Tuesday, July 28, 2009

attraction and aversion

Today as I left the park where I walked with my friend, I realized it was almost August. When I was growing up, summer was the happiest time in my life. My family rented a cottage on a lake for a month each summer and from the time I was 11 my only restriction was to be home for dinner at 6. That exhilarating sense of freedom merged into my love of summer after I left home and went to college. First I was a student and then a teacher. Although I worked in the summer since I was 16, things were different than the routine of the rest of the year. I looked forward to summer all year willing the other seasons to be over. Then when summer arrived I pined over how quickly it went by. When I got to August 1st I would be grieving the end of summer. After I finished graduate school and became a therapist I no longer had summers off. It was shocking at first and I felt a geat loss of my special relationship with summer.
I set the intention to open to the other seasons one at a time. I realized that living for summer kept me living in the past and the future. First I opened to the crisp newness of Spring. I started to appreciate the green growth and the cool days. I noticed the sense of rebirth in the world and within me. Next I opened to Autumn. I began to really see the gorgeous golden leaves changing and appreciate the sense of the cycles of nature as the leaves died and fell. It felt like a time of letting go of the old, shedding old skin to make way for what was to come. Winter was the hardest. It took years. I hate to be cold and on the bleaker days I felt bleaker. Appreciating winter came from learning to rest and go slower. It is called the going within time in native american stories. So I learned to take the opportunity to do quieter more creative projects that happend indoors rather than resist the cold. Taking care of myself in the winter helped to dissolve the heavy heartedness and dread I had felt.
So today when I realized it was almost August, it was with surprise to know I was open to letting go of summer. Part of coming to equinimity or balance is letting go of the strength of our attractions as well as our aversions. In order to open to being present in all of the seasons I had to let go of my exclusive attachment to summer and my aversion to the other seasons. That's what I learned this morning leaving the park. Summer isn't quite so special anymore. I can see that being really hot isn't that comfortable. I still love summer but not with the same clinging and craving. Summer had to be allowed to fall off of the pedistal I had put it on in order to let go of resisting what is. Idealizing Summer is just as much a story as criticizing and resisting the rest of the seasons. Being mindful of both my pull toward things or people and my pushing away is useful. Both inform my process of bringing myself back to the present. What do you notice about attraction and aversion in your life?
My daughter is getting married on August 1st and I am very excited. I look forward to sharing my experience with you next week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why meditate?

Why practice meditation? One reason is to practice building the muscle of bringing ourselves back to the present in the midst of daily life. When we take the time to sit quietly and bring our attention to our own inner process it is letting ourselves know that we matter. It is saying to ourselves," You are important enough to me that I will show up for you." Even in the midst of there being too much to do, (and there is always too much to do) taking a moment to breath and honor our own life force is beneficial. We all grow up with the myth that it's OK to rest when the work is done. As we all know from experience the work is never completely done. Something else to do always arises that needs our attention. With the intention to spend a few minutes a day sitting quietly in our own sacred space inside, we move ourselves up on our priority list. Drawing a circle around ourselves in the air is the symbol of this sacred space. It reminds us of our intention to center ourselves in the midst of whatever. Meditation practice isn't an all or nothing thing. You don't have to go to a weeklong silent meditation retreat to derive benefit. The discipline to pause and ask for help inside, or to appreciate one thing about yourself, or to breathe and rest quietly pays back in the form of less reactivity in daily life. Freedom is the capacity to pause between stimulus and response.
Any way we can support ourselves in having a moment between what comes at us in life and how we respond is useful. Pausing to notice ourselves and be mindful of what's going on inside of us gives us a moment to choose to react differently than our usual automatic conditioning. It allows us to respond differently than we've always done. Pausing gives us the option of witnessing mindfully and choosing a new option. Meditation gives us the practice of returning to the breath or to whatever is our chosen focus, no matter what arises. That practice teaches us that there is a possibility of responding in a new way in our daily life when something is overwhelming or threatening or upsetting. It gives us practice in bringing our attention inside and soothing ourselves. Saying to ourselves, "I am here for you in this moment with whatever is going on." I am writing this in honor of my own resistance to meditation. It is so easy to tell myself in the morning when I usually sit that there isn't enough time or that my time would be better spent checking my e-mail. Somehow it is scary to commit to being present and being quiet. I want to recognize that I am afraid because my learned response is to continue being a human doing and forget that I am a human being. Meditation practice supports me in knowing I am so much more than what I do. How about you?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Letting go of being right

In his teaching for the week from his book, Dancing with Life, Phillip Moffit suggests three practices of renunciation that concern our internal dialogue. The one I chose was letting go of being right. I took that intention with me on my personal retreat. I had a wonderful time being in a beautiful natural setting doing whatever I wanted to for three days. At home I rarely let myself read novels. When I do I have lots of trouble putting them down and do not want to do anything else. Growing up, I escaped from my life reading fiction. I was a voracious reader. I often stayed up late reading by the nightlight in the hallway with my legs up a chair while my family slept. One of the things I have always held onto being right about is what is worthwhile to do with my time and what is not. Even though I do read novels sometimes I usually feel guilty about the time I take to read a whole novel in a few days. On my trip I decided to give myself permission to read as much as I wanted to without guilt. I spent many many hours reading either holed up in my room or relaxing on the back porch with a breathtaking view to join me. One day I read for 6 hours. It was bliss. There is something so healing about completely losing myself in the world of a book. One book was a fantasy murder mystery about yiddish policemen. It was different than anything I have ever read. I had to let go of being right about the kinds of books I enjoy reading. The story and the characters were so well developed it allowed me to let go and enjoy myself. The other book I read was a delicious metaphysical fantasy about a soul group finding each other and creating a community. They could tell who their link or partner was by the similarity of their sound vibrations. The vibrant adventures of the elves in the story drew me into their community as if I were part of it. Near the end of my trip I soaked in the hotsprings with two people who I had pre-judged wouldn't be willing to really talk about anything I was interested in. We had a lively and depthful conversation about relationships. I came away feeling hopeful and inspired and glad that I let go of being right and didn't cancel going up to soak with them. There was another guy in the hotsprings ranting about the myth of global warming. I listened politely and then let go of being right about everyone disserving to be heard kindly. I told him I couldn't hear him very well and that I didn't really want to. I got out of the pool and was relieved to have let go of being right enough to set a clear boundary. Later I heard he was making disparaging remarks about Jews. I was so glad I had stopped before it got to that. It was also fun to let go of some of my rigidity about what I ate and when. Sometimes I had nuts and seeds and called it a meal. Sometimes I ate past my usual stopping time of 9pm. Sometimes I ate standing up. Letting go of being right sure lessens guilt. If there is no right way to do something, what is there to feel guilty about? Shoulda woulda coulda is all about being right. Where are you about being right? How does it manifest in your daily life in your relationship with yourself and with others? It has definitely been worth exploring. Next time I am going to apply letting go of being right to judgement and blame versus discernment. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

asking for help #2

It is good to write. I've had a long day. I saw my therapist today. I go about every three weeks. I started back in therapy to get clarity about my relationship and why I had so many fears and doubts.It has been very helpful personally and professionally. I am realizing that my ego creates separation. That's what it does to survive. It's really nothing personal. It isn't out to get me. It isn't out to let me know there is something really wrong with me and I am crazy and stupid. Those are the tools it uses to insure its own survival. What is the ego? First of all it's most important to know what it isn't. It isn't the higher self, universal energy, inner divinity, my spiritual core, my inner wisdom or my source. It is a group of thoughts and beliefs that I take to be me. It is useful to me in navigating in the material world. I am noticing that the critical voice of my ego gets louder when I experience being deeply loved. Love brings up everything that isn't love to be healed. I also notice when I am tired or not eating well my ego gets louder.
The farther I have jumped away from my center and out of my circle, the more vulnerable I am to the voice of my ego. Getting enough sleep and eating well make it easier for me to see that my critical voices are my critical voices.
Today I created a strategy to be able to step out of my obsessive judging and more toward my inner source. First I ask for help. Asking for help lets me know that I can't work to separate from my mind using my mind. I ask for help draw my circle around myself and come back into it. Then I call in my resource team-the spiritual core, nurturing parent and protective parent. I visualize them surrounding me and breathe into my heart. I experience the fullness in my heart and say to myself, "I am here for you." At first that will make the judgement worse because when my ego is threatened it gets louder. I don't fight it. This isn't about killing it or getting rid of it. It is about moving my attention toward my spiritual source where I know it is safe to love myself and to allow myself to be loved. Meditation and yoga practice help create familiarity with my center and build the muscle of bringing myself back to my source. That why it's called practice.
I just got off the phone with a really good friend. She has this same pattern of being judgemental with her partner. They have been in a long distance relationship and her fiance is moving to her city in three days. She is smart and asked him to get his own place. That way they can ease into deeper connection and she can work with her ego.
I am lucky to be in relationship with a man who gets that is my judging is a pattern that developes when I am afraid to be close. He is learning not to take it personally. My friend is lucky in that way too. Both of our partners are learning to be more confident in themselves in the face of criticism. What do you notice about your own voices? What makes you more vulnerable to them? What helps bring you back to your center?