Just when you thought you were in the darkness, you stumble upon the beauty.
Just when you thought you were in the darkness, you stumble upon the beauty.
Paradoxically, without the experience of having been safely held and soothed, we cannot grow up enough to make the soother our adversary. We need the worthy opponent. We need to feel the effects of our own power in the world and to experience our own mastery. To acknowledge, experience, and bear reality — and finally, to bring it into perspective.
– Stephen Cope, Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, p. 288.
If we allow ourselves to be ravished by the irrational we are compelled to face our own evil. Trust takes on a new dimension. In knowing our own darkness, we know what another’s darkness can release. We learn to forgive and love. Then, we don’t know from moment to moment what will happen next. As [the] Pashupats clearly understood — this is God’s country, not ours.
There was a time when it was an accepted truth: water is wet and I will lose anything that isn’t nailed down. Keys, important papers, books, sunglasses, gloves, you name it: I’ve lost many. This was partly due to the fact that I was sleepwalking. A lot. I would have a dream that filled me with this intense need to finish a task or do something right away and upon waking I would find (eventually) keys stashed in the freezer and college textbooks in the dormitory suite bathroom. I was wound pretty tight.
That continued until five years ago or so, when a series of events forced me to wake up and pay attention to the enormous amount of stress that had become an everyday norm for me. Leaving toxic relationships, starting therapy, starting meditation: all these things have help me reduce my baseline stress level a great deal.
But in the last two weeks, it all came back. I’m losing things again. Very Important Things as well as relatively inconsequential things which all add up to some serious frustration (with myself) and A LOT of time spent simply looking for things.
On top of that, several of my electrical devices have glitched or shorted out, all in a short period of time. It’s as if the buzz of my own misdirected energy is affecting them, too. I wish I knew what was going on, and when this will be over.
Whoever you are, where ever you are, i love you sugar.
From her most recent column, to a woman whose lover refuses to come out to her parents:
Doing so is indeed an ultimatum, but it’s the best sort of ultimatum—one that has everything to do with a positive change in your own life, rather than your wish to control another. It’s an ultimatum that honors a boundary that’s key to your happiness, your psychological well-being, and your integrity. You won’t stop loving your partner if she chooses to stay in the closet. You won’t stop cherishing the wonderful person she is and treasuring the times you’ve shared. You may not even stop being her lover.
But you will profoundly revise the terms of your relationship. You will stop building a long-term romantic partnership with her under conditions that are patently untenable to you. You will stop having a stake in her lie.
This is the hard part, of course. The part where you don’t get to simply float along in the la-la land of your true love while hoping what’s really not good at all will get magically better. This is the part that numerous others have confronted with their own beloved partners who must change in order for their relationships to survive—people who have said you must stop abusing alcohol to be with me, or you must stop snorting cocaine, or you must learn to manage your anger, or you must not belittle my ambitions, or you must be honest or this just isn’t going to work.
These ultimatums require us to ask for something we need from another, yes, but ultimately they demand the most from us. They require us to acknowledge that the worse case scenario—the end of a cherished relationship—is better than the alternative—a lifetime of living with sorrow and humiliation and rage. It demands that we look ourselves squarely and hard in the eye and ask: What do I want? What do I deserve? What will I sacrifice to get it? And then it requires that we do it. In fear and in pain and in faith, we swim there, to wherever that is, in the direction of real life.
My beloved child, break your heart no longer.
Each time you judge yourself you break your own heart.
You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality.
The time has come, your time
To live to celebrate and to see the goodness that you are…
Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obstruct you
If one comes, even in the name of “Truth”, forgive it for its
Do not fight
And breathe – into the goodness that you are.”
What would it take for you to accept your life –and be ok with your life– just as it is, right now?
I have to keep asking myself this question these days, just to serve as a reminder that I shouldn’t let myself get caught up in feelings of wrongness or broken-ness when they arise. During a meditation session with a friend the other day, my mind was so unsettled that I was startled by the ending gong. I actually jumped, like you do when you’re watching a suspenseful film. After two years of meditating through anger, depression, self-loathing, and frustration, I don’t think I’ve ever been so on edge. And this, after one of the longest stretches of happiness and contentment I’ve ever experienced.
Realization: every day of my dog’s life with me, I have felt somehow inadequate or incompetent as her keeper. Every day for YEARS. Was that walk long enough? Too long? Was the weather too hot for her? Too cold? Did I feed her on time? Did I spend enough time with her? Did I ignore her too much while watching tv or working online?
When she’s no longer with me, will my memory of her be tainted by this feeling that I didn’t give her the love, attention and care that she deserved?
I love this dog. I love her dearly. Even if I scheduled the perfect day – the right walk, the perfect play session, the best meal she has ever eaten, and all the affection she can stand – I’m not sure I would be satisfied with my performance. If I re-arranged my day to do nothing but put my dog’s needs before mine, I still think I would find myself wanting.
That is absurd.
I have been lucky enough to meet a number of wonderful, giving and open-hearted people in the past year. I am enjoying the most functional relationships of my life. And, as I get closer to these people, and care for them, I find that I am transferring this feeling of not good enough to my interactions with them.
Remember this post? I’m still fighting it – and I’m afraid that I’m hurting my relationships because of it. You can’t let people in when you’re stuck in a place of broken-ness. And, as a very smart person told me last night, you can’t ever be happy if you’re always in fix-it mode – there will always be a black hole where the connection should be.
Who would I be if I didn’t constantly berate myself for being faulty?
You go along, thinking hey, look at me, I got that whole depression thing kicked and figuring things would have to be bad indeed to slide back into those old patterns, eh?
Not necessarily so.
Sometimes it’s the gong of the meditation bell that wakes you up, and sometimes it’s the smack of running headlong into yourself. Backsliding can be a way of maintaining your compassion for others, and for learning once again to be kind to yourself. I have better tools for dealing with the thoughts that seized me this morning at 3am, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t affect me. Each of the stories they told hit me in different ways, but they all boiled down to a grasping for control, and a fear of being found wanting. There are still ugly things I’m hiding from myself, and therefore have the power to frighten me.
Like, why was I embarrassed to be interested in reading this? Online I trumpet my devotion to Harriet J. at Fugitivus every chance I can get, but in a comic book store I suddenly feel vulnerable for looking at a work with a similar theme?
And why is it that, after years of independence, abandonment anxiety is still *right there* waiting in the wings?
This made a difference for me today (link to mp3 of a talk by Tara Brach).
Making my way to the British Library from Southwark, I came across a scene in one of London’s Tube stations: an elderly woman was at the top of an escalator, with a crowd of people gathering around her. “I can’t do it,” I heard her say. Her voice was panicky – in fact, I think it was the urgency of her tone that drew my attention in the first place. People packed in behind her and her family members. Unable to move forward, they pressed closer as she stood there on the grate, looking unsteadily at the ribbed metal spooling out into stairs at her feet. Across the way, my ascending escalator drew me closer to the group.
“Please don’t make me do it!” she cried out. In that moment, I realized what a terrifying thing an escalator could be. There she was, standing precariously on solid ground, contemplating this machine that would propel her forward, no doubt throwing her off-balance and making her fall all the way down.
At that moment, two personnel walked up to the group and gently pushed closer to her and her family. I watched as they soothed her, gave her a quick pep talk and then flanked her. They each grabbed her elbow and guided her off of the platform onto the stairs. Cheers and applause erupted from behind them: not cheers of “Hurry up already!” but genuine, congratulatory whoops from the crowd. In that moment, I felt like all those people were as proud of her and happy for her as I was. Tears prickled in my eyes to see all those strangers show such goodwill.
Waiting at the gate in Terminal A, passengers were starting to fill up the seats around me. Our flight had been delayed for a second time. I looked up from my book to see an airport official pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair. The woman was frail, and shaky. They pulled up to the line of seats next to me; the seat closest to me was still empty. The airport official stopped the wheelchair and ordered the occupant out. Her tone was no just brusque – it was impatient and downright insulting. She was treating that poor woman like a sack of potatoes that she was tired of lugging around. The older woman strained to stand up; she failed. She rocked back in her seat and tried to stand again, then faltered. She obviously needed a hand. I was so close to her that I felt I should help, so I put my hand out to steady her. She grabbed my arm and tumbled over into the hard plastic seat beside me.
“Where’s your cane?” the airport official demanded.
“Your cane. You didn’t lose it did you? That was all you had to do – you had to keep up with that cane.”
Muttering under her breath the airport official railed against that “silly old bat” and “now I’m gonna have to hunt down that stupid cane,” and walked away from us, pushing the chair.
I looked over at the old woman beside me and looked like she was close to tears.
“Where is she going?” she asked me. “Did she take my cane? I need my cane!”
I told her that the official was probably going to look for it. Did she know where she’d left it?
“Oh, I may have left it in the bathroom,” she told me. I watched the airport official walking off into the crowd and thought this might be information she needed to know.
I told the woman that I’d be right back and I picked up my bags and caught up to the woman with the wheelchair.
“She thinks she may have left it in the bathroom,” I told her.
“I was GONNA get it! Why you gotta get involved? I’ll get her durn cane!”
She thought I’d come up to chide her.
No, I told her, I was just trying to help – I thought she might want to know where to look.
“Mind your own business,” she said, and walked off in a huff.