“Through love all that is bitter will be sweet. Through love all that is copper will be gold. Through love all dregs will become wine. Through love all pain will turn to medicine.” ~Rumi
Throughout the Covid lockdown, I read about so many people world-wide taking this time to rest and reset. What a beautiful idea that was. Sadly, that was not an option for me. I have spent the past couple months just trying to keep my head above water. Seems every time I come up for air, I get hit with another wave of chaos and drama.
I try to rejoice in the negative karmic seeds being burned off, but have been unable to conjure up even a tiny bit of gratitude for this. I have mostly maintained my daily meditation and yoga practice but find I’m not with a single breath. I am truly thankful for all the blessings in my life, but am surprised by how easily the anger and sadness overwhelm me. I am applying every single tool in my toolbox that I’ve amassed these past 27 years and believe them to be the only reason I’m able to find the strength to get to the surface of the raging sea to catch that single breath of air before the next wave hits sucking me further underwater.
I have no sanctuary, no place to seek comfort. Even my home is under attack. Among the stress and betrayal I’ve endured, I now have to stand guard to protect my dogs against those that seek to seize and destroy them for no other reason than their need to win is greater than their capacity for kindness. I’m heartbroken to have given up my beloved Ruby, but comforted in knowing she is safe from harm. I’m on alert and every sound has me peering out from behind the blinds to see if the dog police are here to take my other fur babies away.
I know I’m suffering first world issues and have been mostly spared from the very real problems of senseless violence, severe poverty, starvation, illness and racial persecution.
I try to keep my pain in perspective by practising gratitude for my abundant life. I truly aspire to be of service to others, but, lately, can’t seem to find the energy. My sleep is poor, my stress levels are dangerously high, my blood pressure is often worryingly elevated, my vision is consistently blurred now and I have headaches that are sometimes debilitating. I don’t say all this to seek out sympathy. I say this because I’m genuinely fearful for my health.
I’ve been in survival mode for so many weeks now, I can’t seem to catch up on any real healing. My adrenals are long since worn out, despite my best efforts to support them. I’ve received so much wonderful advice and have really endeavoured to apply it, however, I’m so tapped out energetically that I fear one more helpful suggestion of something I “should” try will push me over the edge.
The most painful realisation has been how weak I feel, despite decades of spiritual practice, emotional work and just plain sheer will. How could I be in such a pit of despair when I have every tool and every advantage available to me? I feel ashamed, which only adds to the struggle.
Outside, I continue to present my stronger self, but it’s a lie. Inside I’m collapsing. The sheer weight that’s been heaped on my increasingly narrow shoulders is too great. This groundlessness has been difficult to embrace. Leaning in to the pain has long been my practice, but have I leaned in too far? Have I embodied the suffering so completely that now I can’t see a way through it? There is a numbness that’s threatening to form…. a well used survival tool from my past, along with anger – my old shield used to deflect overwhelming sadness.
I go out into the world and try not burden others with my pain. I laugh and joke instead of cry. I smile instead of frown. I try to keep my darker feelings to myself and engage all my energy in listening to others and how they are doing, but I fail completely. My self-centeredness knows no bounds these days. All the meetings, workshops, podcasts, yoga, meditation and breathwork inexplicably seems to only add to my anxiety. I’m truly bewildered by this. The warrior in me is wilting…
My mind knows that the sun is shining behind this black cloud. I know everything is impermanent. I know love conquers fear. I know getting out of bed everyday and continuing to do all the things I need to do to stay afloat are not a waste of time and eventually this too shall pass. I know that I matter and my value lies in my BE-ingness, not in my DO-ingness. I know that I deeply love others and that others truly love me. I know all this pain serves to strengthen me. I know I am fully supported by the universe and one day I’ll look back on this time as a time of great shifting toward my awakening. I know that I’ll one day be grateful for these opportunities to learn just how strong I truly am. I’ve said it before… a broken heart is an open heart. I know I’m feeling the depths of this pain because my heart is wide open.
However, this doesn’t ease my pain. I need this “knowing” to find its way into my heart.
I will resist the urge to shut down and go numb. I will strive to be fully present to everything as it unfolds. I will be vigilant against the dark thoughts and practice compassion for myself and others.
My salvation lies in creating a sanctuary… a bubble of love. I will continue to call in the forces of light to illuminate my path and show me the way through. I will remain open to healing and insulate from useless negativity. I will find the balance between opposing forces and walk the line. I will move through the discomfort of change, this shedding of the old skin that no longer serves me. I will continue to stand up to injustice and endeavour to protect the vulnerable.
I will call the cops on this pity party and find my bliss! In the meantime, please continue to send some love my way. I could sure use it!
“Magic is not a practice. It is a living, breathing web of energy that, with our permission, can encase our every action.” ~Dorothy Morrison
There is some magical shit happening in my life right now. I’m overwhelmed with this intense feeling of power coursing through my body and, in particular, my hands.
2020 is looking to be an incredible year of awakening and connection. I’m both excited for and nervous of all the changes coming for me. The forest is calling me. New lands are calling me. New & meaningful connections are calling me. The healing arts are calling me. My only job now is to simply open my heart to receiving and to not allow ego, in the form of fear, to get it the way. Simple, yes. Easy, no. I’m reminded of one of my favourite quotes by Goethe, which is quite appropriate now: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” I will be bold.
As I sit here writing this, I’m filled with so much love and gratitude for this life and all the people and experiences I’ve been blessed to know. I just want to explode with JOY!
2019 led me on some amazing adventures! It brought me to tears with appreciation for all the opportunities to experience love and connection with both humans and animals. I’ve made the most incredible new friends and deepened the connections with those already in my soul tribe. I’ve deepened my connection with myself and the truth of who I am & what I’ve come here to share. I’ve also experienced intense mourning for the relationships that needed to fall away and for the aspects of myself I’ve outgrown and shed.
On the first day of this new year, I discovered powerful healing energy coursing through me. I discovered a new calling with a friend that I haven’t quite clarified and can’t articulate yet. I’ve experienced profound love and gratitude that I ‘m unable to find the right words for, other than ineffable. I’ve come home.
My wish for you and all beings is that you find a deep and lasting happiness, are free from suffering, and are able to bring much benefit to the world by sharing your unique and powerful love and light.
“Be still and listen. The Earth is singing.” ~ Sarah Williams
Make space for quiet. As I behold the majesty of a beautiful forest, silence is the most authentic reaction. Create space for that kind of silent awe every. single. day. Look for things that inspire, amaze, bring forth a spring of love, wellness and connection from my heart. From this place of pure gratitude, peace is the natural result. There’s no need to force it or cling to it. The more I live in this place of ease & flow, it naturally becomes my new norm, my new habitual response.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ~ Leo Tolstoy
This love meditation, called Metta Meditation, is adapted from the Visuddimagga (The Path of Purification) by Buddhaghosa – 5th century C.E. and presented by Thich Nhat Hanh – a Zen Buddhist Monk:
To begin, sit still and calm your body and your breathing. Sitting still, you aren’t too preoccupied with other matters.
Begin practising this love meditation on yourself (“May I be peaceful…”). Until you are able to love and take care of yourself, you can’t be of much help to others.
After that, practise on others (“May he/she/you/they be peaceful…”) – first on someone you like, then on someone neutral to you, then on someone you love, and finally on someone the mere thought of makes you angry. After practising the Metta Meditation, you may find that you can think of them with genuine compassion…💕
May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognise and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in myself.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.”
May this love meditation bring you so much bliss, you’ll breath it onto everyone you encounter today lifting their spirits.
I recently spent 9 days at a Buddhist Retreat in a magnificent part of New Zealand. It was hours and hours every day in meditation and listening to teachings. It was a fairly gruelling schedule that pulled me right out of my comfort zone. Sitting in lotus or half lotus for so many hours every day proved to be my biggest challenge. My knees, neck and back shouted at me pretty consistently, but I had set the goal to remain on the cushion throughout the entire retreat. It wasn’t because the cushion is the fast-track to enlightenment or anything. I could have meditated and received teachings in a comfy chair, but I was determined to achieve my goal.
The primary purpose of my goal was to sit with the discomfort and use it as an anchor for mindfulness… to keep me alert and present. Pain of any kind is the best tool for awareness that I know of. When we’re in pain, whether physical or mental, we are highly present and, usually, single-pointedly focused on it. So, I decided to use it as a meditation tool.
I sat dutifully on my cushion for too many hours to count over the course of 9 days. While I outwardly appeared to be peaceful and content, providing a source of strength and inspiration for a couple of my fellow retreatants, who were kind enough to tell me this, on the inside I was suffering. I felt obligated to let them know the extent of my pain, not to complain, but merely to let them know that looks can be deceiving.
And then came the instruction from Venerable Robina that we were to remain in strict silence for 2 full days. I actually welcomed this as I often engage in pointless chatter to fill the silence instead of embracing it. This proved to be so incredibly beneficial that I found coming back to my normal life difficult. I never fully realised how loud it is.
For a while before the retreat, I was feeling the pull to move toward peace and quiet and away from negativity and drama. I was finding the constant noise of others and my own mind to be too much and needed to reach inward to my monastic nature for refuge.
In silence I more easily find my bliss. Creating a protective bubble of serenity was enabling me to move through the difficult changes I have been going through with much more grace and acceptance. Trying to tackle the bigger issues with so much negative energy swirling around me proved too hard. I had become increasingly discontent. My experience reminded me that I am much more effective in solving my problems, as well as being there for others, when I am in a peaceful and more balanced place. Joining others in their negativity and suffering doesn’t benefit anyone. It only creates more negativity and suffering. Working towards creating a stable mind became my calling, knowing it will bring innumerable benefits.
So, I continue to observe my mind and endeavour to embrace all its crazy story telling and habitual negative patterns so I may one day create a state of equanimity. I’m already feeling the benefits of moving away from negativity with an increased spaciousness and sense of peace. I feel more openness to and appreciation for all the profound gifts in my life. These past few months have given me a deepening gratitude for the abundance and joy all around me when I choose the higher vibration of blissful awareness.
I have a long way to go to remove my habitual responses, as I can still so easily be drawn back into my negative patterns. However, I already feel so empowered by the changes I have made so far this year, that I’m dedicated to continuing to study the Dharma, along with my mind in meditation, and to strive to repair my karmic debts, which block me from enjoying a long-lasting happiness. After all, I believe that finding sustainable joy, loving kindness and compassion is the whole point of our existence.
In the words of John Lennon:
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
When I am triggered to engage in an activity that is harmful to myself or others, to do the habitual thing that always leads to suffering, how do I refrain?
First, I need to identify the trigger. For me, it’s usually an impulse, a thought with a juicy, seductive nature that lures me in. I call her my hungry ghost. She wants poisonous foods, or to be angry, to be perfect, or to engage in a loop of negative self-talk and toxic judgement.
First, I need to pause and breathe; be an unattached witness; bring mindfulness in….turn to my star.
Where is my star?
My star is within.
What will bring me toward my star?
Being fully present.
What is my real need that’s not being met? What do I really want in this moment?
Be a witness…. What am I really feeling underneath the impulse?
I’m feeling bored, lonely, tired, overwhelmed, sad or angry.
Will engaging in this harmful activity really satisfy my underlying needs?
No, it never does.
What will satisfy my needs?
To feel connected, loved, purposeful, engaged, worthy.
How is feeding my ghost going to bring that about?
What is the inevitable result when I feed her?
The continuing loop of shame and self-loathing.
How do I break the loop, the habit?
Embrace my hungry ghost. Meet her with loving-kindness and compassion. Hating my hungry ghost only strengthens her power over me.
Be a witness. Be present. Take a moment to breathe and ask myself the questions above.
Then go do something else.
Take a walk, meditate, tell someone I love them, eat something alive with nutrients, get off social media and pick up that book I’ve been wanting to read, take a nap. Do anything that truly feeds my soul.
This is the practice to heal my hungry ghost. I vow to nurture myself this year and to find balance.