Monday, January 31, 2011

Moving into emptiness

I have to admit that the last few weeks I've had waves of fear taking over. Not all the time, but enough that it's been very challenging. These waves of fear happen when I start projecting into the future--a month from now when the money will run out and I won't know what to do. When the fear hits, which really feels like a life and death situation, all I can do is sit with it and feel it. I know that running to do something to try to make the fear go away is not the answer. The answer is to be still with the fear, and then hopefully drop into a deeper place.

Well, today I seem to have dropped into a place of emptiness. The fear seems to be gone, and I feel exhausted from it. All I want to do it sit outside in the sun. I don't feel joyful either. I just feel quiet. Emptiness. There is nothing here, although that is deceiving. All possibilities lie in emptiness.

As is often the case, my Course in Miracles lesson for the day is related to my state of emptiness. It asks me to stop lingering "in a place of vain desires and of shattered dreams." That hits home. I realize that I really suck at making myself happy. None of the jobs and none of the relationships that I've gone after have made me happy. The one year I can remember being happy was a year that I didn't plan but let the Universe take over and lead.

So it makes sense to me to start doing that again. Surrender my desires about what I think I want, and stay open to what shows up. After all, at this point none of my desires have much juice. A relationship would be nice, but it's no big deal if I don't have it. There is no material thing that I am longing for. I'd like to be able to pay my bills because that brings me peace. My bottom line desires--peace, joy and love--are not of this world. They are found by surrendering all my illusions to truth.

Nikos Kazantzakis wrote: Δέν φοβάμαι τίποτα. Δέν ελπίζω τίποτα. Είμαι ελεύθερος.
(Humor me, here. My brother taught me how to use Greek letters on the computer).
The translation is: I fear nothing. I hope for nothing. I am free.

When I first read this decades ago, embroidered on a pillow in my aunt's house, I had no idea what it meant. Now I understand this to be the way to true freedom. Today I am beginning to feel free.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Forgiveness is the key to escaping suffering

This morning I attended A Course in Miracles group. The teacher spoke about forgiveness, which is really the main theme of the Course. You cannot escape from hell unless you learn to forgive. The Course teaches that all forgiveness is self-forgiveness, as we do not hate people for what they have done but for what we have done. So in learning to forgive others we are really learning to forgive ourselves. After all, we cannot give to others something that we do not give to ourselves.

There is another way of looking at why it's important to forgive, if what I've written so far doesn't make sense. I once read that not forgiving is like taking poison and hoping that it will hurt the other person. Our lack of forgiveness eats away at us and causes us to become ill. It doesn't affect the people whom we are not forgiving. They could be out there having a very happy life, not having a clue that we have this grudge against them. Not forgiving keeps us in prison--not them.

Of course when the Course talks about forgiveness, it doesn't mean what passes for forgiveness in the mainstream world. What most of us think of as forgiveness is this: You are really a jerk who did something terrible that is unforgiveable. But I am so much better than you that I will forgive you even though you don't deserve it. This is not forgiveness at all; it is a condescending attack.

So what is true forgiveness? True forgiveness sees that there is nothing really to forgive. In my case I think about my father. True forgiveness happened because I was able to see that he didn't abandon me emotionally. He really loved me and did his best to take care of me. But he was old (late-50s when I was born) and didn't have the energy to play with me. I was telling a story of abandonment and ruining all my relationships with men, when I could have been telling a much better story. A story of how this man worked well into his 80s to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. He was loyal and committed and he loved us. What's there to forgive?

So let's start forgiving our parents and friends their imperfections. And before we do that, let's forgive ourselves for all our imperfections--for not being as loving as we would like, or as successful as we would like, or as enlightened as we would like to be. Let's cut everyone some slack--starting with ourselves. We are all going through some tough times right now, and forgiveness is the key to escaping suffering.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finding a place to belong

As the universe keeps pulling the rug from under me, I find myself trying to figure out where I belong. For decades I've worked in the corporate world. Over thirty years ago I received my MBA from New York University because 1) I wanted to earn as much money as I could and 2) women were not getting MBAs at the time, and I wanted to prove that a woman could do anything a man could do.

Although I achieved all the material things that I had longed for growing up (huge office on the 25th floor with sofa, TV, stereo; a large expense account; expensive trips; a six-figure salary) I was never very happy. Oh, I was content at times, and happy when I was promoted to vice president, but it was all happiness from an ego perspective. I never liked business. It was never my passion. But I felt comfortable in the business world. I belonged. I knew how to speak the language and how to dress the part. That is until now.

I took a trip recently to Silicon Valley to meet with a client, and discovered how out of place I feel among cubicles and professional people. I just don't belong there anymore. And the Universe knows this and has ended my work at the hi-tech company I've been working for--as of next week. If I wasn't so concerned about how I will pay my bills, I would see the perfection of this.

Ok, so I don't belong with professional business women anymore. So where do I belong? Well, I realized last night that I don't belong with "goddess women" either. I was invited to a friend's house last night for dinner, who is getting her Ph.D in women's spirituality. After a few hours of hearing "goddess this" and "goddess that" and sacred vaginas and how all spirituality seems to stem from the Feminine, I kind of lost it. "Is there room for the Masculine in this women's spirituality?" I asked in a way that offended one of the "goddess-women".

Ok, from my perspective there is something lop-sided about goddess spirituality, as much as there is something lop-sided about Christianity. I could never understand how Christianity could have a Trinity with a Father and a Son but no Mother. Hello?? Is something missing here? At the same time I can't see how there can be a spiritual path that has only the Mother and no Father. These seem to be opposite sides of the same coin, and I ain't buying it.

So I seem to be somewhere between the business women who have a great deal of masculine energy--which they need to in order to function in that world--and the women who worship the Mother and have little interest in the masculine. And my prayer is for balance. This morning I met with my pod--women from my Ultimatum workshop--and found the balance and support that I was looking for. Oh, I do belong somewhere--what a relief! Now my prayer is to find a place to belong workwise--a way to earn a living which supports who I truly am. Please God! There's got to me more to life than paying bills.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Taking "Love" out of our vocabulary

A friend told me about a speaker who is attracting a lot of people. He states that greed is a good thing. Hmmm... He also says that he doesn't know what love is, and has removed that word from his vocabulary. While I don't agree with his thoughts about greed, I see value in his taking "love" out of his vocabulary. I appreciate his honesty that he doesn't know what the word means. I think most of us are confused about this word.

The same friend has been describing a relationship with her ex which to me sounds horrifying. It's passionate, it's all consuming, it's obsessive, it's hurtful, it wants to control, it wants vengance. The movie Wuthering Heights has been presented as a love story to us when it really has very little to do with love and a lot to do with lust and all of the above.

So let's get clear. Lust, obsession, control, possesiveness, vengance, hate have nothing to do with love. Also neediness and having our needs mets are not about love. Last week I was considering moving in with a friend to save some money. She's a good friend and we enjoy each other's company. I thought we could be happy living together. Until she brought up her issue, that she saw this move as creating a type of family. On some level she wanted her housemates to fulfill some emotional needs that she has. I was clear that I needed my freedom and that I do not consider it appropriate to ask your house mates to meet your emotional needs.

That made me wonder whether it's appropriate to ask anyone, including your spouse or life-time partner, to meet your emotional needs. No, was the answer. I can't ask anyone to fulfill my emotional needs. Hmmm...That's not what love is.

So what is love? I can tell you that true love feels light; it's not heavy and dramatic. True love accepts the other person as he is and allows him the freedom to live his life any way that makes him happy; it's not about control. True love seeks to heal; it does not attack. True love is generous and wants to give; it is not needy. True love wants only the good of the other person.

Do I love this way? Not all the time. Ok, not most of the time. So perhaps I should take the word "love" out of my vocabulary. I've always felt that my words for God are Truth and Freedom. They will do for now. And I'll keep words like "kindness" and "forgiveness" in my vocabulary. Especially forgiveness, for myself and for others. I think that may lead to the path of true love.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The dark night of the soul turns to light

I apologize for not writing sooner. I couldn't. I suddenly found myself in a deep dark night of the soul where there was no ground to stand on. I was fine with a relationship ending; I was fine with work ending; I was fine with possibly having to move. Then my neighbor's cat, Saki, whom I was very fond of, was hit by a car and died. A neighbor walking his dog found the poor guy dead by the curb, and thought he was my cat. So he knocked on my door to ask me. I knew my cats were safe at home (whew!) but I went out to see if I could identify him. To my horror it was Saki and I called his mom who was on her way home from work to tell her the bad news. We both fell apart and I found myself crying for days.

I knew that I wasn't just crying for poor Saki. I was crying for the death of all things: the death of relationships, the death of careers, the death of.... well, you name it. This threw me into a dark night of the soul where it wasn't clear if this life was worth living. I couldn't use any tools I had to get out of the despair that took over. Actually, I knew that using any tools would just be an avoidance. All I could do was sit with this despair. And pray.

Yesterday as I was passing by a beautiful Catholic church, I saw the open doors and decided to go in and pray. I am neither Catholic nor religious, but this church has a beautiful energy, with its stained glass windows that depict women saints on one side, and men saints on the other. I stopped by my favorite saints: Mary Magdalene, Anna, Archangel Michael, and St. Francis of Assisi. I asked St. Francis, who is the protector of animals, to take care of Saki's soul.

Then I went to the front and stood in front of a life size statue of Jesus Christ. I stopped my mind and meditated while looking at this statue, and the statue started to glow. The glow became a blinding light. I sat down and kept looking at the light show for about 20 minutes (I think. Time stood still.) Wow! I thought to myself. I'm not alone.

I could have sat in front of Jesus' statue for a long time, but finally decided I should go. How can I leave you? I asked Him, in my mind. You can't leave me, was His reply. And I knew that to be true. I left feeling peaceful, knowing that everything was OK, and my day shifted after that. More miracles happened, but I won't go into those yet. I'm still in awe of the unseen support that shows up when you pray in ernest.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sitting at the feet of an enlightened master

Yesterday a friend and I went to hear Adyashanti speak. It was our first time attending satsang with him. I hadn't been to satsang in years, not since I left the spiritual teachers whom I had followed. (I don't count Ammachi, as getting hugged by her is a whole different ballgame.) I was curious--after so much time and having changed so much--how I would feel listening to someone "enlightened" speak.

I can say that it was very different from the olden days when I had a teacher. For one, I was pleasantly surprised that Adyashanti wore boots and we didn't have to take our shoes off. I was also glad that he wore jeans and "normal" clothing and didn't try to look like a guru. Furthermore he didn't have pictures of his teachers on the table--only flowers and a candle burning. All this was a relief as I am no longer able to stand anything that smells of guruhood.

I also liked that he spoke in simple English. There were no Sanskrit words in his speech. He said simple things that made sense to me, though there were no ahas. Losing the ego is like losing a 50 pound backpack, he said. I get it. We are born carrying this heavy backpack, and we see everyone else carrying theirs. Most of us don't realize that we can take it off and have a lighter life. Well, I realize how heavy my backpack is. I see that there are a few people who aren't carrying one, and they are joyful and light. My prayer is that my backpack drop off, or that I am able to lay it down. My ego with its fears, angers, grief, and desires is heavy indeed.

I also know that I can't do anything about it. Adyashanti said that all you can do is prepare and set the stage. God's Grace does the rest, and we don't know where and when that will happen. I understand this. I also understand that Adyashanti has nothing to give me beyond a context. He is simply a brother who has realized something that I haven't realized--yet. I used to think that enlightened masters were gods, all powerful, unconditionally loving, ...the list goes on and on. Now I know that they are ordinary people who, by God's Grace, have dropped their backpack and no longer suffer. Being with them simply reminds me of this possibility.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Relationships end when their time is up, and no sooner

Yesterday a relationship that I have been in with a man ended. It didn't end with a bang. It fizzled out. There was no energy left. We both knew it was over. There was no pain, just love and gratitude for the lessons learned. And what followed for me was excitement for the future, that I could actually have what I really wanted: a lifetime, committed, exclusive partner.

The four years of this on-and-off relationship were tumultuous. An issue would come up for me and I would do my usual thing and end the relationship, hoping that I would never see him again. But circumstances would keep bringing us together again--often Ammachi the hugging saint would be the cause--and we would come back together with more love, more understanding, and having cleared out some painful trait we each had that kept us from loving.

The reason I kept coming back was because I felt seen and accepted--more than I had ever been before. I also felt loved. Not the kind of love that is romantic and gives me everything I want, but the kind of love that tells me the truth and helps me grow. I believe he kept coming back for the same reason. I once asked him if it made sense to continue seeing each other, as the relationship took so much energy and was often painful. His reply was "If we don't do the work with each other, we'll have to do it with someone else." I could see the truth in that.

But at the Ultimatum workshop I had the privilege of seeing lifetime committed relationships. I sat in that energy and felt at the deepest level of my being: I want that! I committed to having such a relationship by the end of this year. I was open. He could become that, or I could meet someone new. I wasn't going to abandon him, but the form of the relationship had to change. Since we're so connected, I told him this in my meditation. He got the message.

Yesterday he called me. It was the first time we had spoken since our trip. I told him what was going on with me, but he already knew. "It's over," he said. "I felt it and called to make sure. " And we both knew this was true. As long as we wanted something from each other, hated each other, were angry at each other, never wanted to see each other again, the relationship was not over. We had to see it through. It only ended when I became very clear about what I wanted and continued to love him. He wasn't wrong because he wanted something else. I wanted him to be happy and he felt the same about me. We had completed this course, and could move on with much gratitude for each other.

I learned that we're not in control. We don't end a relationship when we want to, in order to be more comfortable. God ends the relationship for us, organically, when the lessons are learned.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Being comfortable is death

At the Ultimatum workshop I just attended, we were grouped together in "pods". I loved our pod and it's definitely part of why I enjoyed this workshop so much. I remember when we first met, we each talked about our issues, our pain. All except for one pod-mate who kept saying that everything was perfect as it was. I didn't believe her. I felt that she just didn't want to face her pain. When she finally broke out in tears at one of our meetings, I think my other pod-mates were horrified. I was happy. Finally she had shown up. Finally she was being real.

I was clear that I was not in this group to make my pod-mates feel comfortable. I was in the group to support their growth and awakening. To truly be alive you must be pushing your edge of comfort. Otherwise you're not living; you're just sleeping through life.

But while I'm clear that I'm not supporting other people's comfort, I'm not so clear when it comes to myself. I like being comfortable. I like to spend time reading a good book on my couch, knowing that there is food in the refrigerator and that my rent is paid. "What's wrong with that?" you might ask. Nothing if you only do it once in a while. Nothing if you're not betraying yourself to pay the rent. But I have to admit that my reading books at this point is more of an escape than a pleasure. And the way I've been paying my bills--at least for the last year--has been a self-betrayal. I've been doing it so I can stay comfortable in the same house and not have to expand my horizons.

I feel it's time that I stopped supporting myself in being comfortable, and started supporting myself in soaring to my potential. Rather than be comfortable, it's time to live.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

When Fear Falls Away

A friend recently had an awakening experience where all her fear disappeared. She is no longer afraid. Along with fear, her guilt and self-hatred are gone. She is now experiencing joy for no apparent reason. Causeless joy.

I just finished a book called When Fear Falls Away by Jan Frazier. I bought it because I wanted to understand my friend's experience. In her book, Frazier talks about praying that she could go to the doctor and not feel fear. She woke up the next morning and all her fear was gone. And it never came back. What filled the space that fear left? Causeless joy, love, bliss.

I've known for a while that my deepest desire is for freedom. "Freedom from what?" someone asked me a few days ago. Good question. Freedom from other people's expectations, freedom from society's rules, freedom from... the list went on and on. But finally it got to the bottom. My deepest desire is freedom from fear.

Fear has been running my life for far too long. I got my MBA not because I like business, but because I wanted to make money. I wanted to survive. This theme keeps coming up for me, even these days when I consider myself more "awake." I came back from vacation where I was feeling blissful and found myself stressed today, in a bad mood, not able to breathe. I realized how much I dislike one of the projects I'm working on. Then the idea occurred to me that I could quit. The job is only a few hours a week, it's not enough for me to earn a living, and there is no joy in it at all--just stress. As soon as I woke up to the fact that I could leave this painful mini-job, I started breathing again, my mood improved, and I started feeling excitement about all the future possibilities.

Then I felt too good to continue working. So I went to my living room, lit the fireplace, sat on the couch with a blanket, a good book, and my cat on my lap, and had a blissful afternoon.

So my prayer too has become to be free of fear. I know we weren't meant to do work we dislike that is stressful, just to pay the bills and survive. Is this what I want to be written on my epitaph: She survived? None of us are going to have that written on our epitaph because ultimately we're not going to survive. So why aren't we doing work that we are passionate about, that feeds our souls and that is in service to others? Only one reason. Fear

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back from a week of miracles

I just returned from Dr. Donald Epstein's Ultimatum workshop in Denver ( The man is beyond genius. He invented Network Chiropractic 20 years ago, and keeps inventing new systems that support the body, mind and soul. The Ultimatum is his most recent work. Donny, as he likes to be called, knows what the fabric of Reality is made of, and he knows how to support your energy so that you can shift to your highest potential.

Last year, when I attended my first Ultimatum, my main issue was health and lacking any kind of enthusiasm for life. During the week he moved energy into my physical and emotional bodies, and brought passion into my life. This year the theme for me was abundance. He moved abundance into my personal soul, and as a result I now feel that work will be coming to me that is joyful and uses my gifts, as opposed to work that just pays the bills.

Does this magic (which is really advanced science beyond most people's comprehension) that Donny performs work? Absolutely! The last day of the workshop I had a conversation with another attendee with whom I had really connected. Turns out she owns a company that edits books and it looks like I'll be working with her. The day after the workshop ended I met with a training company and know that I am meant to be working with them. There is a good chance that I could be training thousands of people, which is something I've always wanted to do. Especially if I can also have my book available to them, which I can.

Somehow life has really shifted for me, and I find myself in a parallel Universe where excitement of future possibilities has taken the place of fear of not being able to earn a living.

The Ultimatum is not an easy workshop to go to. It's expensive (worth every penny) and you need to be doing Network Chiropractic in order to be considered. Not only that, but several detailed forms need to be filled out, and it is not guaranteed that you will be accepted. But from my perspective, all this is a small price to pay for the miracles that happen during this year long--I mean week long--retreat.

If you haven't tried Network Chiropractic, I highly recommend it. It's available country-wide, though the San Francisco Bay Area probably has more network practitioners per capita :-)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! Make intentions not resolutions.

I thought I'd take a break from preparing for my trip tomorrow ( a workshop in Denver) to wish everyone a happy new year.

This is, of course, a time of new beginnings. But rather than make new year's resolutions, I suggest that we all make intentions for the new year. What's the difference?

Resolutions are about fixing something that is wrong with us, correcting some bad habits:
  • I'll stop eating sugar
  • I'll lose 20 pounds
  • I'll work out more often.
  • I'll call my mother more often.

It's all about "shoulds"--doing what we should do because we're listening to someone out there who is making the rules. There is no joy or passion in resolutions, for they do not come from our heart. So we are bound to fail. I'll stop eating chocolate this year. Yeah, right.

Intentions are about creating something that comes from our heart, that gives us joy:

  • I intend to carve out time from my busy schedule to start writing (painting/sculpting/dancing/cooking... you fill in the blank, as long as it's something you enjoy).
  • I intend to take time out for myself and walk in nature.
  • I intend to open my heart and become more loving.

Intentions operate at a much higher level than resolutions. They skip over the small issues and go to the big picture, where our soul is calling us to go. They are empowering.

So what are my intentions for the new year?

  1. To create work that I am passionate about and that fulfills me.
  2. To create a partnership and friendships that are loving, joyful, and healing.
  3. To create a life that is abundant--that goes beyond surviving to thriving.
  4. To awaken to who I really am.

What are your intentions for 2011?

I look forward to hearing about them when I return on January 11.