Nowhere. Now Here. Here Now.

 

 

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Presence, or the |Art of Being-Here-Now|{for me} is an ongoing practice.

…For, as I experience it, [presence is a practice] indeed. And it is one that I simultaneously crave and resist.

Because to live in the present moment is to both *feel and experience* ABSOUTELY EVERYTHING that is to be registered on a conscious level.
And to be really and truly present during such here-and-now experiences is to register any and all sensations that may arise, in the very moment that they are occurring, the very space that they are occupying, and for whatever duration that is required for them to unravel and unfold in their ENTIRETY.


So, naturally, to experience this concept of presence, even for just one teensy flesh-and-blood moment, is to feel things intense and uncomfortable. It is to tiptoe beyond the comfort zones of our unconscious living and into the enlightening discomforts of personal growth and awareness. It is to surrender into the present, give into the mystery, and let this unknown stuff wash over, engulf, and have its way with us as we let go and trust the process that we know nothing of.


…So, it is no wonder that these beautiful experiences are also messy, visceral, vulnerable, intense and raw. And, it is also no wonder that these magical moments are also playful, creative, ecstatic, dreamy, intimate, and euphoric, as well.


Yet, even so, this present moment living is worth every moment that it has to offer. It is worth learning to detach, observe, accept, and embrace each and every experience these moments offer us . It is worth learning to unlearn, tear labels off, and become nonsensical, and somehow, strangely, more alive, as we instead surrender into a process of transformational metamorphosis, that deconstructs us, reconstructs us, and then sends us off to emerge and transcend whatever wilderness it was that we had come from.


…This is presence. And presence, no matter how beautiful and tricky, is magical and ever-changing.

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Magic Words

I once attended a wedding where the pastor ‘s homily revolved around four short phrases of three simple words that loved ones should say to each other every day.

The first phrase he told us to say to one another is, “I love you”. For many of us, it seems, this phrase comes with relative ease. We say it to everyone we love when we feel affectionate, as part of our farewells, and quite often, we say it as much for ourselves as we do for those that we love. The words “I love you” expose our truest selves to others and welcomes them into our hearts.

The words “I love you” are important, as they express some of the deepest emotions that we may ever know. Love is such a fundamental part of life, and it is the cornerstone of everything good and rewarding in this life. And by expressing love for someone, we allow it to flow freely while making it known that we have invested our hearts in them.

The second phrase he told us to say each day is, “I thank you”. Again, “thank you” is a relatively easy thing to say. And while we often say thank you as a formality, the “thank you’s” that matter most are those that are an intentional and meaningful expression of gratitude and appreciation. These heartfelt messages are important amongst loved ones because they remind us that we have not been taken for granted and that we are cherished by those closest to us.

The third phrase the pastor instructed us to say is “I am sorry.” As I have written in the past, “I’m sorry” can be a hard thing to say. It can be hard to admit fault, to give in, and to face the pain that we may have caused in others.  Yet even while a genuine apology can be difficult, it is important because it acknowledges the feelings of our loved ones, it offers humility, and shows that we are sensitive to the experience of others.

The final phrase to include each day is  “I forgive you”. Much like apologies, words of forgiveness can be difficult to say. Sometimes, it does not occur to us to even mutter these words as we assume that forgiveness has been implied by our actions. Yet then again, forgiveness in and of itself can be difficult because it may feel risky.  When we forgive, we may feel that we are “giving in”, negating our feelings, or even putting ourselves in a position to be hurt again. Yet forgiveness is such an important part of our relationships because it signifies love, trust, compassion, and forward movement.

Today, I encourage you to reflect on the four phases listed above. Consider who you might say them to, and think about who you may need to hear them from, whether that is your significant other, your child, your friend, or yourself. Take a moment to reflect on your feelings in these relationships, and the, go ahead and tell them how you feel.

Touchy Feely

I was once referred to as “thin-skinned”. And ironically (or perhaps not), this statement threw me off-guard as I found myself asking, “Really? Am I thin-skinned?” I have always considered the opposite to be true.

Curious of the actual definition, I looked it up and read that “thin skinned” is an adjective used to describe someone as “easily offended by criticism and rebuffs”. For good measure, I looked up “thick-skinned”, which was defined as “not easily hurt by insult; callous, unfeeling, hardhearted; and largely unaffected by others.”

After reading these definitions, I concluded that most of us fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, striking a healthy balance of sensitivity while also having the ability to let things go. And while some of us may veer toward one end of the spectrum or the other, most of us would say that we are not entirely thin- or thick-skinned. And personally, I think that is good. Who wants to be considered callous, unfeeling, and insensitive? Conversely, who wants to take everything personally? No one. Most of us would like to be sensitive and empathic enough to be emotionally available to those that we care about, even if that means we are vulnerable at times. Similarly, most of us would also like to have a strong enough sense of self to know which comments or actions to take to heart, and those that we should not internalize.

Yet, while most of us would agree with this optimal balance of sensitivity and emotional resilience, we often forget this as we interact with other people. Why are we told to toughen up when something has gotten us down? Why do we pretend that something has not hurt us if it really has? Why do some of us act as if we cannot be touched by the words and deeds of others? Conversely, why do some of us seem to take everything personally? Why do some of us tend to invalidate our own feelings, or feel victimized by every slight?

Of course, the answers to these questions depend on personal differences. We all experience life differently and therefore have different interpretations of our interactions with other people. What we all seem to have in common though, is that we are all sensitive beings. We are all capable of being hurt, whether we admit it or not, and we all care about the feelings and experiences of others.

Today, I encourage you to examine your feelings, particularly those that relate to the people surrounding you. I hope that you are able to have the softness of heart to be emotionally available, and the strength and the courage it takes to be vulnerable. Too, I hope that you are self-assured and secure enough to be true to yourself, and to know when to take things personally while also being conscious of what you internalize. Know that it is okay to feel what you are feeling, and that it is equally important to be mindful of how you express and act upon your emotions. Remind yourself that you are human, as are your loved ones, and that we are all worthy of love, acceptance, consideration and grace.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Have you ever been subject to unkind words, insensitive comments, or criticism? Have you ever felt that something you did or said was misunderstood, misconstrued, or picked apart by others? Have you ever invested your time and energies into something meaningful to you, something that you cared about dearly, only to learn that your efforts would be met with negative feedback? Has there ever been a time where you invited dialog from others, hoping for help and constructive suggestions, and instead received messages about what you have done wrong with no mention of alternative solutions? Have you ever felt judged unfairly or labeled because of a single trait, decision, or characteristic of yours? Have you ever felt that you were, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t”?

I am willing to bet that you have. It seems that each and everyone one of us can relate to these feelings. We have all been criticized, fairly or not. Therefore, we are all familiar with the sting of harsh words. We all know that criticism can hurt.

Criticism can hurt, not just because people disagree with us or because there are people that do not prefer us. It is hurtful not only because it points out our mistakes, faults, and imperfections. Rather, criticism seems to be most painful because it leaves us feeling misunderstood, mistranslated, misconstrued. It leaves us feeling short-changed, judged, and undervalued. Quite often we feel frustrated, picked apart, ganged up on. Criticism often leads to self-doubt, insecurity, and self-consciousness. Criticism is deflating. It is discouraging. Disheartening.

And yet, criticism serves a purpose. When delivered with care, criticism can be eye-opening. It can lead to growth, self-discovery, and awareness. Criticism, when constructive, can lead to much better outcomes for ourselves and others. It can help us learn, overcome difficulty, and master our skills. Criticism is necessary for objectivity, critical thinking, and honest feedback. At its best, criticism allows us to better understand ourselves and strive for improvement. At its worst, however, criticism is damaging and destructive.

So how do we handle criticism, if it is such a necessary part of communication and understanding? How do we tell someone something negative, knowing that such a message has the potential to hurt them? Do we tiptoe and skirt around sensitive issues, forgoing such honesty? Do we avoid an opportunity to help someone because it might be uncomfortable for them?

No, we do not. Instead, we ensure that our messages, if they are necessary at all, are delivered with compassion, empathy, understanding, and balance. We give careful consideration so that we are helpful, constructive, and supportive. We may even consider offering suggestions and alternative solutions, ideas, and perspectives and providing an explanation of the rationale behind them. Additionally, we make certain that we understand what it is that we are discussing, and we take into account the perspectives and experiences of the people involved.

So how then, might we better receive such criticism, especially when it is not delivered with care? Do we take offense, particularly if we are insulted? Do we disregard everything we heard about ourselves that we do not agree with? Conversely, do we internalize any and all criticism and assume it to be true? Do we allow it to alter our self-image or our belief in ourselves? Should we apologize, excuse, or deny parts of who we are because they were subject to criticism?

No. Not at all. Instead, I encourage you to listen to criticism with strong ears and considerate it with an open mind. Refrain from all-or-none thinking, and do not assume everything you hear to be true. Instead, adopt an objective perspective when making sense of such feedback, and take it for what it is worth to you. Ask yourself what can be learned from it, if anything, and do what you would like with such information.

Take a moment to consider criticism from a new angle. Recall what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such messages, and show compassion to those that you speak to. Ensure that your words come from your heart, and be selective with what you choose to share with others. As you take the time to reconsider criticism, also reflect on how you might better receive such messages the next time you are criticized. Assume an objective stance if you can, and be selective with what you let affect you. Remind yourself that there is nothing on this earth that cannot be criticized and do not allow yourself to be negatively impacted by the opinions of others. Instead, try only to learn, grow, and evolve from such experiences, or do not allow yourself to be affected at all.

You are unique. You are beautiful. Capable. Loveable. You have a calling, you have dreams, and you should absolutely follow your heart and know that you are a precious rarity. Hold this to be true, revel in who you are, and let no one take that from you. No matter what they have to say about it. Ever.

Hurt People Hurt People

If you have ever been a part of a relationship, I am willing to bet that you have also found yourself amidst an internal struggle that is, at least in part, due to something that has happened within that relationship. Something that was confusing, hurtful, or upsetting. Something that was difficult to let go of, move on from, or understand. As such, I am willing to bet that whatever it was that had caused you discomfort has also had a lasting impact on you in some meaningful way. Perhaps it has influenced how you approach people. Perhaps it taught you a valuable lesson. Perhaps it shaped you in some other meaningful way, for better or for worse. Rarely do we make it through such things without an impact being made.

Because of this, it comes as no surprise that such lesson can be quite difficult to learn. That we may be rendered incapable of embracing a lesson until we are capable of approaching the situation from an entirely different perspective. A perspective that does not focus on the hurt and is instead driven by a compassionate empathy for all that are involved. A perspective that allows us to let go of what may otherwise hard to set free.

When you take a moment to think about the implications of approaching painful circumstance in such a loving way, it is no wonder that many of us undergo a transformation of sorts as we move forward. It is no wonder that we also begin to soften, forgive, and let go of that which has hurt us in the past. I say that this is no wonder, because I believe that when we are able to approach another human being from a point of compassion, we begin to see life through their eyes, instead of through our own, and in doing so, we often gain a better understanding of their true intentions and greater insight into their deeper experiences. Rather than being convinced that we have been hurt by their selfishness or deceit, we may see instead that they were driven by another force entirely. Or, rather than looking down upon them with disappointment, judgment, or condemnation, we may soften our gaze and realize that they are coming from a place that we otherwise may not understand.

And of course, as I say this, please understand that I do not mean to minimize any pain that has been experienced, nor excuse any wounds that have been inflicted. I only mean to say that it does seem to feel better, and therefore take us farther, when we are able to invest in love and compassion and allow our pain to be transformed, rather than submerge ourselves in negative and destructive emotions.

So today, if you find yourself revisiting a painful relationship, I challenge you to consider the alternative perspective. Attempt to understand what may otherwise be unfathomable. Reject the victim mentality and let go of blame. Instead, hold fast to your optimism in humankind and have faith in what you believe to be good.

Resistance Makes the Heart Grow Stronger

 

Fun fact: I almost never remember my dreams. However, when I do, I am usually in flight. Ever since I was quite young, in fact, my preferred mode of transportation while dreaming has been flying. I had not thought much about this dream-theme of mine until I studied dream analysis in college and learned that dream flying is considered the perfect metaphor for living the soul’s longing, or life purpose.

Upon learning that, I did a forehead slap and thought to myself, “Duh!” The symbolism is unmistakable: For many, flight is associated with freedom, ascension, exhilaration, and peace. Yet, not ironically, many of us have a fear of flying. The idea of free-falling, losing control, letting go, and most obviously, the hard landing is incredibly frightening. The metaphor still holds true, does it not?

And so it is with fulfilling our life purpose, for doing so involves navigating obstacles, conquering incredible feats, and then making a conscious choice to evolve and grow. Living out our soul’s longing means choosing the challenge of change over the difficulty of remaining the same while conquering fear and overcoming resistance every step of the way.

If you have ever set out to accomplish something meaningful, you will know that resistance is an inevitable part of the journey. And if you are anything like the rest of us, you have likely experienced resistance as an adversary. And this was likely so because you did not understand your resistance well enough to make it your ally. You tried to avoid, persist, and resist, rather than carry on with intention, commitment, surrender, and trust. Because resistance really is nothing but a form of fear and insecurity, we are much better off examining it with self-awareness and honesty, getting to know it, and thus better understanding ourselves. For the sooner we are able to do that, the sooner we are able to live out our higher aspirations.

So in practice, what can we do about the resistance we experience? We can start by being mindful of all the big and little things that distract us and slow us down as we set out to do the things that our hearts are telling us to do. Notice when you procrastinate, when you make excuses, when you are highly defended, and take note of the things that you worry about. Likewise, acknowledge any patterns that you discover, the limitations you perceive, and the strength of your resistance, and remember that most often, the greater the resistance surrounding a particular longing, the more important it likely is.

As you make a habit of examining your resistance and get comfortable with it, you will become increasingly aware and empowered to move beyond these distractions and forge ahead into the creative and authentic territory of your soul. With more and more ease, you will bring your mind, body, and spirit into alignment and make decisions during each and every moment that support your higher purpose.

And ultimately, you will feel at home with yourself as you fly, and live joyful  life of conviction, intention, and peace.

Serenity Prayer

Most of us are familair with the following prayer:

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

…Through experience, I have learned that it is not always easy to accept the things in our lives that are not within our control. It can be rather difficult to come to terms with the fact that many things in life are uncontrollable, and perhaps even inevitable. Try as we might, we simply do not have the power to change all things we encounter, be it another individual or a relationship, an event or circumstance, or something different entirely. And this fact seems especially difficult to come to terms with when we are struggling to accept something that we do not like or something that may be particularly uncomfortable or difficult to endure. Especially when these things are what we are most desperately trying to change.

So when we struggle to simply accept these things, how are we supposed to take one step further and do so with serenity? How can we be expected to embrace such things “as is”, maintaining unconditional acceptance, a calm mind, and a peaceful heart? To approach life with a “Que Sera, Sera” attitude can be tricky, indeed.

Perhaps, it is better to remind ourselves not to dwell on such things, and remember that it is better to invest our energies into other things. The things that serve our higher purpose. The things that we can, in fact, influence and change.

Just as the prayer says, it takes wisdom to know the difference between what we can and cannot change. It takes wisdom to recognize what we have the power to influence, and what we must simply accept. And not only does it take wisdom to know the difference between these two things, it also takes courage to change that which is in our power. To adopt a different perspective, transform how we think, feel, and act. It can take courage to change the way that we relate, respond, and interact with the life that we are surrounded by. It takes courage to look at ourselves from a new angle and reflect on what we might do differently. And it especially takes courage to set those changes into motion.

So today, if you find yourself struggling with something in your life, consider this prayer. Ask yourself, what about this is within my control? What must I do to accept this with an open heart and an open mind? Or, how might I begin to let go of this entirely? How may I go about making a change, and, am I willing and able to take those steps? When you ask yourself such questions, you will likely find that as long as you are in control of your thoughts, and subsequently your feelings and your actions, you usually have more control over the “uncontrollable” than you had first realized.

I Am My Own Problem

A few years ago, while still in yoga training, my son found me buried under a pile of books, pouring over my notes and typing away on my computer.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Homework,” I told him.

“Homework!?” he asked. “Now what for?”

“Yoga training,” I told him.

He watched me for a moment longer before saying, “Mom, remember when you were stressed out about everything that you have to do all the time?”

“Yes?” I replied.

“Well, no offense,” he said, “But you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself. It is kind of your own fault”.

…My son has this fabulous way of rendering me speechless from time to time. He makes these wonderful observations, and then he finds these incredibly simplistic yet profound and blatantly honest ways of telling me like it is. He calls it like he sees it, and far more often than not, he is right. He holds up a mirror for me to gaze in to just when I seem to need it most, forcing me to stop dead in my tracks and reconsider what I have been up to.

As I do so, I often find myself adopting a new perspective and approaching life from a slightly new angle. He tends to begin many of said statements of truth with the dreaded No Offense, saying “No offense, Mom, but…” and then the words that follow are some eye-opening observation that he has made. As I listen to him, it is as if I am dying to know what brilliant statement he is about to make, while simultaneously bracing myself for some tough love.

Yet, even if he does make me wince from time to time, his insight really is a beautiful thing. Because every time he demonstrates a bit of such wisdom, he serves as a reminder that “I am my problem, and I am also my solution.” He reminds me that it is I that am the one stressing myself out. It is I that has the tendency to take on the world. And it is I that am the only one who can do anything about it, whether I keep on keepin’ on, or I give myself a break. He reminds me that, for better or for worse, I am up to me, and I had better take responsibility for myself. No matter the problem I am faced with, I must bear in mind that I represent some part of the problem, if not the whole thing. And, I must care for that part of myself differently if I am to reach a resolution.

So, today, I challenge you, readers, to take such a look at your life. And as you do, reflect on how you have become your own problem. Of course, do not be hard on yourself, but rather, acknowledge the tendencies you have that might perpetuate issues in your life.

And most importantly, ask yourself what you can do differently to become your own solution.

Laugh and the World Laughs With You

Most of us are well-acquainted with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And of course, this is an excellent rule to follow, as it offers us sound advice as we navigate our way through life. But how many of us are familiar with Rule Number Six? If you are not yet familiar with this rule, consider the following story:

“Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing the affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts through the door in a fury, shouting and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister quietly looks up says to the young man, “Peter, kindly remember Rule Number Six.” Instantly, Peter regains his composure, restores to complete calm, apologizes for the interruption, and leaves the room.

The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again by a hysterical woman, sobbing uncontrollably and gesturing wildly. Again the host prime minister quietly says, “Marie, please remember Rule Number Six.” Much like the gentleman before her, Marie calms down, apologizes, and exits the room.

When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister says, “My good friend, I have seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Pray tell, what is this Rule Number Six?” “Very simple,” the host prime minister replies. “Rule Number Six is ‘Don’t take yourself so damned seriously.’” After pondering this rule for just a moment, the visiting prime minister asks, “And what are the other rules?”

The host’s reply? “There aren’t any.”

As most of you well know, life can be pretty heavy sometimes. Our families and friends, our work, even our own well-being require constant and attention and care. And not only do these aspects of our lives require us to tend to them, but we also need to take them seriously in order to do so. Most simply said, sometimes life is no laughing matter. And yet while it is important to take our lives seriously, it can also be to our detriment to take things too seriously, all the time. Doing so can lead to burdens or problems that may not otherwise exists, a skewed or negative outlook, and undue stress and anxiety.

Because of this, it can be to our advantage to know when to lighten up bit. Whether that means making time for play, enjoying your loved ones, or finding the humor in life, enjoying the lighter side of life encourages us to make the most of we have. It can even help us put life into a healthier perspective as we focus on what is most important, letting go of what is not, and leaving time and energy for the things that matter most, such as our loved ones and our interests and passions.

Today, I encourage you to embrace the lighter side of life. Keep in perspective your responsibilities, your stressors, and the bumps in the road. Remember all that you have to enjoy in life. And maintain your sense of humor, as it is a strength beyond measure to laugh with others and appreciate what there is to love about your surroundings.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

As the old adage goes, “You can’t make a square peg fit in a round hole.”  Most of us know exactly what this saying means:  You cannot force something (or most often, someone) to be something that it is not.  We cannot make a square peg  fit any better into a round hole by thinking that the hole should be square or wanting the peg to be round.  Instead, we are much better suited to focus on and tend to what actually is, rather than wasting our precious resources fretting about the way things should or should not be.  And while most of us would agree with this reasoning, it is certainly easier said than done.

When we are honest with ourselves and examine how we view the world, the majority of us would have to admit that we have a relatively clear idea of how things should be.  Whether we are talking about ourselves, other people, the ways of the world, or something different entirely, it seems that we all have some kind of definition of what should and should not be happening.  We have our ideals, our beliefs, and our way of making sense of the world, and it reasonably follows that we would like to live in a world that supports our views.

And I think this is quite natural.  As humans, it is natural to have personal preferences and aversions.  It is even natural to want things to be “our way”.  To see the world through our very own eyes.  To have a few expectations here and there.  To have a compass of sorts, that helps guide us toward betterment, as we see fit.

And while this may be entirely natural, and even beneficial, it is not always in our best interest.  For when we become attached to our ideals and fixate on the way that things should be in favor of how things really are, we become frustrated and upset.  We might even pass unfair judgments based on our biased perspectives and unmet expectations.  As we cling to how things should be, we project them onto the world at large.  And when that happens, we react to what we think should exist, rather than acknowledging what actually does.  And this, of course, sets us up for further disappointment.

However, when are able to detach from these “should bes” and take the world as it is, in a more objective light, we are better able to accept and respond to life as it truly is.  Instead of being obscured by ideals, we understand the facts.  Rather than focusing on what is missing, or what we would like to find, we deal with what is actually present.  And this is empowering, because it helps us clarify and illuminate what is within our power to change, and what is not.  And that is what allows us to integrate our ideals with our reality, live in the here and now, and interact with life as fully as possible.