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Posts Tagged ‘courage’

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2016 has been a very chaotic year, hasn’t it?

I had told my friends in December that I sort of felt like 2016 would be a year Outside of Time: not quite linear with the past, but neither would it be free from past influences. Meaning, just because things went a certain way in the past, that doesn’t mean they’ll go the same way now. We’ll still have to deal with them though, and it may even seem like everything from the past is coming up to be dealt with at once.

That’s exactly how 2016 has been feeling to me. Year of the Id. Everything bubbling up at once, resistant to the old ways of dealing with them.

The upside of this is that we’re getting new opportunities to resolve things that have gone unresolved for far too long. And if the old ‘tricks’ and ‘tactics’ won’t work, then we’re finally forced to resolve them in new ways. Since the old ways clearly weren’t working, this gives us the opportunity to finally move forward.

So if you are also feeling the crushing waves of chaos battering you against the shore — or, worse, the undercurrent pulling you under — take a moment to ground yourself.

Take a deep breath, then breathe it out slowly, releasing your frustration at all that arises.

Take another breath, then slowly breathe out your grief at all that has slipped away.

Breathe in again, this time opening your heart as well as your lungs, letting the breath of fresh air sustain you.

Breathe in another sustaining breath, letting the oxygen nourish your mind, opening it up to fresh perspectives.

Through breathing, create an eye within the raging storm, and let events continue to unfold for you. As they do so, practice acceptance for what’s unfolding, learning to look for the new possibilities opening up.

I have a sense that 2017 has the potential to be a truly beautiful year, filled with progress and possibilities that we hadn’t before thought possible. To get there, we’ll have to make it through 2016, learning as much as we can about how to build the space for such a beautiful year to unfold.

May you find peace and wisdom throughout whatever events are surrounding you this year, and may they bring you to a better place. Just hang onto your center, keep your eyes and mind open, and I trust you’ll make it through.

 

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follow-your-dreams

What is that thing that makes you light up at the idea of doing it?

What kind of activity do you feel that itch-under-your-skin to get done, and done right?

When you’re feeling idle or delayed by some part of the day-to-day, what is it you daydream about accomplishing?

How could you pursue that thing, just a little more?

How could you fit a few more minutes, or perhaps an hour, into your day or week?

How much brighter might your life be with more of your dreams alive in it?

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The recurring theme today seemed to be people trying to cling to habits or ideas that made them feel safer or more secure, but really didn’t help. Challenges that brought those “comfort blankets” into question just seemed to make that defensive need deeper, bringing up more emotional responses than thoughtful. But then, I guess that’s how comfort blankets operate.

The emotionally challenging air today was most notable in my five-year-old, but it seemed to be affecting most of the adults I spent much time with, including myself. I tried to overcome it, seeking ways to find the holes in any threadbare comfort blankets I may be clinging to against the cold harshness of reality. Again, that’s kind of tough to do, because comfort blankets usually feel cozier than they are, but I tried. It was the least I could do on a day when I had to try to fight against the clinging of other people to things that were hampering what I needed to do.

Sitting here at the end of my day, I think I can say that I did an okay job, but that I only started the process. I feel as though the next few weeks are going to require a lot of us to hold our comfort blankets up to our eyes, and see how much daylight peeks through.

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No more debating.

No more doubting.

No more asking for permission to be yourself.

No more allowing invisible barriers to keep you boxed in.

No more holding back.

Just be.

Just be yourself.

Just be courageous.

Just be free.

That thing you’ve been wondering if you’d ever have what it takes to give it a shot?

Get out there and take the first steps.

It’s time.

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StrongEnoughI have recently been diagnosed with a very-reparable issue with my spine.  I was told that with support and treatment it could be fully recovered within 9-12 months, on average.

I wasn’t happy to hear the news, but I wasn’t upset, either.  I’ve had pain that I didn’t realize was from something that could actually be fixed in a year or less. I’ve lived with frequent (or even constant) pain for almost two decades now thanks to hyperacusis, so that was a welcome idea.

The real reason I wasn’t upset though is that I have already struggled with and overcome other health issues.  My hyperacusis has become much better over the past year, and I am no longer very limited by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. These haven’t gotten better all on their own.  They have only improved as I improved my own confidence in my ability to overcome, and my belief I was strong enough for the journey.

To turn the corner, I had to accept that I was already strong enough to win out against the challenges I faced. I had to recognize that I didn’t need anybody or anything to fix me, because I wasn’t broken. I just happen to have a body that doesn’t work the same as most others, so it’s up to me to master the skills of living within it. I had to find that space within me that held that strength, that wisdom, and let it guide me forward. After many years of riding a roller coaster of upswings and downswings, somehow I finally learned to hold on to that center.

My helper on overcoming this latest challenge also believes that only we can heal ourselves; medicine just helps us in the process. She reminded me of how often people give up hope before overcoming their challenges, and asked if I might write down some things about how I overcame my own. I didn’t think I really had that much to say, because I can’t really think of things to say that I haven’t already read elsewhere.

That said, I do remember being helped by reading of others’ journey, and also that I tend to discount my own road as being pretty day-to-day, as it happens to be the one I’ve spent my days in. So I’m going to shrug at myself, and see if I can’t try to share some things about what I’ve faced, and how I’ve overcome.

I think I’m strong enough for that. 🙂

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To quote Amy Howe’s piece, “In historic decision, Court strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage.”  As someone who has a deep respect and gratitude for all the ways love is expressed in this world, this means a lot to me.

I remember watching the progress of this struggle a few years ago, when cautious voices were asking people to slow down on this issue, and not push the matter too quickly. I understood their fear, that the wrong case would go before the wrong court, and there would be a heavy blow dealt to equality just because people tried to move too fast.

So I don’t mean to say that those who are cautious are cowardly. However, those who stand up in the face of opposition from within and without, driven forward by the pounding in their heart — they most certainly are courageous. I recognized the dangers, as it’s pretty evident what happens to people who buck against long-held “traditions”. But I felt the courageous way was the only way forward.

I sincerely believe that love is the powerful force we need to resolve the obstacles that remain before us. But love alone won’t effect those solutions; we each must do our part to speak and act with love in all the ways we feel moved to do so. It takes courage. It takes patience. It takes kindness for others and with ourselves. But as much as we need love, love needs us to flow through this beautiful world of ours.

Please, keep an ear toward the beating of your own heart, and allow it to guide you along the path it needs to travel with you. It will guide you true, and together you will make your corner of our planet a brighter place to be.

Note: The title of this post is taken from Galifesto. It’s currently available for pre-order; contact me if interested in a review copy.

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A couple hours ago, I enjoyed talking with a young man who was under 25. He expressed a fear of growing older, and my friend who’s just over 25 suggested it’s better than the alternative of dying young. I also pointed out that growing older is pretty awesome. You get to learn so much more about yourself and how wonderful you are, and gain privileges of age and experience.

I also suggested picking up yoga, as you are only as young as your spine is flexible. The main thing though is keeping the right perspective. The whole point of life is experiencing it as fully as you can, and learning how better to experience as the years go by. There’s no reason to dread the trip, and also no reason to rush it.

You carry your life inside you. So long as you live, you can’t lose it, and nobody can take it from you. You can just choose not to enjoy it, or you can choose to let it live you to the fullest.

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Today, I practiced more at keeping up the discipline of a relaxed and aware mindset. I was feeling a downturn again, and was struggling with things that were keeping me from even starting what I’d planned to have completed first thing in the morning. I kept reminding myself to not think like someone who’s overwhelmed, but like someone who is mindful of the limitations of the day and staying on pace to overcome them.

I had help in this by a story I heard last night.

The Shopkeeper

In feudal Japan, life wasn’t so good to a simple shopkeeper. He struggled to make ends meet, a struggle made harder by taxes, bandits, or even samurai taking some or all of what he and his customers needed to get through the month. The life of a peasant wasn’t worth much, and the life of a shopkeeper wasn’t any different.

Finally, this shopkeeper decided he didn’t want to be such easy prey, particularly for the bandits. So he began training with a master in the martial arts. Without neglecting his shop, he dedicated the remainder of his time to becoming a worthy, and then the finest student of this master. Eventually, he had learned all his master could teach him, leaving only life to test his skill.

His test came when he was walking home with his wife, and they were beset by bandits. Soon they were surrounded, being pushed around and berated for being so helpless and worthless. His wife then cried out, “Stop thinking like a shopkeeper before they kill us both!”

This snapped him out of it. His decades-long training to cower for his life was replaced by his years-long training to protect lives. Soon the bandits lay on the ground, and he walked his wife to their peaceful home.

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I’m sitting here processing the news that a loved one has lost a loved one whom I didn’t know well, but treasure for his place in my loved one’s life. I’m too far away to be able to offer my direct support, so I’m putting extra focus in my heart to give the indirect support I can.

It’s putting my mind on how we each process sorrow. I’m turning to my own spiritual gumbo of “Christian Zen Taoist” and so on and so forth… and realizing how tough it can be sometimes to communicate exactly how I experience the world and the people who share it with me, particularly in times like this.

I know I’ve written before that when I consider the Buddhist ideal of “non-attachment”, I view it similar to how Alan Watts spoke of “not getting hung up about things”. It’s not that we don’t develop deep and meaningful connections; rather, we practice holding in our hearts and minds the interconnectedness of all things when those individual connections are severed.

It can be a pretty painful practice while we recover from a severed connection, though.

In a well-lived life, there will be people, places and things we will love. We will treasure when they are near, and miss them when they are gone. We will feel bright joy and tranquil comfort, and if we practice we can even feel those warmths deeply while we are within them. We can also feel hot anger and cold sorrow, and it’s important to practice feeling those consciously as well. We need to not fear painful emotions, nor get caught up in the idea of them. We need to develop the strength and courage to walk through the fire and ice of our own soul, without imagining that they are anything greater than any other step on our journey to becoming skillful, powerful human hearts.

Tougher, yes. But not greater.

I think that’s part of the practice, too. Letting it be tough. Letting it feel senseless. Letting the emotions wash right over us and even carry us away for a little while, if that’s the path we’re on. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Take care things don’t get too carried away, sure, but there is nothing to fear in letting ourselves feel anger, or sorrow, or fear. We have these emotions because we’re trying to tell ourselves something, or work through something. So by sitting with ourselves and letting these lessons flow through us, we can get where we’re headed and set the baggage aside once we’ve gotten all we need out of it.

I think I’ve talked myself out on this for the moment, so I’ll just share a bit from Alan Watts’ words from his Lecture on Zen:

Jon-Jo said ‘the perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing, it refuses nothing. It receives but does not keep.’ And another poem says of wild geese flying over a lake, ‘The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection, and the water has no mind to retain their image.’ In other words this is to be–to put it very strictly into our modern idiom–this is to live without hang-ups, the word ‘hang- up’ being an almost exact translation of the Japanese _bono_ and the Sanskrit _klesa_, ordinarily translated ‘worldly attachment,’ though that sounds a little bit–you know what I mean–it sounds pious, and in Zen, things that sound pious are said to stink of Zen, but to have no hang-ups, that is to say, to be able to drift like a cloud and flow like water, seeing that all life is a magnificent illusion, a plane of energy, and that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Fundamentally. You will be afraid on the surface. You will be afraid of putting your hand in the fire. You will be afraid of getting sick, etc. But you will not be afraid of fear. Fear will pass over your mind like a black cloud will be reflected in the mirror. But of course, the mirror isn’t quite the right illustration; space would be better. Like a black cloud flows through space without leaving any track. Like the stars don’t leave trails behind them.

– Alan Watts, in “Lecture on Zen”

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I went looking for a koan to write about before bed, and came across this old favorite.

If You Love, Love Openly

In the traditional Zen monastery, it generally wasn’t the done thing for monks and nuns to have relationships. Both monks and nuns shaved their heads, which besides being practical was thought to discourage those heads from being easily turned.

However, this wasn’t the case for a nun named Eshun. Her shaved head seemed to accentuate the beauty of her face and form, and several monks were enamored of her. One of them sent her an ardent letter, insisting that she meet him privately, in secret.

So the next morning after the master’s lecture to the group, Eshun stood up. She turned to the letter-writer and said, “If you truly love me so much, come and embrace me now.”

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