose. I definitely have more clarity than I had 10, 5 or even 2 years ago, but I am still at an internal crossroads in many ways. I am beginning to see and feel all of the things my Godmother saw in me from the day I was born. I am a creative. I am a free spirit. I am an energy healer. I am a writer. Things that for many years, I would have never thought myself to be. Things I resisted. Things I played down. Like many of us, I thought it was about getting my college degree, finding a good job, getting married, having kids and settling down. I am proud of both my undergrad and Master’s degrees and I have worked hard for over 10 years since receiving both. I was married and I have one son. And I still want companionship, more children and the feeling of settling in with a true life partner. But when you have a gift inside of you, it is not going to go away. It may sit quietly within your spirit until you are ready to identify it (as was/is the case with me), but it will not go away. For all of my resisting and playing down what was God-given to me, my gifts of my creative and healing self finally came to a place where they are bursting at the seams and can no longer be ignored. So I put one foot forward and then another. I started this blog. I went deeper into my Yoga practice. I completed two levels of Yoga Teacher Training. I further completed a Thai Yoga Massage certification and became initiated into the first level of Reiki. None of this was in my plan even 2 years ago, but I continue to put one foot in front of the other and keep an open heart and mind about the journey that lies ahead. And as I continue to grow, I cannot help but to think of my beloved Godmother. She was holistic and would have been so proud of me for all that I am undertaking. I can almost hear her voice now, with a smile in it, telling me to write about each and every one of my experiences.

I know my Godmother is still with me and although I very much miss her physical presence, I am blessed to have her spirit as a life force with me. When time passed after her transition, I was able to clearly see and know that I have a true warrior goddess by my side. I know that spiritually, she will help guide me to those great successes she always said I would have. Just as she made her dash count, I know she will play her part in ensuring I do the same.  It feels more imperative to me now than it ever has.

Life is delicate, my fellow readers and warriors. You owe it to your highest self to find your place in this world and make your dash count.

Namaste.

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This is a poem written by one of my Godmother’s former students. It perfectly captures the essence of who my Godmother was and who she will always be to those of us who knew her.

A Warrior Has Walked Amongst Us;
A Warrior Now Walks in the Spirit World
(Livicated to Dr. Hennington)

The touch of her wisdom was gentle,
but her wisdom
was powerful and profound.
It gave us the language
with which to wrap our tongues
so that failure
could not be spoken.

Her thoughts she delivered to us,
one by one
like soldiers marching out
from behind their past
to be reborn into our seeking minds.
For she knew
there were more battles to win.
And she knew
we would need a certain wisdom
to win them.

And her smile…
Her smile seemed to sum up
all the happiness of her years
and unwrap them,
one by one,
a gift into our present.
Each one a promise
Each one a prayer
Each one a reason to believe,
and a blueprint for survival.

Listen y’all,
she lit up that small room in Harlem
on Tuesday nights
with a deep knowledge,
inescapable wit
and genuine laughter.
Lucky us
to have drank
from the cup
of that fine elixir.

Dr. Hennington,
We were beyond lucky to have you.
You spoke to the warrior in us!
Called it by its name!
And demanded it to stand up for the being
we presented you with.

Dr. Hennington,
We were beyond lucky to have you.
You spoke to The God in us
Reminded us of its presence
And with the gentle persistence of knowing, challenged us to honor It.

Dr. Hennington,
We were beyond lucky to have you.
You spoke to the fear and doubt in us
Turned it to The Warrior God in us
Reminding us that sometimes,
the greatest battle to win
is the battle over ourselves.

Your life
was such an honorable gift.
We thank The Creator
for all you gave in this life,
from the first smile
you offered the world as a child
to the smile of hope
you left us with;
an indelible stamp of perseverance
in the face of any obstacle.

This poem is an acknowledgement
that you have touched our lives
in a way NO ONE ELSE COULD.

We will carry you,
your memory
and your name
with the utmost dignity,
honor and respect,
befitting of a Warrior
such as yourself.

This poem is a prayer:
Creator, the beginning and ending of all things,
I humbly ask You,
please carry our Sage Professor, Dr. Hennington, giver of wisdom, knowledge and hope,
safely into Your arms
and watch over her journey
with Your angels by her side.
May her journey in the Spirit World be peaceful, and as powerful
as her brief walk here
in the Womb of Ene Ufne (Mother Earth).
Thank You for bringing
Your child into our lives.
We are forever grateful.
We are deeply honored.
We will carry her memory well.