Thursday, February 20, 2020

CAPITAL SELF-DEFINED

The ability to be Self-defined is a superpower.

Please note the capitalization of that Self.

I grew up in a family where I was robbed of the privilege of learning what it is to be self-defined. As a result, a big piece of my personal evolution has been learning to be Self-defined. It has been a rough and rocky road.

Part of Part of a healthy maturation process includes detaching from parental or other authority figures and learning to think, decide, and define from a place of choice and autonomy. Though inextricably part of a tribal system we are each born to grow into a place internally where we decide what is right and what isn’t right for us as individuals. We are to take the programming that we have been taught and decide how that will or will not be causal to our experience as we become responsible adults. We get to choose what values we will live by, and what will govern our experience here in this embodiment.

Or at least that is optimal.

I grew up being taught that my opinions largely didn’t matter. I was defined by my family, church, culture, and by other outside forces. I did not have ultimate authority over my experience. That included my mind, heart, and body.

I was largely up for grabs.

I was never taught healthy boundaries. When living in a monarchy there is no need for boundaries. Not being free to think for myself there was always an inner tension between what I felt deep down was true for me, and what I was permitted to express and live out.

I was not granted the right to develop my own sense of self.

A huge part of my spiritual development was first and foremost learning that this was the case. When you are not privy to self-choice and development it is hard to come to self-realization.

After many painful lessons in relinquishing my right to choose, my adult experience has been about first learning that I have a right to choose and a right to determine my own sense of self. I have a right to make my own decisions. I have not only a right but a responsibility to be self-determining. I set my boundaries, and I keep and maintain them.

Learning this was fraught with mistakes and much emotional turmoil.

One of the key mistakes I learned to recognize was that often when I told people I loved them they thought that gave them the right to define me.

Ouch.

This resulted in painful isolation and prolonged disconnection. I often wanted to scream out “love me, don’t try and define me!”

Of course, the inability to define my own experience had me swallowing those screams. They festered and metastasized inside of me, hardening into a fortress where I could safe albeit alone.

After beginning to learn that I didn’t believe I had a right to my own self I also began to discover how that limited and limiting sense of self was faulty from a broader spiritual perspective. I began slowly and painfully to discover the distinction between the personality self and the Soulful Self. While my personality self had been programmed to believe it was faulty, unworthy, dis-empowered, and fragile I began to open to an awakened perspective that could relate to those core beliefs. That relating tuned me into what I would term my Soul. My Soul has endless creativity, authority, choice, volition, and Self-definition.

Please note the capitalization of that Self.

I began to make more and more choices from my Soul. I set and maintained healthy boundaries and decided what was and what wasn’t right for me. I became less reactive to people that sought to define me, and freer to choose from an expanded sense of me. I set the rules for my governance. I relied on Source for my sense of Self and allowed myself to be guided by that. I even today instantly recognize when someone is seeking to define or manipulate me. I rarely go into emotional reaction. I simply state what is right for me and walk away if my word is not honored.

Part of the rub of Self-definition is that it requires that I take full responsibility for the choices and decisions I make. Though I have a right to choose I do not then have a right to blame others for my choices. I could have spent my entire life blaming those who robbed me of choice. I have not. I recognize it as a vital part of my evolution in consciousness. That evolution includes releasing the allure of blame now. I am the grown up in here. I am responsible. I get to choose to show up in empowered and self-differentiated ways. You may think you can define me. I do not have to react and live from that definition.

The ability to be Self-defined is indeed a superpower.

Please note the capitalization of that Self.

I slip up. I admit it. Part of our inherent connection is the ability to hurt each other. I mistakenly define others, and others mistakenly define me. I do not reside long in those mistaken identities. I feel the contraction of my self from my Self. The pain of that contraction awakens me. I come back to Self-definition. I make conscious and responsible choices. I allow the Self to govern the self.

Please not the capitalization of that Self.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

REALLY GONE

I guess sometimes when they leave, they are really gone.

My mother left her body four years ago today. That is 1460 days. Not one of those days has passed that I have not thought of and felt her absence.

When my mother left, she was gone.

I have experienced the deaths of many significant people in my lifetime. It began at a young age and has been a constancy that I have learned to live with. I have become increasingly friendly with grief as a result of these many losses. I have also become increasingly comfortable with the ongoing vibrational relationship with those who have moved on. I cherish the ongoing “visitations” with people who are no longer on this plane of experience. Those visitations are not replacements for the much-preferred physical encounters. The “in-spirit” encounters are lovely, but they do little to soften the longing to hear the voice and touch the hands of those I have shared incarnation with.

There have been no visitations or encounters with my mother.

I spent a week with her in an Ohio ICU where she was cognizant but, on a ventilator, so unable to speak. I needed to return to my work here in Florida so was not present when she transitioned a week later. I energetically felt her transition these many miles away, and that was the last I felt of her presence.

Since she left she has really been gone.

And so, the void that was left by her passing has truly been a void. No wafts of her energy. No cardinal birds that signaled her attending. No feelings of her at any time or in any way.

She was a unique and complicated woman. I guess it should not surprise me that the wake of her passing is equally unique and for me complicated.

I sought my entire life to get her attention. Most especially her approving and affirmative attention.

There were glimpses.

Brief, fleeting glimpses.

And now I guess in some ways I am spending her death still seeking her attention. Even if it is from an entirely different realm.

Four years. 208 weeks. 1460 days.

Life has moved on as it always does. Much has occurred. I have been fully engaged in my living, loving, and serving.

There is a subtle and ever-present void that I still somehow expect to be filled. A void that I still hope will be filled. Not as a replacement. Not as a 24-7 reality. Just a moment. A waft. A glimpse, a sense, a nudge.

Wherever she is she is not with me.

And so, well meaning people assure me she is always with me.

Actually, she is not.

Oh, she is with me in countless memories. She is increasingly with me as I look into the mirror. She is mimicked for me in the way I do so many things. Her tone is heard in the way I say certain phrases. Her emotional character is often felt in my own inner atmosphere. So, in those ways she is here.

It is not the same.

Some readers may get that, and certainly some will not. It doesn’t matter. This is my feeble attempt to put into words what is clearly ineffable and wordless.

Maybe I am somehow hoping the words will fill the aching void.

In many ways my mother and I were enmeshed. No matter how many miles separated us I could always tap in and feel what she was feeling. In later years I grew beyond the need to make things better for her when she was troubled. I never really could achieve that, and I suffered as a result of trying. So, when she passed on my intense grief was also met by an inexplicable freedom.

For the first time I was an independent energy system having an independent experience of me.

And maybe that is why she has left me on my own.

I guess sometimes when they leave, they are really gone.

And perhaps that is her final gift to me.

There was always a level at which I felt I was meant to mother her as much as she was meant to give birth to me. I continue to grow more accepting and peaceful with that. I will perhaps always live with a subtle longing to feel her approving attention. To feel something more than a void. To feel she somehow chose to linger with me.

For now, she is gone. Really gone.

And for now, I am here. Really here. Holding all of this in my heart.

Whether she is here or not, I will always be my mother’s son.

And in that way, and for now only in that way, she will always be with me.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

LOOKING AT

I am always looking at what I am looking with.

I heard that phrase for the first-time decades ago. After pondering it for months I thought I knew what it meant. After grappling with it for years I realized I did not know what it meant. And all these decades later I still dance with what I suspect is one of the most confounding and yet liberating notions that I have ever heard.

I am always looking at what I am looking with.

We as human beings are emotionally imprinted and carefully programmed and conditioned. We are not responsible for these imprints or filters.

We are, however, responsible TO them.

Human consciousness evolves via the way we relate to our imprinting, programming, conditioning. We are here, in part, to transcend the limitations of our tribal paradigms. We do not do this by getting rid of them. We do this by relating differently to them. We do this be awakening to the fact that these early imprints and programs are running the show we call me. We live largely on the autopilot of reaction until the pain of this reactivity begins to shake us and awaken us.

I am always looking at what I am looking with.

What we generally call reality is really a filter we are looking through. There is a constant commentary, narrative going on as we mentally label and assess whatever we are looking at. A process of constant evaluation is always going on. We look at, we evaluate, and then our emotional body mirrors the felt-equivalent of that evaluation.

This is not a problem.

The problem lies in that we believe our evaluations.

The problem and the suffering lie in that we forget that we are always looking at what we are looking with.

In speaking for myself I am dedicated to awakening to the fact that I am the one narrating my experience. I am the one responsible for my inner atmosphere and experience. I am the one that decides to momently awaken to the power of interpretation and to the subsequent contribution I am always making.

There are many things I find disturbing about our culture, our country, our world, and the way in which human beings treat each other. I feel the equivalent of value-violation daily. I know that I could choose to scream at those current appearances and spend much of my days in angry reactivity. And I know that I would be contributing to the problems I find disturbing.

I am always looking at what I am looking with.

Though each of us are carefully imprinted, programmed, and conditioned we are also beings of free will and choice. This is so by virtue of our creation. As we awaken and evolve choice becomes more and more available. Automatic reactivity softens as the neo-brain slowly takes authority over the lizard. We begin to find that there is always something greater than the tribal paradigm. There is something transcendent of the old programming. There is a Power within us all that can use the disturbance rather than being used by it.

I am always looking at what I am looking with.

The lizard part of us is always on the lookout for what is wrong. For what is threatening. For what insults or diminishes the me. It is always seeking an enemy, always poised in fight or flight.

The invitation of an awakened consciousness is to internally dwell in a place that is aware and accepting of this circuitry yet is also choosing to wakefully relate to inner-reacting and unconscious acting out. An awakened consciousness responds rather than reacts. It is open and available to transmute the triggers. To bring presence to the programming. To contain the conditioning.

This is possible once we realize that we ARE what is looking, not what we are looking at.

When I am awake to what is looking, I gaze in compassionate response.

When I am awake to what is looking, I am aware that everything I am seeing is an out picturing of individual and collective consciousness. It is all artifact of critical mass core belief. Though often tragic in its effects it is still potential awaiting activation.

And that is where I come in.

I am always looking at what I am looking with.

The way I choose to look at what I am seeing either perpetuates of transforms that which I am seeing. If I choose to look at and react to things as fixed realities to be believed and conquered, I relegate my power to the externals. If I choose to look out from a place of contemplation and compassion that way of seeing has a transformative effect on what I am looking at.

When I am unconscious, I am in reaction. When I am conscious, I am in response.

The choice is up to me.

How I see what I see isn’t about it. It is about me.

For you see, I am always looking at what I am looking with.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

PRECIOUS ATTENTION

There are few gifts as precious in life as someone’s undivided attention.

There are few things rarer in life these days as the gift of someone’s undivided attention.

The need to be paid attention to is universal and unmistakable. Though we may not frame it as such, it is built into our hardwiring and even into our DNA. We need to be seen, heard, acknowledged, and appreciated. When we are not, we suffer.

We need to pay attention to others. We need to see, listen to, acknowledge, and appreciate fellow living beings. When we do not do that, we suffer.

We have an intrinsic need to connect. We need to experience a felt-sense connection within our own being to ourselves and to our surrounding world. This connection is the foundation to our sense of belonging. Belonging is also a hardwired human need.

We are living in perhaps the most distracted and disconnected time in human history. Attention is largely scattered, which throws connection and belonging right out the window. It is so rare these days to really feel seen, heard, acknowledged, and connected to that when it happens it is startling.

In an age when we mistake social media ties for actual friendship and texting with authentic communication there is a low-level anxiety that for me is palpable.

We long for the gift of precious attention.

I have recently had a few experiences where I was seeking to connect and commune with others who were clearly somewhere else in their attention. I purposely stopped what I was saying, and in all instances, it took a few long moments for them to notice I had ceased communicating. In one case there was no awareness of that at all.

I was grateful to notice the obvious disconnect and yet to be able to choose to not take it personally. It is a human dilemma much bigger than me. I didn’t go to “they should be seeing, listening, paying attention to me.” I simply noticed that for them something else entirely was going on.

I daily see people driving while texting. I have one-sided conversations with great regularity. I frequently am interrupted in social engagements by an uninvited and unannounced selfie. I speak into eyes that are darting everywhere but back into mine. It seems to be the current lay of the land.

And.

There are few gifts as precious in life as someone’s undivided attention.

So, while I personally recognize all of this as the foundation of much at least subtle suffering I am not painting this as a problem for or about others.

I see it as an invitation to hone my own skills in terms of giving precious attention.

When you appear, I am committed to seeing you.

When you speak, I am dedicating myself to really listening.

When I am on the phone with you, I will not be multitasking or mentally engaged in to do lists or other distractions.

I am personally devoted to connecting and communing with those in my sphere.

This is not an easy feat in a culture of constant distractions and continuous deadening.

And, I am committed to precious attention and intimate connection.

Regardless of what you do, I will give you the gift of my precious attention.

And in giving you that gift I am gifted as well.

I see you. I hear you. I acknowledge you. I appreciate you. I consciously connect with you.

And in my precious attention, you belong.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

THE SACRAMENT OF IRRITATION

People can be really irritating.

And thus, my mirrors for awakening.

May I most humbly share with you that in my meditation chair I am an enlightened master?

Well, when things are quiet, and the temperature is pleasant, and the circumstances meet my meditation requirements.

Awe, the enlightened state.

And then the neighbor throws multiple items into the recycle bin just outside my bedroom window. And then my husband loudly sneezes or answers his phone or bangs a few pots, pans, dishes.

People can be really irritating.

Okay. I can get really irritated.

That is much more to the point.

Irritation is a form of discomfort and human beings do not like discomfort. While the degree to which we avoid, and resist discomfort may vary the displeasure at it is universal.

Which makes our relationship to irritation and thus discomfort a perfect form of sacrament.

I spent decades of my life trying to rid myself of people and situations that irritated me. What I found was that every time I ridded myself of an irritant qualifier another one immediately took its place. After numerous cycles of this pattern I finally got that the common denominator was me, myself, and I. I was the source of irritation, not the person, place, or thing.

This realization led to an increasingly expansive relationship to things that seem to irritate me. They are each and everyone an opportunity for me to grow and to deepen internally.

Each irritant is an angel here to teach me more about me.

A concentric piece of learning in this regard is that I didn’t get the lesson when I only tried to pretend that I was not annoyed.

I also did not integrate the message when I lashed out at the perceived instigator of irritation. Add to that, that the plausibility of lashing out was increased when I tried to pretend I was not irritated.

As I have slowly and imperfectly developed a more awakened and spacious relationship to the never-ceasing causes of irritation in life I have grown to appreciate the experience of annoyance in terms of what it activates inside of me.

Without falling into total denial, I own at a felt level that while people and situations can be really irritating it is really me that can be simply irritable.

That may not seem to you to be the good news.

For me it is.

I can do very little about most of the external things that I find irritating. I do have an increasing amount of dominion about what happens in my own interior. That dominion is strengthened each time I choose to engage an awakened relationship to the things I think are annoying me. Each time I make that choice is like a repetition at the gym. My responsiveness grows stronger and steadier. I become more steadfast and secure.

So, for me irritants have become sacraments of spiritual practice.

Does that mean they have become comfortable?

No.

And uncomfortable can certainly be valuable.

Most people know that pearls are the direct product of an oyster being irritated.

Awe, a pearl of great price.

So, bring on the clanging recycling and the sneezing and the banging pots and pans. I am ready and open to relate. Each one of those are angels of awakening. The more the annoyance the greater the mastery. Hallelujah, I am aghast!

People can be really irritating.

And I bless and love each and everyone of the ornery little buggers.

Thank you for annoying me into awakening. You are a precious pearl within my heart.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

HER NAME WAS LOLA

I am slowly moving into yet another goodbye.

I have experienced goodbye enough times to be very clear that they are not about absence.

They are about presence.

I have also said goodbye enough times to know that love is never past tense. My father transitioned in 1982 and I love him more today than I did then and more than I did last year. I am quite certain that for as long as I am on this planet the love will continue to grow, deepen, and mature.

The same is true of Jean.

I am calling her Jean in this writing because that indeed was her given name. I am calling her Jean so that anyone who knew her will recognize the inspiration for this homage. I likely have not referred to her as Jean in years.

To me she was Lola.

It was a self-ascribed moniker that she shared with me decades ago. It stuck. I very often sang the opening lines of the Barry Manilow song “Copacabana” when calling her. We would giggle and laugh and share the secret place that only good friends can know and share.

And that laugh.

Lola was brilliantly wise, knowledgeable, and extraordinarily articulate. She had a deep and abiding spirituality that permeated her being, living, and giving. She could put the wordless into words as well as anyone I have known. Though ninety at the time of her passing this internal Light never really dimmed. Even a stroke in the past year didn’t rob her of this God-force inside. She still wrote poems and delivered wisdom pearls almost until the end.

And that laugh. That incredible laugh.

Lola had a naughty side that was integral to why we got along so well.

As sharp as Jean always was there was often a momentary pause between stimulus and response when something struck her funny. This could be particularly evident if the source of humor was of a shadow nature. There would be a pause and then an internal rumbling that began way down deep and erupted in a sound that completely defies description. Though indefinable I can hear it as clear as if it were happening here as I type these words.

Perhaps it is.

And so even as I begin a process of goodbye she is still right here. I have no doubt that she will always be right here. I will always hear that laugh and feel that wonder.

I do not deny or diminish the impact of a physical death. “Here in spirit” is not the same as here in flesh. I will greatly miss the unique and wondrous physicality of Jean. I will miss the ornery little shimmy she shared when she called herself Lola. I will miss the brilliance and the boldness, the blind-spots and the mischief. The extraordinary artistry of her words, and the way she could nod off in meditation.

I will miss my Lola though at a real, intimate, virtual level she will always be with me.

The weepiness and the laughter. The wordiness and the wonder. The sacredness and the shimmy. The prayerfulness and the play.

She was so many things in this lifetime. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, confidant, companion, student, teacher.

So many things. And yet most of all she was love.

She long ago shared with me that her favorite song was If We Only Have Love. How appropriate.

Called by many roles, known to countless as simply Jean. Married to who she adoringly called Mr. Nice Guy for nearly seventy years.

To me she was and will always be dear friend. Valued companion on the spiritual path. Fellow pilgrim. Love incarnate. You may call her Jean. For me, her name was Lola.

Fly high and shimmy free, my Lola. And thanks for the dance.