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.

 

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The Road to Happy

Wayne Dyer

I recently caught up with a friend who I haven’t seen in a long time.  During our conversation, they asked how I’ve been doing. “Good,” I replied, which was followed by “not great?” from my friend. I paused and thought for a moment before I responded, “I guess I could say great, but I don’t because I am still on the road to what I deem my personal greatness.” My friend acknowledged this statement and our conversation carried on after that.

Thinking about this the next day, I realized a more appropriate response would have been “I’m happy,” because I am. I still have much I am striving for and working towards, but overall, I am actually okay with the space I am in now. I am sure to remind myself to embrace and appreciate this feeling, because it took a long time and a lot of work to get here.

My life since turning 30 has been interesting, to say the least. I’ve been married, divorced, became a single mother (I try to use “co-parent” more often), was laid off due to downsizing, then re-hired in a new position a few weeks later, survived a house fire, laid both of my grandmothers and two dear cousins to rest, had love, lost love and most recently was in a car accident that kept me out of work for two months. There’s more, but I think you get the idea. I don’t list these things to complain or compare my life challenges to anyone else’s. It’s more about reflecting on the valleys I’ve endured and how I’ve managed, and continue to manage, to stay positive and not lose sight of finding what I call “my free.”

This is not to say that every day has been a good one. I’ve definitely had my moments of staying in the bed all day with the covers over my head, or having to work through anger while simultaneously making more of an effort to focus on forgiveness. I have also had some help along the way. About a year after my divorce, I started meeting with a therapist in order to better understand my self, my choices and what some of the root causes of my personal struggles were.  I always say my therapist is the best relationship I’ve ever had. I’ve been working with her for two and a half years now, and unless she kicks me out of the nest, I don’t have any intention of discontinuing my future appointments. I have friends who wonder how I can be so transparent with something that most people are very private about. It’s not that privacy necessarily equals shame, but for me, I have never been ashamed of the fact that I do see a therapist. In fact, those who are closest to me even know her by name. The reality, though, is that there is a stigma associated with therapy and other methods for supporting mental health. This is where my transparency comes in. My hope is that others, especially those who may be struggling with something internally, will see that therapy is actually pretty harmless and quite helpful. I’ve always said it’s like my personal GPS. When I feel I’m getting off course, I take 45 minutes out of my week to solely focus on redirecting myself in a positive way.

Looking back on some of my first appointments with my therapist, I remember telling her that I wanted to find peace within myself and be happy. Over the course of these 2.5 years with her, I’ve had walls broken down, plenty of “aha” moments and learned to understand the power of my love. I’ve expressed to her my desire to remarry and hopefully have more children by time I reach my “scary age,” if not before. When I started seeing my therapist, I was 32 and the scary age was 35. Well, as it turns out, I will be 35 in less than two short weeks and I am nowhere near being remarried or having another child.  I’ve already gone ahead and pushed the scary age back, but what is important about this, is that I am okay with it. When I got married the first time, I can admit there was self-imposed pressure of turning 30 and wanting to be sure “marriage” was something I checked off my to-do list. I don’t regret it, for without the marriage I wouldn’t have my son, but I did learn the most valuable lesson of patience. So while there is still a desire for companionship in my life, I am able to keep it in check and focus on the other areas of my life that are also in need of nurturing; mainly, my continuous work towards my free.

When I recognized my response to the question of how I’m doing should have been “I’m happy,” I knew this was another big “aha” moment for me.  I realize I am finding the peace within myself I have been searching for. There is still much more I want to attain, but personally, it is a major accomplishment for me to be happy in a space that is not exactly the space I thought I’d be in at this stage in my life.  In his book, “The Alchemist,” Paulo Coelho says that when you set your heart on something, all the Universe conspires to help you receive it.  I knew I’d want to write a blog about the experience of finding my happy and sure enough, as I was checking my Twitter feed the other day, did I see another quote from Coelho that said: “The path to wisdom is to be yourself. Stop ‘seeking.’” I was immediately able to wrap my arms around this and felt it tied in perfectly with what I wanted to write. I know I am on the road to happy because I am learning to look within myself more. I am learning to trust myself more. Everything I need, every answer to the questions I have, every desire I seek, is rooted within me. As Coelho implies, for each of us, the answers to what we are looking for are within our individual selves.

A few nights ago, I was talking with my mother and she expressed her desire to see me have the relationship and family I’ve always said I wanted. Normally, I would have had a defensive response to this, not because of what she said, but because deep down, it would kick up a feeling of frustration over something I have no control over. Now I am learning to understand how to coexist with the unknown. So I was able to calmly say, “I know Mommy, but I’m really okay with where I am now.  I’ve got a lot on my plate to focus on and I think the Universe wants to see me accomplish those things before I get into another serious relationship.” Not that I am being unreceptive to love; I am just okay with letting it find me in its own way. In the meantime, it’s like the song says, if you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with. Right now, I’m pretty happy loving and being with me.

I wish you peace and happiness on your journey. And may you never stop searching for your free.

[


T.R.O.Y.

I read a heartbreaking news story yesterday about an 18 year-old young man who was killed while walking to school earlier this week( see story here ). According to family and school officials, he was a beloved student who was on the honor roll, involved in track, ROTC and his school modeling club. In the words of his school principal: “This is a young man who deserved to live.” Sadly, this is one of many stories that occur in many cities; some we hear about and others we don’t. Every story touches me in a way, but there was something about this most recent one that really spoke to my heart and makes me think more and more about a dream I’ve had. How does the senseless murder of a young man tie into a dream? Well, let me explain…

As life would have it, I was born during the same year as my first-born nephew. For the purpose of this particular blog, I won’t get into the math, but he, in fact, was born 5 months before I was born. I have a small group of friends who became aunts and uncles when they were kids and we all often tease about having had nephews or nieces while we were in middle school. We try to one up each other, but I always win with “Hey, I was BORN an aunt!” Being that we were born during the same year, my nephew and I grew up together more as first cousins or even brother and sister than we were aunt and nephew. We went to the same schools, had the same friends and took family trips together. And just like any brother growing up, he teased me mercilessly and loved to poke at my sensitive nature. He was definitely the comedian of our family. However, when we reached our teenage years, our paths began to diverge. I was becoming more into school and teenage girl stuff and like many young men his age, he wanted to hang out with the older boys and sometimes found himself in situations that he didn’t need to be in. Ultimately, he moved from the town where we grew up and started a new life with his mother in a new city. The hope was that the move would be beneficial for him.

After he moved, my nephew and I didn’t see each other as much. The city where he lived was some 3 hours away from our hometown, but we always kept in touch and I always knew that I’d see him at some point in time. He still found himself caught up in some not-so-great situations, but we all knew he’d find his way eventually. Just before my nephew’s 18th birthday, he had a son. And that was when he decided to find his way. At the time, there was the general disappointment of dealing with teen parenting, but we had no idea that his son would turn out to be one of the greatest blessings for our family. My mom had gone to visit my nephew and the new baby when he was just about 3 months old. I didn’t go on the trip, but my mother called me while visiting and my nephew told me that he was looking forward to building a good life for himself and his son. He told me he loved me and that he couldn’t wait to see me soon. I told him I loved him in return and was definitely looking forward to the visit.

A few weeks later, the next phone call I received about my nephew was from a family friend telling me that he had been shot and killed. He was 18, just like the young man in the news story, and although he wasn’t on his way to school, he was on his way to the bank to establish a savings account for his son, followed by an appointment with the Job Corps. At the time, I was 17. I was about 2 weeks off from starting college and 2 months away from also turning 18. In the town where we grew up, drive-by killings didn’t happen, so I had no idea how to wrap my arms around this one. My stepfather had died less than a month before and that was my first experience of death. I didn’t know how I was going to deal with a senseless murder, much less the murder of a family member who was the same age as me. My eldest brother who was my nephew’s father knew of course, but my other brothers, our mom and my nephew’s and my friends had no idea…and I was the one who had to tell them all. During the days and weeks following my nephew’s murder, I remember wondering if I would still feel the pain when I was 30 years-old. I am now almost 35 and yes, I still do. Losing my nephew has left a void in our family that will never be filled. Although we do talk about him and laugh fondly at the memory of his childhood antics, it is not something that we discuss often. It’s not for the sake of not honoring his memory; it is honestly just still too painful at times.

When I left for college, I knew that my nephew’s death had impacted me in a major way. Outside of simply learning how to live with the loss, it would be a matter of time before I would figure out how to really deal with it. I chose Criminal Justice as my major and after taking a Juvenile Justice course and a course on Urban Minorities and Crime, I began to dream of having a community center where young people would have a safe space to thrive and grow. The statistics I had learned about young people not having such a place where they can learn about making positive choices, made me wonder if life would have been different if my nephew had such a place to go to. I wanted to open this center so that one less family would suffer what my family has had to suffer. I wanted to do something in honor of my nephew’s life. I have held on to this dream every day since.

After graduating college, I moved to the DC metro area to pursue my Master’s degree and ended up working in the housing finance field. While my dream was still present, it wasn’t becoming the reality I wanted it to be and I began to accept that perhaps it would be a dream deferred. But this summer I was off work for two months as a result of a bad car accident and I took that time to have some real conversations with my “self.” It was during this time that a friend asked me about what had happened to my dream and I knew this was an “Aha” moment for me. As you can see from previous blog postings, a common thread has been my search for what I call my “free.” Amongst many other “perfects,” I have been searching for the perfect career and have met with frustration time and time again at not being able to figure out what that career is. When the question was posed to me about my dream, this became a moment of awakening and I knew the time had come to take my dream off the back burner and do something about it. Since then, I have received signs of confirmation from the Universe that this is the direction in which I need to head. These signs might have been completely insignificant to me even just a year ago and I am grateful I am able to recognize them now. This tells me the Universe feels I am ready to accept this great task. While it is an overall amazing feeling, it is also quite scary. My mind is shifting from one way of thinking and the process of the shift is mighty uncomfortable. But I continue to think of my nephew, his son, my brother as his father, our family and all of the young people who have been lost to senseless acts of violence and I know this is a mission I must complete. So when I learned about the 18 year-old student killed on his way to school, it definitely spoke to me. I was at work when I read the story. I closed my office door and allowed myself to shed tears over the loss of this young man’s life. While my dream is still currently just that, a dream, it now also feels like a responsibility I must fulfill. I know of the pain that young man’s family is experiencing and I know it is a pain that will never go away. You just learn to live with it. For all these reasons and more, I must see my dream of having a community center come to fruition.

In the book, “The Alchemist,” author Paulo Coelho interweaves a lesson of finding ourselves by going back to where we started. This was part of the “Aha” of the moment I had this summer when my friend asked about my dream. I knew right away that with all the searching I was doing, I had to go back to the beginning. It was in the beginning where my nephew and I were two peas in a pod. When we lost my nephew, I was just starting my life, which was another beginning. Now it is just me in that pod. And I have made a vow to do all I can to keep my nephew’s memory alive.

I love you, nephew. I will always reminisce over you.

Peace and Love.