Thursday, August 26, 2010

Finding Balance in Relationships: Challenging Your Core Beliefs

Finding Balance in Relationships: Challenging Your Core Beliefs

Why Relationships

Unless we live in a total isolated vacuum, we encounter relationships. We have relationships with everything, be it friends, family, spouses, our communities as well as all that exists within nature and the world around us. We also have the very important relationship with our own self, which from a spiritual perspective sets the foundation for the way we interact in all our relationships.

As an extension of my last blog, I would like to go a bit deeper into understanding relationships, in particular, looking at how to find balance in relationships. Likely we all have experienced at some point or another feeling unheard or unloved, or we have found ourselves in power struggles with another. Sometimes painful relationships can become life patterns, revisiting the same scenarios again and again, yet we do not know how to get out of them. We want change but we are not sure where to begin. Most often we try to change the other person into who we want them to be, rather than witnessing them as they are. Or perhaps we get fed up with them not changing, so we try to find the “right” person who will better fit our desires. Yet often the very same unconscious forces that got us into those initial relationships still drive our decisions, so our relationships may continue in a similar manner. Meanwhile, deep within, a still, quiet voice may be trying to tell us through our dreams, or the rising of painful emotions or through health issues, that our lives are not in balance with our true potential.

Relationships themselves are an abundant source of learning, when we understand what we are doing in them. When we see relationships as a gift and opportunity to learn to truly love and for enriched personal growth, we can evolve deeply and quickly. By interacting with others and sharing the gift of this moment, by being open and receptive to meet the other as they are, we live enrich our lives. The Chinese Taoist master Lao Tzu from the sixth century B.C. reminds us: "If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be truly fulfilled." Yogis, sages and spiritual masters tell us to look within to find lasting joy. So we know that the key to finding balance in relationships starts from finding balance in our relationship to our selves. Jesus advised people to treat others the way they wish to be treated. We could also say, we tend to treat others the way we treat ourselves. All that we experience in our life is a reflection of our own inner experience. The more balance we have within, the more balance we experience without.

In order to find balance in relationships, we need to become conscious of what really is driving our choices. In order get conscious, we need to accept that life is not a random series of circumstances that are passively happening to us, but that what we experience is a reflection of our deeper beliefs and past karmic tendencies. We are co-creating our reality. If we want our relationships to change, our inner dialogue and unconscious beliefs that sculpt our life choices must change. By getting to know who we are through meditation and spiritual practices, we learn to transform our unconscious belief patterns and projected perceptions so that we may receive the moment with unattached clarity. The call to be responsible for all that happens in our lives as a reflection of our own state of consciousness asks us to open to life and participate fully as who we are. Why? Because we can. All that tells us that we are not capable is illusion. This is an act of spiritual sobriety that dissolves the tendency to feel disconnected from life and invokes the expression of our inner most magnificent Self.

In my last blog, I shared how I choose to look at relationships that push my buttons. In every circumstance, we have an opportunity to learn and grow by seeing all as a reflection in our own inner dialogue. When we experience relationship patterns that violate us, for example, we know that at some level, we believe that relationships violate. When we step back, we rationally know that a violating relationship is not healthy. But we create circumstances that reflect the way we believe relationships to be. We likely have experienced violation in the past, this lifetime or other, so we repeat the same pattern until we wake up and choose otherwise. We create what we know because we believe that to be real. And we may be trying to heal past wounds through recreating similar circumstances in which we can grow. As we transform the way we experience the moment by receiving it and being present, we have greater choice and possibility.

In an ultimate sense, we are not able to understand the full energy exchange in any given situation until we are enlightened. We are not yet all seeing and all knowing. What goes on in the unseen world at the level of karma remains a mystery for most of us. For us to find balance then in relationship, we must go within and look at what our core beliefs are about relationships. Do we truly feel that we can be loved? Do we sincerely feel that love exists? Maybe consciously we do, but deeper, maybe we do not feel we deserve to be loved. As we go deeper within and find the distorted stories in our psyche, we can begin to rewrite our journey and make different choices. We have guideposts, clues, along the path of self-awakening. We learn to support what feels expansive within and release that which feels constrictive. When we explore our relationships from that vantage point, we can see that expansion supports our evolution, and constriction keeps us in some way in a state of disconnection and suffering.

Understanding Core Beliefs

Everyone’s core beliefs are different, depending on our unique journey. Each one of us will find balance in our relationships in different ways as everyone has an individual soul voice and path. So I encourage you to write out what your core beliefs may be about your relationships. These core beliefs are driving your thoughts, choices and actions. These are creating your reality.

I have done the following exercise in different ways over the years, because I keep finding new things about myself within it. Find a quiet place and set aside about 20-30minutes of time. Have a computer or pen and paper handy. With the intention to be transparently honest with yourself about what you deeply believe about these topics, ask yourself the following questions:

1)     What do I believe about myself?
2)     What do I believe about others?
3)     What do I believe about women?
4)     What do I believe about men?
5)     What do I believe about intimate relationships?
6)     Do I believe I can find a life partner? How come?
7)     What do I believe about my job?
8)     What do I believe about my career path?
9)     What do I believe about being fulfilled?

Be creative. Be open. Write other questions – like what do I believe about sex, money, fun, etc… if you feel so inspired and keep diving deep. You are like an archeologist on a treasure hunt. Then review. Reread and set this aside. You may do this exercise as often as you can to keep finding new things.

Then take a new piece of paper or open a new document and answer the questions as to what you would like to believe, such as:

1)     What would I like to believe about myself?
2)     What would I like to believe about others?

Step back and take a look at both sets of answers, what you do believe and what you would like to believe. Are they the same? If they are the same, you likely feel aligned and fulfilled in that area of your life. Well done. If they are not, that is fine. You have room for growth.

My practice shows me that replacing one thought for another does not work over the long term because we need to practice a deeper inner restructuring and release process. We likely are still holding onto the old beliefs, trying to fit new ones over top. So instead, contemplate the gap between the two. That is your growth edge. Allow yourself to expand by releasing the attachments to the existing belief by understanding what it is, and what it creates. When you clearly see that what you believe is creating something that brings you suffering, you no longer choose to give it power, so you naturally and spontaneously release. In that moment of letting go, there is space in which the new belief can take root. A way to get to understand fully a core belief that does not serve our greatest good is to challenge it. If you believe for example that love does not exist, you can ask yourself the questions: “Really? Love does not exist? I felt a really open, warm energy that felt like love the other day. It must exist!” By challenging core beliefs that do not serve us, we build lasting inner confidence in our ability to grow. Because we feel the expansion of possibility and capability, letting go and opening to the new becomes that much easier.

Relationship Principles

I have found, no matter what our personal belief system may be, no matter what our unique soul expression may be, all relationships are governed by a few fundamental spiritual principles. To me, they are:

1)     That which I do to myself, I do to all beings.
2)     The way I treat another is the way I treat myself.
3)     When I choose expansion, everybody wins.
4)     When I serve the creative flow, (that which is much greater than my limited ego or will) I support evolution in myself and in all beings.

As perhaps a simple guide, or point of inspiration, I would like to share here that which inspires me to experience balance in my relationships. These are a reflection of how I choose to live. You are welcome to feel inspired to use these or create your own. Remember, you only get what you really, truly want - to live the love you are - when you are dedicated to awakening and following your I AM evolutionary journey. That is the foundation that inspires my list.

1)     Supporting basic needs:
I choose to cultivate relationships that support my basic needs, such as food and shelter. With this foundation, I support and feel supported in my I AM evolution, which supports all beings being rooted in I AM.

2)     Emotional support:
I choose to cultivate relationships where I feel emotionally supported being beautifully and uniquely myself. Through listening and feeling received, I feel there is room for me to express my needs and be heard doing so. There is room to follow my flow and create in my unique way.

3)     Healthy Boundaries:
I choose to cultivate relationships that respect my boundaries. I feel I can be myself. I have the space I need to heal, grow and learn. We respect each other’s needs equally, sharing with kindness.

4)     Cultivating Joy
I choose to cultivate relationships where there is heart, learning to live with compassion for all beings. The heart is like a joy flower. Its very nature is joy just as my essential nature is joy. Sharing from the heart, we are witness to and receive each other’s magnificence.

5)     Having a voice:
I choose to cultivate relationships where everyone has the right to express their needs, feelings, dreams and ideas. I feel heard and respected when I give voice to what I wish to express. My relationships support the right for myself and all beings to have a voice.

6)     To see and be seen:
I choose to cultivate relationships where I am seen as I am, not as another may want me to be. My sight and insights are received and respected. I am supported in clearly seeing that which is.

7)     Supporting evolution
I choose to be in relationships that support my soul’s evolution. By support my soul’s evolution, I support all beings evolving. In this way, my relationships support self-less service to all beings everywhere.
May we all find ourselves cultivating balanced joy, love, service and expansion in all our relationships so that all beings everywhere may be free.

Lokah Samastha Sukshino Bhavantu.

Jai Ma,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Presence of Challenging People In Our Lives


We all meet people or experience circumstances in life that we find challenging. How we deal with those situations is a reflection of our rootedness in spiritual teachings. There are people in my life that I find challenging. Some friends have suggested that it seems a strange choice for me to maintain contact with these people, perhaps causing myself undue stress. I see things differently. Rather than seeing these people as doing something “to me” from a place of againstness, I choose to open to the experiences as a way to witness my own reactions, release painful habits, find inner space, and expand to meet the moment.

This story illustrates this well. There once was a great master who was leaving his village to meditate in isolation in the mountains for some time. The master said he would take someone with him to assist the journey. Many of his devoted students hoped that the saint would choose them for the special trip. But to everyone’s surprise, the master chose the most unlikely person in the village to accompany him: the pesky chai boy that ran the local tea stall. Due to his brusque manner and rough actions, the local community found this boy to be a difficult person. As the master and the boy prepared to leave for the trip, the baffled students approached their teacher to better understand his choice. “Master”, they asked, “why did you choose this annoying boy over all of us who have been devoted to you for so many years?” The master smiled and quietly answered: “This boy is my teacher. He teaches me humility, patience and compassion. Through him, I learn to see God everywhere.”

A traditional Tibetan shrine has an offering on it to feed hungry ghosts, the lost, roaming spirits of the universe, unable to meet the riches of this moment. This gesture is practiced as a sober reminder of what we could be, yet where we choose not to go.  When we align with our dharma through understanding righteous action and our soul purpose, we train ourselves to find spacious possibility when faced with dense constriction.

It is a natural, human reaction to experience stress, resistance and constriction when we are faced with people and situations that annoy us and push our buttons. We usually blame or judge another for their behaviour, making ourselves feel separate and even temporarily better than another. We distance ourselves from the circumstance, feeling somehow more clever than even Nature itself. Our ego, for the moment, has had an injection of self-serving, limited power that tells us we are good. Yet soon, we will experience a similar situation with a similarly irritating person and we will need to again, judge, blame and take a similar shot of a temporary ego-high to disconnect from the moment and find relief. Yet no lasting solution has been found to either free us from being in a challenging situation or free us from our buttons being pushed again.

Because we tend to experience life through the lens of our limited ego that only knows to divide, separate and categorize, we are conditioned to see things as happening “to” us until we learn otherwise. When we experience something we feel is bad, we tend to feel against it, as though it were an attack on our very being. We can feel, however unconsciously, that life is punishing us in some way, because we are unloved. These twisted roots of perception run deep in the human psyche. We fight what is rather than seeing the present moment as a consequence of our own karmic tendencies, lovingly offering us all we need to learn to evolve to the next stages in our unique soul journey.

From a yogic perspective, all that we experience is a result of our own state of consciousness. Painful experiences are the fruit of distorted perceptions and our own cloudy consciousness. As we refine our ability to truly perceive through the release of the lens of our ego-mind, our true, natural state, being one with pure consciousness, begins to expand. Actions then arise from clarity, releasing the experience of pain. Rather than our life being a consequence of distortions, which create more distortions, we begin to experience life an expansive opportunity for deeper awakening and joy. With openness and ease, we meet all of life as it is, rather than reacting to situations, seeing them as against us.

Take a moment to find your breath. Perhaps throughout the rush of this day, your awareness of this powerful life pulse has been masked by your attachment to the events of the day. Three deep breaths allows us to once again find inner space and begin to gain more perspective on what we are experiencing. One… deep… breath. Another… deep… breath. One more deep breath. Yes.

Then see if you can remember a situation or person that you found challenging. See if you can see this challenging situation or person from the vantage point that this moment is not happening “to” you. It simply is. Remind yourself that any sense of disconnection, separation from this moment, comes from a distorted sense of reality that only knows how to live through being separate. It continues, the more we feed it. So if you choose to feed it now, that suffering will just keep growing.

Instead, see if you can see this situation as the result of your own past actions. This may feel at first like a thought you want to resist. “What? This situation sucks! If I allow myself to see this as a reflection of my actions, then that would mean I suck!” This is a natural reaction, a way to protect our attachment to our ego and feeling separate. But remember, the notion of separation perpetuates suffering. So it is a good to soften here and let the grip of this kind of reaction loosen and ease.

Again, contemplate that this situation, all that you experience and see, is a result of your past actions. This ultimately is great news. If it is a result of your past, then you were part of co-creating it. Therefore, you can be part of co-creating change. The more alert and open you become, the more able you are to transform this experience of suffering into your natural state of spacious, pure consciousness.

What happens once you begin to expand your sense of awareness, rather than close? You gain greater insight. You see more. You experience more. You can begin to see into what really is. Say you remember an encounter with someone angrily yelling. You notice your immediate reaction to become tense and closed. You see what seems like danger. You want to shut down. Why do you see the angry person as danger? Perhaps they are yelling at you. This does not feel good, so you want to leave. Leaving is an option, but first, let us meet this moment.

You go deeper, and you see that this person yelling makes you feel unloved. It is this feeling unloved that signaled danger. We have primal wiring that tells us that we are dependent on our parents love to sustain us. We also have primal wiring that tells us to run when we meet a lion in the jungle. But is either of these situations true in this moment? Is this person a dangerous lion threatening our existence? Is this person a parent upon whom we are dependent? Is this person the source of love or of life? Likely this person is not a lion. So we can check that one off. If we go deeper, we see that no one person is the source of our love, no matter how close we may be to that person. Love comes from all, through all, in all. It is everywhere, always, even in the midst of an angry, emotional storm. Go deeper and you will find connection to that love that is so much bigger than this one, temporary experience. Maintain this big picture.

Breathing, allow tension to soften. More rooted in the big picture, you open more to also notice how the angry person is emitting more than anger, but deep, painful feelings. You know painful feelings. You can relate. No longer something foreign that you need to eject, you can understand more where this person is at and why they may be reacting this way. At the very least, you can see pain, and you understand the helpless feeling when you are faced with overwhelming pain. Within the sphere of mindful witnessing, you feel closer, less separate from what is. You have touched the heart, human connection.

Looking closer, you see how tense this person’s body has become. You see how much pain they are in. You see the disconnected state they are in. You then begin to realize that if you disconnect and react to their anger, you are adding fuel to a painful fire. You realize that would not cease the pain but only create more pain. Like reacting to a drowning person by jumping in with them, you would be two drowning people.

Going deeper, you see that this person’s expression of pain is a call for love. In this moment, this person does not feel connected to love. This person does not feel loved. You know this place. You know this pain. You also know that you are not the source of their love, just as they are not the source of yours. Quietly, you watch, breathing, feeling spacious. Quietly you witness this push-pull within them, this grasping at the notion of not being loved, and the pain it causes. You understand. You witness. You feel connected. But you are on the shore, rooted in the dharma of witness consciousness.

A feeling of spacious compassion arises, and you are present. You are not the source of love, but by being present, you can rest in the source of love, pure consciousness arising. When one is attached to the feeling of personal lack, the way one feels when they are taken over by such active pain, the greatest healing you can offer is presence. No one can fill the hole of deep pain, but the loving consciousness found in the energy of life itself can heal it. As you choose to rest here, you offer the other the greatest healing possible. You are a portal for transformation. You rest in who you are. You offer a quiet, humble reminder of what is. It is up to the other to choose to step out of the whirlwind they are creating and open. Presence is the healing you bring. By acting consciously, not only do you help to release the tendency to meet painful situations such as these that are the result of your own cloudy conscious behaviour from the past, but also you help to ease suffering in another by not adding unconscious fuel to their unconscious fire. In this, everyone wins.

Even broader still, by meeting this moment as it is, you send out a deep state of receptivity for peace and harmony that goes beyond this one incident. You signal to the universe that you are open, ready and willing to release all limited states of consciousness in you that perpetuate these kinds of painful situations. By learning to be present when faced with challenging people, you become a peaceful warrior, and a transformative alchemist of light and love in the midst of pain.

Practicing presence will ease most challenging situations. It is essential, however, to note that being present does not mean being roadkill, passively taking on hurtful behaviour. If you find that, despite your being present, another’s painful expressions continues, leaving the situation may be expansive. No one benefits if you find yourself exhausted or energetically depleted by a challenging circumstance. Sometimes people can become so attached to pain they can be addicted to drama and the erroneous perception of being disconnected. When faced with such deep pain, being present may lead us to removing ourselves from the immediate vicinity of these people, until they have become more balanced. There is no benefit to anyone when we sacrifice our own well-being to “help” another. This is no help at all. When we lose consciousness of our inner spaciousness in the moment, we too are in pain. We have become like the rescuer on the shore who has jumped in to save the person, jeopardizing our own safety. One must practice staying present.

In my life, meeting challenging experiences with presence is a test of my spiritual progress. Though I don’t welcome the painful behaviour in people in my life that can push my buttons, I do practice receiving the moment just as it is. When I do that, I find that there is room within this moment for it all: my feelings, my response and understand the other. I can see in the other, just like on the Tibetan shrine, the hungry ghost howling and human pain expressed. I know these places in myself. Through understanding our similar human tendencies, separation subsides. I rest within a broad knowing that all that is is held within a vast expanse of pure consciousness. And all this is teaching me, showing me how to evolve. Maintaining that big picture is essential to being present when faced with challenging people or circumstances. Like being around a drowning person, we need to maintain both feet solidly on the shore, lest we get pulled in. That shore is the rootedness of the teachings that show us that all human emotions and distorted states of consciousness are temporary. Any kind of perceived attack or sense of abandonment is an illusion. All that is in this present moment is absolute perfection. Rooted in this knowing, witnessing and true service can take place. In this state, I can see that deep aggregates from the human psyche have come to the surface to be released, both in the other, and in myself. The gift of presence, in all circumstances, offers all beings an opportunity to find lasting freedom from the painful cycle of suffering.

May all beings everywhere be free.
Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu.

Jai Ma,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Releasing Emotional Pain

Releasing Emotional Pain

We all have days, moments or periods of our lives when we experience emotional pain. There are many ways we can experience pain and many ways we can address it. From a yogic perspective, we learn to meet pain courageously, with openness, wisdom and compassion. Rather than running from it or trying to hide from it, we learn to give that which we feel space to be. In doing this, we allow ourselves to meet and witness that which is, without resistance. With this intention, we eventually experience lasting release of whatever may be the source of our pain.

Yoga teaches us that we are multidimensional beings having a human experience. We are vast beyond the limited grasp of our sense perceptions and ego. As we allow ourselves to become present, then release and expand, through the practice of meditation, we begin to notice that what we commonly define as “real”, that which we call “mine”, is in fact an energy knot that knows only to either push or pull, attract or repulse. This knot is fueled by wanting, the illusion that what we need is outside, beyond us. For most people, wanting is born from a primal fear that we will not get the love we need because we perceive ourselves to be disconnected from love.

Saints, mystics and sages throughout the ages tell us that in Reality we are the embodiments of pure, unconditional Love. That is our true nature. There is no separation from the profound, eternal fulfillment we seek, to that which is available to us here and now. Yet, what we believe we want, we erroneously believe to be outside ourselves. So we cultivate sorry stories about ourselves that perpetuate an experience of disconnection, of suffering by seeking approval, wanting to possess, attempting to gain. Yet beyond the grasp of this false self-perception, we are the healing, the Love, the approval, the acceptance we have been seeking all the while.

From a yogic perspective, suffering comes through resistance to what is. When we are attached to this moment being other than it is, we experience constriction and disconnection in an attempt to control the moment. We then feel dissatisfaction, which births mild irritation to full-out rage. As a result, we experience emotional pain.

When we feel emotional pain, it is important to learn to be present for it. Pushing pain away leads to emotional blockages such as resentment, rage, despair and depression. It can lead to painful behaviour that hurts ourselves and others, such as outbursts or an attempt to medicate pain through addictions, be it food, substances or even self-defeating thoughts.

Yogis practice witness consciousness, to be present for what is. Being present is a balance between focused attention on what is directly happening now, and broad awareness that this moment is part of a vast, intelligent unfolding of which I am an integral part. Our universe is every changing, evolving, so that which I perceive now is also changing and evolving.

If you like, do a little test. Take a quiet moment here, now, and check in with yourself. Sit quietly. Breathe deeply, several breaths. Allow your awareness to move inward, perhaps from your head, into your heart and down to your belly. See how you feel. Perhaps you find that you feel relaxed, satisfied, fulfilled. Perhaps you feel anxious, angry or sad. Whatever you find, allow it to be, without judging. Just witness what is. In this, there is no narration of likes and dislikes. Neutrally witness, without judgment. By witnessing, a vast space naturally arises through and beyond the habitual tendency to constrict and try to control what is. In this space, possibility is born and your true nature arises. Cultivating this inner space is essential to developing lasting inner calm and joy. In this space, the love you are returns and flows. Positive possibilities flow and I AM consciousness arises.

As you continue to practice inner awareness, your awareness goes deeper. Often during this process, parts of the psyche that hold pain begin to emerge. As pain rises, notice it, how it feels. Does it feel hot? Does it feel cold? Does it seem to have textures, edges? Does it feel loose or constrictive? Where do I feel it in my body? Is it in my gut? Is it in my chest or my head? Where am I holding? What am I holding on to? Watch what begins to arise without trying to change or fix it. Allow it to be as it is. Allow the intelligence of Nature to move within it. Let the feelings and sensations have room to breathe. As you practice this witnessing, by its own volition pain will begin to move, unfold and eventually release.

Like an eddy of water that swirls around and around, caught in its own rhythm and disconnect to its environment, our psyche and perceptions can be like a repeated swirl of painful thoughts and we become unaware of the magnificence within and around us. Like the eddy, which is within a rich flowing river, so too emotional pain is an energy swirl caught within the flowing river of life. Eventually the pain will release and the energy caught there will find its way back to the river. That life force returns to flow.

As pain begins to release, there may be tears, sweat, movement or vocalizing. These can be part of the return to the river, when they arise from a sense of inner spaciousness, without forcing, without wanting. As energy stuck in pain begins to release, we feel more expansive, energized and vital. This very moment seems richer more possible. The energy once caught in painful, sorry story eddies now flows back to the river of I AM.

And throughout this day, we can continue to breathe and witness this moment. So it is. So it is. One moment gives birth to the next, each moment unfolding perfectly. Our individual awareness opens to infinite consciousness, and we meet that which is, without resistance. Then we awaken to the reality that we have been one with the River all along.

May all beings feel the flow of pure consciousness now and always.
Jai Ma,