Sunday, March 31, 2013

From Resentment to Forgiveness - Part 1: Touching Painful Emotion



Happy Easter! 


At this time of year, as winter begins to thaw, we become aware of new beginnings, renewals, rebirths, and the return of life through spring. However, as the blanket of snow melts and disappears, we may not quite yet see the hope of budding new flowers. Usually we first see murky mud that was hidden just below our frozen sight. 


As spring energy moves through us, our bodies begin to crave more cleansing foods like bitter greens and salads. Our psyches too go through a cleanse. Spring energy invites us to see more clearly aspects of ourselves that were hidden from view.


As you may know if you have been reading my blog, I am an avid meditation practitioner. My daily practice is a time of insight and personal integration. It is a way I see deeper without attachment and let go of that which no longer serves. It is a sort of daily spring cleanse and renewal for my body and soul.




This week, I touched some deeper parts of my psychological basement that I feel were brought to the light of spring so that they could undergo their own process of rebirth and renewal. What arose, as my mind grew quiet, was the awareness of a field of resentment that had been hiding from my sight. So I gently welcomed it, and went deeper into it. After my meditation practice, I wrote in my diary:


“Resentment is a choice that only hurts myself. It does not change the circumstances or the other person whom I may resent. It festers in me like an uncovered wound that swells with rot.”


During my practice, I was present for these emotions. I became aware of a painful incident in my life I had not yet fully integrated. The event had hurt my feelings. So through the process of meditation, I was able to go back to that scene and learn to see the event as it was, without narrative, without attachment, without judgment, and integrate the teachings it had for me all along. 


There is no doubt that in this incident, I had not been treated kindly. That was not the question that left me feeling resentful. Instead, I was left wondering what was I to do about the feelings of being hurt. I felt powerless and hard done by and that made me feel resentful. 


I will share next Sunday, in “Part 2: Unveiling Resentment: Seeing Clearly”, how I began to deal with these feelings.


Until then, consider some of the resentments you may carry. 


Have a great week and enjoy!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

It Is Up To Me: Cultivating Self-Love

From Self-Betrayal To Self-Love: Steadiness and Gratitude On The Path

Part 3: It Is Up To Me

Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing here what I learned when I recently found that I was being unkind to myself. My last post was during the first period of Lent, as Christians prepare for Easter. Today I post this blog entry as we enter into the week of Passover, a Jewish festival that celebrates the miraculous release from slavery.

To some extent, we all have parts of ourselves that feel enslaved, whether we are conscious of them or not. It is also a tendency for most of us to want others to free us from these painful places.

But as I was reminded in my recent experience, when I saw that I was turning myself black and blue, it is not for anyone else to “save” me, take away my pain or fix my perceived broken bits. I need to face my inner demons just as you do, just as the next person does – on my own, in my own time, in my own way.

It is a kind of miracle to realize that we have the ability to free ourselves in this way. By turning on our inner light, we invite grace, transformation and spiritual expansion into our lives.

Just as I don’t like to be judged for the pace of my own growth, I cannot judge the way another chooses to evolve. My shadow, after all, is exactly that: my own. It hurts me when my shadow’s energy squeaks through my body, as it would for anyone. Perhaps the shadow is backlogged emotions, or painful thoughts that are trying to move through my system. But they are moving through my system, no one else’s. So it is totally up to me to cultivate an unconditional self-love relationship at a pace and in a way that is true to myself.

More than ever, I see how this process begins by accepting where I am, right now. It does not come from wishing my life were different, or struggling against what is. By embracing this moment as it is, we inspire growth.

Maybe I don’t like what is. That is ok. All of it is a reflection of my choices and my karma. So to not like what is, is actually to not like myself. To not like myself is to cause harm to someone: myself. To turn negatively towards myself is like turning negatively towards anything in nature or the divine. The real pain lies there.

It would be easy to see this kind of pain if I were to act out against a flower. I would be able to see the petals wilt under the onslaught of my recriminations. Yet, I do this to myself! So I need to stop it, because it hurts me.

It does not matter how I ended up with the shadow stuff. I could spend a lot of time trying to figure it all out, finding it’s source, wanting to pin point blame, all of which would defer me making, in this moment, the sober choice to let painful thoughts go.

What matters most is to fully understand that my shadow is a conglomerate of my belief systems that works against the force of life, which is love. Feeding the shadow, and beating myself up through it, is like putting the brakes on feeling the love I ultimately desire.

Each one of us is a receptacle for universal love. Some receptacles are full of cracks, maybe even holes, so the love comes, goes and does not stay in. Others’ receptacles are strong vessels for the divine. These people can bathe in a mutually loving relationship, warmed by the loving rays of the sun, nurtured by the rain. Through them, I can see a wholeness, a humility and a state of gratitude for all that is. No resistance. Just love.

So this is my prayer for myself from now on:

May I stand rooted in this moment and feel at peace.
May I be in non-resistance to what is.
May I feel a divine, loving embrace in this moment, and feel supported and nurtured.
May I open to receive love and let go of that which does not serve love.
May I know that I am love, that I am loved.

So please, my friends, go to a mirror and say a few loving words to yourself. Or try my new personal prayer out for yourself. Treat yourself with the love you deserve and see how love begins to grow up in and around you. Begin a new life today, a life that is rooted in self-love. Why? For the very simply reason that you are absolutely worth it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Parvati Magazine: Renewal

Hello friends,
The week a new Parvati Magazine issue comes out, I don't post a blog entry, but encourage you to read my article in the magazine, entitled "Relationships and Self-Renewal".
You will also find at Parvati Magazine various articles by talented friends who are committed to conscious living. Please tell your friends about Parvati Magazine to help spread the word about this wonderful, volunteer run, free resource and enjoy!
I look forward to seeing you here for more next Sunday.
Have a great week!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Transforming Pain into Love

From Self-Betrayal To Self-Love: Steadiness and Gratitude On The Path 
Part 2: Transforming Pain into Love

Today is Maha Sivaratri, an annual Hindu celebration in praise of Lord Siva who out of compassion drank poison and in so doing, saved the world. “Om Namah Sivaya!” to all those who honour this festival.

Every year this celebration happens during Lent, when Christians turn their hearts and prayers towards Easter. Though my spiritual teacher was born in the Hindu tradition, I grew up in a Christian home. I went to Sunday school every weekend, said grace at meals and was guided by parents who openly discussed their faith. My father had a daily morning contemplative practice and my grandmother was the first to introduce me to meditation and practiced for over 50 years. 

After a year living in India, having left my career as an architect to deepen my understanding of yoga and meditation, though circumstance I ended up working part time as a lay assistant minister (non-ordained) for the church where I was baptized in Montreal. I have felt a close relationship with this spiritual path and have felt very grateful for the guidance I received as a child to be open to spiritual “otherness”, no matter what spiritual path we may choose.

Yet, the whole Judas betraying Jesus thing never really made sense to me. In the Christian story, Jesus was betrayed the night before he was crucified, by one of his closest followers, Judas. So here is this wise master who can perform all sorts of miracles, who so happens to have in his closest entourage a guy that ends up betraying him. How could that be? And what is the supposed Grace in such a betrayal?

Last week, I shared how I watched myself turn myself “black and blue” though hurtful self-talk and by holding onto painful feelings. That incident guided me to contemplate self-love more deeply and has helped me understand more fully how we create our reality. 

What has transpired for me, since then, is a feeling of gratitude for the “toxic” people who have come and gone through my life over the years. And no, contrary to many popular “manifesting” manifestos, I am not planning on attracting more people like that into my life by feeling grateful for them. On the contrary, I feel that through gratitude and self-forgiveness, I am letting them go so that they no longer need to come back into my life and mirror back aspects of myself I do not see.

It is like the famous saying: “There but by the Grace of God go I.” We are far more similar than we realize, and all so inter-connected. What I see as painful in another person is potentially something I could do to myself, or maybe even something I am doing to myself or to another. By being witness to another person’s painful energy, I am given a gift: I can see my own shadows more clearly so I can accept them and let them go.

When I recently recorded this “aha” moment in my diary, I wrote the word “toxic” to describe the people that have hurt me in the past. I could feel a part of me want to judge them for being “bad” and “wrong”. But as my pen touched the page, the opposite flowered in my heart. I felt closer to them than I ever had. 

Then it came to me: I had a deeper understanding of Judas. His betrayal of Jesus was actually a part of how Jesus fulfilled his life’s work. Through Judas, Jesus transcended into eternal life. Because Judas “told on” Jesus, Jesus was crucified. And because Jesus was crucified, Jesus showed his followers that he was not limited to the body but was beyond. Similarly, on Maha Sivaratri, Siva drank poison and shows us that we are not limited by day and night, that is, time, but that our true nature is beyond all things and is eternal.

What crystallized in my cells in that moment is something that has floated around my thoughts before: there is NO-thing (nothing) that is not part of the greater whole. In other words, everything that happens has a purpose and is part of a greater whole. So how could I but feel gratitude? This whole is me. I am the whole. That other person is also the whole. We are the whole together.

Painful acts by others, and those that I have acted upon myself and others, have brought me face to face with my own shadow, so that I could forgive myself, let resentments go, and transcend into the fullness of love. 

By no means does this justify painful acts. But it reminds us that flowers grow out of manure and compost. The lotus, a symbol in the East for enlightenment, blooms in murky waters. I do not believe that pain is a pre-requisite for growth. After all, there are exquisite things that grow hydroponically! But if we meet painful things with openness and humility, they could become fuel for the most powerful expansion experiences we may ever have.

I look forward to sharing more about this “aha” moment next week when I take a look at cultivating self-love.

Until then, be well,

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Beating Myself Black And Blue

From Self-Betrayal To Self-Love: Steadiness and Gratitude On The Path 
Part 1: Beating Myself Black And Blue

A couple of weeks ago, I watched myself react dramatically when I felt I had made a mistake. It was not a big thing, but I made it into one. The situation triggered me. I became so angry with myself and felt like a failure. I dove into the deep end of beating myself up, talking to myself with such aggressive criticism that inwardly, I was turning myself black and blue.

I reached out to my partner for help. But he did not stand a chance to get through to me, faced with my attachment to auto-destruct. So then I reacted and blamed him for not giving me what I wanted. Ultimately, I was hell-bent on feeling that everything in this moment, including me, was not good enough. I was so attached to feeling this way that I even cleverly used my partner’s response to me to fuel how I was feeling. So I felt worse. Now I was not only feeling not good enough; I also felt alone.

Then I remembered something my spiritual teacher Amma teaches. The words rang in my being as though a meditation bell had been struck within my soul:

“Progress is being made when you maintain evenness of mind in the face of praise and shame, honour and dishonour.”

The message was crystal clear. I, who aspire to live a conscious life, was in no even state of mind! A cold bucket of water had just been splashed over my hot head. Immediately I asked myself what turn in the road I had taken that had led me to this painful place. I sat myself down, took a quiet moment, and went within to find out.

What came to mind were some of the people I had met over the years who had lashed out at me or others in their own suffering. Interestingly, my overt reactivity reminded me of them. I have seen people be so hard on themselves, then explode and blame others for their misery. And here I was, not really being all that different. I was being so hard on myself, then imploding and hurting myself.

It reminded me that I had recently read a tweet by a modern spiritual author that said something like, the universe will sweep away all your character defects. I replied to the tweet (though I never heard back), to the effect that sometimes the universe exacerbates our negative tendencies so we can see them and choose to let them go. This was clearly what was happening through the consequences of my self-judging mood. I was being given an opportunity to look at my shadow more closely.

Next week, I would like to share a revelation that has come to me through this experience. Please join me here again next Sunday.