January 18

“As for us, if things fall, we will reach for them. If things break, we will try to put them together. If loved ones cry, we will try to soothe them – because that is what we do. I have often reached out, and sometimes it feels like a mistake. Sometimes, I have been stung. But it doesn’t matter, because that is what I do. That is what we do. It is the reaching out that is more important than the sting. In truth, I’d rather be fooled than not believe.”

This is the closing paragraph from today’s reflection from Mark Nepo’s, “The Book of Awakening.” Man, it hits home.

It’s the blessing and the curse of being an Empath. Your heart makes you want to reach out and help. To reach out and love. But putting your heart out there also means subjecting it to the energy and actions of others. In a nutshell, your heart emotions can get hurt. In a word, it’s vulnerability.

As I continue to grow in life and along my journey, I realize I’ve always been okay with being vulnerable. It’s what drives this blog and probably part of what draws me to Yoga. A true commitment to the yogic path, both physically and mentally, requires a certain level of openness and willingness to come face-to-face with who you are. It’s the place where you learn that it’s more important to you to reach out, than it is not to be stung.

Like Nepo, I’d rather be fooled. Because it’s in those foolish moments where it all happens. Where you experience the dizziness and passion of love. Where you taste freedom – if even just for a moment. But enough to know that freedom is what you seek and what you won’t compromise. In a way, choosing to be fooled is what gives you the strength to take another step and keep on trying. It is how we learn to surrender to the flow of Life.

Namaste.


Serenity Now…

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change those things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.”

I’ve heard of and read the Serenity Prayer many times in my life. As one who can have a tendency to be anxious and worrisome, my dad has often said to me, “Rachel, remember what the Serenity Prayer says. Only focus on what you can change.” He’d ask me if I really understood what it meant and I would answer affirmatively because in theory, I did understand it. But as I spent a few moments in quiet reflection in front of my meditation altar this morning, the words really hit me. I have my beloved Grandmother Ruby’s framed copy of the Serenity Prayer in the center of my altar. She passed away seven years ago, and of all her possessions, this was one of the things I really wanted. I remember exactly where she hung it in her bedroom. She lived to be 101 years-old, and I imagine that the Serenity Prayer played a key role in her living such a long and fulfilling life. I look at the words every day, but this morning I felt them sink in and touch a place deep in my spirit. I read the words over and over to myself until I was brought to tears. In my mind’s eye, I saw a parenthesis behind “cannot change” that included the word, “people.” I saw another parenthesis behind “those things I can” that included the word, “me.” I already knew that we cannot change people, but sometimes there can be a gap between what we know and really making an attempt to apply the concept to our lives. I acknowledge there is a gap within me.

I came to my meditation altar this morning heavily contemplating a certain relationship in my life. This person has been in my world for 15 years and as such, there have been plenty of ups and downs. We were friends, we were married and we now share custody of a beautiful 7 year-old little boy. I’m only one child in, but my experience so far has shown me that co-parenting can be one of the toughest relationships to navigate. I often find myself challenged by the way I do things as a parent vs. the way my ex-husband does things. Like my knowledge of the Serenity Prayer in theory, I have been aware that I can place high expectations on my ex-husband, but it wasn’t until this morning that I allowed myself to feel it. As I read the words over and over, I fully acknowledged that I can’t change him. I can’t make him be the parent or person I think he should be. I can only change myself and how I allow our relationship to affect me. I see clearly now why my dad always said that my life would be so much easier if I truly lived with the Serenity Prayer as my guiding principle.

As I went into meditation, my mind being what it is had a million thoughts running through it. I’ve learned that as thoughts arise in meditation, we should acknowledge them and then simply let them go. Yet one thought in particular just kept popping up. And oddly enough, it was a thought about a phone cord on the telephone I use at work. Strange, I know. But instead of trying to force the thought out of my mind, I allowed it to pass through. Once it did, it made total sense.

When my company moved offices a few years ago, we received new telephones. Over time, the cord on the phone I’d gotten became tangled and gnarled. It was a pesky little annoyance, because it prevented my phone from hanging up properly on the receiver. At times, I’d try to untangle it but then would become frustrated and just left it as it was. The company eventually moved offices again and the tangled cord came with me. We moved from a space where I had my own office, to a location where many of the employees, myself included, were collapsed into an open workspace. “Cubicle World,” as many of us call it. As such, a co-worker who has become a good friend was stationed behind me and had a bird’s-eye view of my telephone cord. She saw me fussing with it a few months back and asked if I ever put in a request to have it changed. When I told her I hadn’t, she said, “Here, let’s try something,” and she proceeded to go to another workspace that wasn’t being used, took the handle off a phone with a perfectly fine cord and replaced my handle with the new one. Then laughing she said, “See? Isn’t that better?” We shared a few jokes about it and moved on. What I didn’t realize at the time was how profound that gesture was.

By allowing the thought of the phone with the tangled cord to pass through my mind during meditation this morning, it landed with an eye-opening realization for me. Just as I replaced the handle with the tangled cord, I can apply the same concept to relationships in my life that have become tangled or convoluted. I can either keep fussing with trying to detangle things, or I can simply stop and replace the frustration with an untangled state of mind. Replacing the telephone cord on my relationships, if you will. It can be as simple as it was when my co-worker/friend replaced the handle and cord on my phone at work.

When I came out of meditation with that thought in mind, I read today’s reflection from “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo. It’s about allowing to come to surface all of what’s growing underneath the “stuff” that we’ve always known, been or done. We have to learn to let the old skin shed so a new and refreshed approach to life can make its way through. In Nepo’s words, “Little deaths prevent big deaths.” I do understand that. And not just in theory. Peeling back layers, acknowledging our egos and admitting to ourselves that perhaps we are not always right is not an easy thing. It’s downright vulnerable and scary. But it’s so necessary if we are to move into higher levels of consciousness and bring ease into the journey of our daily lives.

It was after my meditation and reading Nepo’s reflection, that my eyes fell on my Grandmother’s framed Serenity Prayer. Then I looked at her picture that’s just off to the side of it, and I said out loud to her, “I’m trying, Grandmother.” I can only hope to be as wise as she was.

Wisdom is best derived from experience. I cannot change my past or the decisions that led me to where I am today. I cannot change the people in my life who I love or who I’m tied to by circumstance. But I can make the choice to have a more peaceful coexistence with it all from here on out. I now better understand the difference.

Namaste.

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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.


“Never Knowing Where We Fly”

Birds flyingI just returned home from a four-day business trip. Due to the nature of my job, I often return from my trips late at night and find myself completely exhausted the next day. I didn’t get home from this particular trip until close to Midnight and so, today is one of those days. Except that I’m more mentally exhausted than anything. Through a conversation with a friend, and with myself, I came to the realization that I’d expended a lot of mental energy this week focusing on things I strongly desire to change, but that I really have no control over. I found that I did my fair share of fussing about being ready to move on from my job and wanting progress in certain relationships in my life. It was one of those moments that you don’t really see until you step outside of it. And it wasn’t until I was in the quiet of my own car driving back from the airport, and back in the quiet of my home, that I was able to see how truly busy my mind had been this week.

After allowing myself time to sleep in this morning, I immediately went to put on some of my quiet meditation music and picked up Mark Nepo’s “The Book of Awakening,” a gem that found its way into my life last summer. It is a book of daily reflections that I try to read every morning before starting my day. I’d forgotten to bring it with me on my trip, so I went back and read all of the days I missed. Every passage, from March 19 until today, spoke to exactly where my mind was this week. In one of his reflections, Nepo offered a meditation that guided me to pulling out a picture of myself as a little girl. I really looked at the picture and began to feel a world of emotions. That little girl had so many wonders and dreams of the world. That little girl looks so happy in her eyes. That little girl was carefree. Then I looked at myself in the reflection of the blank computer screen and I asked myself where did that little girl go. I thought of all the life experiences I’ve had since that picture and I acknowledged how they have all shaped me, changed me and moved me away from who that little girl was. But I had an “aha” moment as well. I can return to the child-like me. The one who was fearless and wide-eyed and ready to try new things. We can’t always control what will or won’t be in our lives, but we can control not losing sight of who we are.

Nepo’s reflection from today, March 23, beautifully captures this understanding:

Never Knowing Where We Fly

“Birds learn how to fly, never knowing where flight will take them.”

“There is a deep and humbling lesson in the way of birds. Their wings grow and stretch and span patches of air. First tentatively and then with confidence, they lift, they pump, they glide, they land. It seems, for birds, it is the act of flying that is the goal. True, they migrate and seek out food, but when flying, there is the sense that being aloft is their true destination.

Unlike birds, we confuse our time on Earth, again and again, with obsessions of where we are going – often to the point that we frustrate and stall our human ability to fly. We frequently tame and hush our need to love, to learn, to know the truth of spirit, until we can be assured that our efforts will take us somewhere. All these conditions and hesitations and yes-buts and what ifs turn the human journey upside down, never letting the heart, wing that it is, truly unfold.

Yet, without consideration or reservation, it is simply the presence of light that stirs birds to sing and lift. They do not understand concepts such as holding back or truly investing if the return seems certain. In this, we are the only creatures that seek out guarantees, and in so doing, we snuff the spark that is discovery.

Just how often do we cripple ourselves by not letting love with all its risks teach us how to fly? How many times do our hearts stall because we won’t let the wingspan of our passion open us fully to our gifts? How frequently do we search for a song of guidance that can only come from inside us?

I know that over the years, through fear and expectation, my mind has gathered and hoarded places I needed to go, things I needed to have, selves I needed to be. But here I am, without most of them – the goals and wants all used up in learning how to love.

So, try as I do to imagine and construct where I am headed, try as I will to plan and know what this life of feeling means, it is the pulse of what I feel itself that lifts me into spirit. In truth, wings don’t grow any differently to fit south or east or west, and our lives, no matter how we train ourselves, are more fundamental than any direction of worldly ambition. We, like the birds, are meant to fly and sing – that’s all – and all our plans and schemes are twigs of nest that, once outgrown, we leave.”

Let us always remember the song within us. And never forget to fly.

Namaste.

 


Being a Spiritual Warrior

When I first started this blog a little over a year ago, I had no real idea of what I was going to write about on a continuous basis. I’d just been told more often than not that I am a “great” writer (I quote that because it’s what others have actually said; it is not what I say about myself) and my testimonies could be of value to others; women, in particular. As with many other things in my life, I was hesitant to take the first step because I could not see beyond it. I wasn’t sure of how I would continually be able to come up with something to write and share. Although I don’t consider myself a fearful person per se, I admittedly have fears when I cannot see beyond what is immediately in front of me. And since life is all about not seeing past what is in front of us, I’m sure you can imagine what it must be like living inside of my head. There is an internal battle where the fearless side of me says, “just do it!” and the hesitant side of me says, “but wait, what if….?” Those “what ifs” have been and continue to be my worst enemy at times.

Yet, take the first step I did and my humble blog, while it still has no real direction just yet, seems to be developing into the tool that others thought it could be. I don’t have many followers, but the ones who do keep up with what I write seem to be impacted, or at least moved, by the words I share. During the days or weeks when I don’t write, I tend to be hard on myself and think that I am failing myself and my readers. But I also believe that I cannot write if the spirit doesn’t move me. In honoring what this blog is supposed to be about, I feel it is counter to try to force words into being. At times, I have had the idea of sharing words that inspire me when I am at a loss for sharing my own. Even if this means only sharing a one or two sentence reflection that moves me. I just haven’t gotten around to that though. Until today.

One book that I try to read on a daily basis is Mark Nepo’s “The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.” This gem found its way into my life last summer and I have easily fallen in love with the gentle reminders Nepo gives us through his daily reflections. Some days I simply feel good about taking the time to read a reflection, and some days, I feel like Nepo has written directly to me and whatever situation I may be going through at the moment. When I haven’t read my reflections over the course of a few days, I try to discipline myself to read each reflection I missed. Today was one of those days, and although the current date is Tuesday, February 19, it is the reflection from February 15 that stood out to me and immediately made me want to write this blog. This particular excerpt resonated with me the most:

“Being a Spiritual Warrior” (February 15)

“Life is hard enough without viewing all our pain as evidence of some basic insufficiency we must endure.

There is a beautiful Tibetan myth that helps us to accept our sadness as a threshold to all that is life-changing and lasting. This myth affirms that all spiritual warriors have a broken heart – alas, must have a broken heart – because it is only through the break that the wonder and mysteries of life can enter us.

So what does it mean to be a spiritual warrior? It is far from being a soldier, but more the sincerity with which a soul faces itself  in a daily way. It is this courage to be authentic that keeps us strong enough to withstand the heartbreak through which enlightenment can occur. And it is by honoring how life comes through us that we get the most out of living, not by keeping ourselves out of the way. The goal is to mix our hands in the earth, not to stay clean.”

I absolutely love the line, “…but more the sincerity with which a soul faces itself in a daily way.” I believe facing my soul is exactly where I am at this juncture of my life’s journey. Reading this automatically made me think of another book from another favorite author: Paulo Coelho’s “Warrior of the Light.” Although not written from a daily perspective, “Warrior of the Light” is a book that also provides firm reminders for us to remain steadfast in the pursuit of identifying, honoring and living out our dreams. I read Coelho’s “The Alchemist” straight through, but I have personally found “Warrior of the Light” to be a book that I pick up whenever my spirit feels moved to. When I do, I inevitably always read something that speaks directly to my heart. I did a Google search of some of the quotes from the book and thought I would share some of my favorites. There may be one or two that resonate with you:

” ‘I’ve been through all this before,’ he says to his heart. ‘Yes, you have been through all this before,’ replies his heart. ‘But you have never been beyond it.’ ”

“He might dance down the street on his way to work, gaze into the eyes of a complete stranger and speak of love at first sight, or defend an apparently absurd idea. Warriors of light allow themselves days like these.”

“He is not afraid to weep over ancient sorrows or feel joy at new discoveries. When he feels that the moment has arrived, he drops everything and goes off on some long-dreamed-of adventure. When he realizes that he can do no more, he abandons the fight, but never blames himself for having committed a few unexpected acts of folly.”

“A warrior does not spend his days trying to play the role that others have chosen for him.”

“It is your blessing, the path God has chosen for you here on Earth. Whenever a man does that which gives him enthusiasm, he is following his Legend. However, not everyone has the courage to face up to his own dreams.”

And this one reminds me of how I feel about my journey in Love:

“After accepting love as a stimulus, a man faces the third obstacle: the fear of the defeats he will encounter along the way. A man who fights for his dream suffers far more when something doesn’t go well, because he cannot use the famous excuse: “oh, well in fact that wasn’t exactly what I wanted anyway… ” He does want it, and knows he is putting everything into it, and also that the Personal Legend is just as difficult as any other path – the difference being that your heart is present on this journey. So, a warrior of the light must be prepared to be patient at difficult times, and know that the Universe is conspiring in his favor, even if he does not understand how.”

Patience at difficult times and peace in knowing the Universe is conspiring in my favor, even it feels otherwise. I love and honor this reminder.

To all of my fellow Spiritual Warriors, I wish you patience, peace and love on your journeys. The Universe is conspiring in our favor.

Namaste.