Walls

Time is slipping, falling like rain through the cracks in our days.  We feel pain when we are afraid, when we put up walls between ourselves and the moment that is holding us.  Nevertheless, we are held.  We think the walls we build will make us safe, but we cannot help but build our walls out of barbed wire, rocks, broken cement.  Of course they hurt us.  Of course they make us less safe.

Stop protecting yourself behind walls of stone.  Let the light in.  Let love in.  Take the walls down.  Listen to the wind, read the stars and sing your stories.  The world is full of sacred spaces.  Seek them out, all around you, let them cleanse and refresh you.  Love as a true queen loves, with beauty, grace, strength and abandon.

Everything that is not part of love is just a wall–a barrier of smoke and mirrors that obscures the truth.  Know that there is nothing between your heart and soul, no barrier at all.  Nothing that is not known to you, nothing that you do not possess, nothing you cannot give.

The only protection we have in this changing world is an open hand, not a closed fist.  An open heart, not one buried behind walls of stone.  Open, surrender, release, and know yourself immortal, divine, boundless.  We are our only obstacles.  Meet those parts of yourself that you would resist, meet them with love, as the friends and teachers they are, and they will dissolve like stars greeting the sunrise.

Begin where you are.  Begin with what you have before you to do and what you have within you to give.

See The Arrow

To find your way forward, you must know where you are, who you are, what gifts you possess.  Be here now, and the future becomes not only clear but obvious.  The arrow’s trajectory is never a mystery to one who truly sees the arrow.

We possess many different gifts.  The one we all share is truth.  We are truth.  That is our gift, not to receive, but to give.  To share.  But we cannot give from a place of weakness.  We can only give from our truest, most authentic selves.  We have nothing else to give, but our authentic selves.  Being ourselves, loving ourselves, loving others, loving each moment–that is how we heal ourselves, one another, and the world.

Are you afraid?  To be afraid is to be human.  You cannot stifle fear, cannot sneak past it.  What you can do is accept it, learn what you can from it, and then choose the path of love instead.  Even in the face of fear, the face of defeat and failure and destruction, you must always choose love.  That is the only lesson worth learning, the only test before you.  That is what all true stories teach–that it is possible to choose love.  That love is the only answer, and the only hope.

The Soul’s Journey

Psyche was a butterfly spirit; her name means “soul” or “breath.”  I see her standing at the top of a broad staircase, gray stone and clear windows behind her, dressed in a white gown, a red sash tied at her waist, thick curls cascading down her back.  Birds and butterflies of bright blue and red surround her, flutter down the stairs below.  She is the soul, awakened from a slumber of one hundred years, starting to remember that once she flew free, and that she can once again.  This is where the story begins, when Psyche stirs.

The legend tells us that Psyche was the most beautiful of mortals, so beautiful that the Goddess of Love and Beauty herself became jealous and commanded that the girl be taken to the top of a lonely mountain and offered up to a monster as sacrifice.  And yet I wonder–is jealousy not a human emotion?  Those who understand love and beauty know that both are available in abundance, that the more love and beauty we find in others, the more we ourselves possess.  This could be no mystery to Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty.  And so I wonder if the command that sent Psyche up into the distant mountains alone was not, in fact, anger or punishment but merely the call to adventure, an invitation into a new life.

For once she stood upon the mountain top, far removed from the world she had known, a gentle breeze brushed past her, lifted her gown, her hair, and then her very body up into the sky and away to a place beyond her most beautiful dreams.  She was set gently on the ground before a golden palace, and upon exploring her new home found every nature of luxury and delight.  Lovely rooms, decadent meals, lush gardens all her own.  And at night, when the world was dark and quiet, a kind and gentle man came to her room and became her lover.

All was perfect bliss, the story tells us, until Psyche asked for and received a visit from two jealous sisters, who told her that as she had never seen her lover’s face, he must be the hideous monster that the Goddess had sent to bear Psyche away.  But we do not need jealous sisters to raise the fear of doubt and judgment in our minds; we do that well enough for ourselves.

Whatever the cause, Psyche began to doubt.  Although her eyes and heart showed her only beauty and kindness, her uncertainty grew.  She wondered if the man she thought she loved and who offered every proof of his love for her might, in fact, be a hideous monster who meant her harm.  The only request her lover had ever asked of her was that she never try to see him in the light.  Nevertheless, as he lay sleeping by her side, she crept from the bed, lit an oil lamp and discovered that her sleeping lover was none other than the God of Love himself, Eros.  Cupid.  Aphrodite’s son.

As she trembled in the face of love, a drop of oil spilled from the lamp and fell upon the sleeping God.  He woke, saw that his love had been doubted and betrayed, and flew away into the night, leaving Psyche alone.

Without love, the beautiful palace felt empty and cold.  Psyche longed for her Cupid to return, but he did not.  And so Psyche began her journey into the world to find her love.  She searched far and wide, with no sign of her lover.  Finally, in despair, she went to a temple of Aphrodite to ask for her help, despite her belief that the goddess despised her.

Aphrodite heard the girl’s pleas and did agree to help her, but only if Psyche could complete a series of tasks.  Each task was not merely difficult but impossible, seemingly designed to break Psyche’s already fragile spirit–they were beyond the hope of any mortal girl.

But Psyche is not, after all, just any mortal girl.  She represents the soul, and when her soul is clear it reflects beauty bright enough to dazzle the God of Love himself.  This beauty is not merely physical, it contains power, knowledge, a state of being that transcends the material world entirely.  The soul is never without aid if it will only ask for it.

And so when Psyche cries out for help in completing one impossible task after another, the entire world conspires to aid her.  Creatures great and small appear, eager to turn her tears into smiles.  One by one, every task is accomplished.

Was the Goddess of Love and Beauty surprised?  Did she not realize the power of her own gifts, her own domain?  Was she taken unawares?  Or instead, did the Goddess know what Psyche was capable of better than the girl herself, and so devised a clever way to teach the girl her own power?  When Psyche passed each of the Goddess’ tests and came into full knowledge of herself, she was at last ready to stand by Cupid, the soul equal to love, the woman equal to a god.

Looking too closely at love is dangerous.  It may leave us alone, afraid, confronted with impossible tasks.  Yet we must question the love we find, for true love, true union and partnership, requires openness and understanding and, most of all, an understanding of ourselves, of our own gifts and power.  It is only after we have dared to look reality in the face, dared to know the truth of our love and of ourselves, that we can ever hope to be truly and forever united with our desire.

Once we have seen love, our journey begins.  Once we have seen love, we must follow ever after it, no matter the cost or the peril, until we are at last reunited with it forever.  This is the path of the soul, different for each, but leading always to love.

And when the soul and love are finally reunited?  They have a daughter, whose name is Pleasure.  And the story begins again.

The Art Of Deciding

It’s incredible the effect that a single decision can have upon your life and your experience of it.  You don’t need to know what’s coming; trying to micro-manage your life will only lead to frustration.  But when you decide to enjoy yourself, to be kind, to be happy, you open yourself up to the likelihood of creating that experience. The best trick I’ve found is to make the decision to be happy, to have fun, to be helpful–whatever it may be–as often as possible.  Before you go on vacation, you may find that you’ve made an unconscious decision to have fun–why else are you investing so much time and money?  If the decision is a strong one, and you are determined to enjoy yourself, a rainstorm becomes an adventure, lost luggage becomes an excuse to buy new clothes. When you decide to be a force of peace, or of service to others, or simply to have a good time, you will find that events transpire to help you.  Wherever you put your focus, if you are determined to meet your goal, you will find ways to get there.  It may only take something small to get you going.  If you’re with a group of people you don’t know well but you are determined to relax and enjoy yourself, you may start by noticing how the sunlight feels on your skin or that your favorite song is playing.  Once you’ve started noticing things that are in line with your decision, you’ll find more of them, and change the quality of your entire day. So decide to treat your life as one long vacation.  Decide to enjoy yourself.  Decide to be open to new adventures.  Be curious.  Take the time to relax, and to be kind to others.  Intend joy for yourself and others.  Decide to see the best in others, and decide to make the most of each situation. When you don’t make these decisions, well, that’s a decision, too.  A decision to let other people, other events, dictate your experience.  A decision to float through life, feeling happy or sad based upon things outside of yourself.  Why not decide, instead, to love others, to love yourself, to find whatever happiness you can?

BlogsWeDig on herfuture.com

My post “Finding Peace on a Windy Day” was selected by herfuture.com for their weekly BlogsWeDig page!  This is a wonderful website for women interested in meditation, spirituality, nutrition, etc.  Thanks, herfuture!

Friendly Romance

There is a concept in “A Course in Miracles,” brilliantly explained by Gabrielle Bernstein in her book Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles, that we should make our romantic relationships more brotherly (Bernstein says “friendly”) and our brotherly (“friendly”) relationships more romantic.  Which is to say that we should treat our romantic partners like friends, and look for love and connection from all of our loved ones, not only those we call our husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends.

So many men and women treat one another as a mirror for themselves.  They look for a partner who reflects well on them–has the right image, the right job, knows the right jokes to tell at cocktail parties.  We love our partners when they behave the way we want and expect them to; if they act in a way we don’t like, we grow angry because we think it reflects badly on us.

At the same time, we can feel that our partners have similar expectations of us, to behave in a certain way, to be a certain kind of person.  And since we grow and change all the time, it is no wonder that so many relationships that began in love end in sadness or anger.  What began as interest in another person, in learning about their uniqueness, their hopes and dreams, their true selves, becomes something else we need to control, something that reflects on us.  We judge the people we claim to love most.  Love is destroyed and peace with it.

No matter how connected two people are, they are always free and separate beings.  When we give others the greatest of gifts–the permission to be themselves, just as they are–we give ourselves the same gift.  When we understand that all the love in the world is already ours, we do not need to cling to anyone, or depend on anyone for our happiness.  We can come together as lovers, as playmates, as friends, and as we grow and change we have nothing to fear, because we have no expectations or demands.

This is the way we treat our friends.  We enjoy being with them, but we do not treat them as mirrors for ourselves.  We do not expect them to behave a certain way; we take them for themselves.  We love them for themselves.  We enjoy watching them grow and change because it isn’t a threat to us or to the relationship.  Why be less kind to the one you love most?

Claim Your Power

The ancient myths and legends are full of tales of rightful kings and queens who lost their thrones and struggled to reclaim them.  It was believed, in the ancient times, that the right to rule was given by God, by a higher power, and any pretender to the throne could never be more than that–a pretender.  The true king or queen always retained the right to rule and, in the end, was always restored to his or her throne.

This is true for all of us–no one but ourselves has the right to rule our lives.  No one else can or should.  No matter what situation we find ourselves in, no matter how dark or terrible, no one else can take from us the decision of how to react, of how to face the challenges before us.  We all have that right and freedom, and it can not be taken away.

Unfortunately, not many of us realize our power.  We think we are besieged by usurpers at every turn.  We think that others are trying to controls us–our families, our friends, our partners.  Our bosses, co-workers and strangers we meet on the street.  We feel like we have no control over our lives, and so we doubt our power and suspect others of stealing it from us.  We keep our guard up.  We fear others requiring our time and attention; we fear manipulation.

And perhaps sometimes we are right–perhaps some are trying to take our power from us, to prove their own strength by claiming what isn’t theirs.  But no matter how much they try, no one can take your power from you.  Not ever.  Return to the truth.  No one rules your life but you.  You are the one and only true-born king or queen of your personal kingdom.  Even if you’ve forgotten your power for years, it is still yours, and you can always reclaim it.

The choice is yours.  Anne Frank chose to find beauty out of the one small window that let in daylight.  Victor Frankel chose to bring compassion and sympathy into his experience of the Holocaust.  Mary, Queen of Scots, chose to die with the dignity of a queen as she went to her beheading.  We may not be able to control life, but we are always able to control what part we play in it.

The equally important part of this understanding, when it comes to relationships, is that every other person on this planet is also sovereign of his or her own life.  You cannot usurp the power others have over their lives any more than they can usurp yours.  So let them rule their own lives.  Even when it’s your child, your spouse, your best friend–trust that they are the only proper sovereign of their world, just as you are the only proper sovereign of yours.  You may think you know better than they do, but you don’t.  It is not your domain.

Awareness of your own power, and of the equal power of others, is what brings peace to relationships.  We no longer try to control others or fear that they will control us.  We meet as equals, the rulers of two kingdoms coming together, perhaps sharing stories, perhaps lending advice or aid, but never trying to take what cannot be taken, or defend what cannot be lost.

Allow Others To Be Themselves

Very often, it seems that other people are the reason we cannot find lasting peace.  Whether it is because your uncle always criticizes you, your co-workers aren’t doing their fair share of the work or a stranger cuts you off on the freeway, other people often seem like an assault against our balance and equanimity.  Sometimes these encounters work as a barometer of our own state of mind–when we are calm and relaxed, not much bothers us.  When we are in a state of unease (whether it’s from lack of sleep, hunger, stress, or any other factor), any disruption can drive us nuts and make peace seem impossible.  But sometimes, certain people, especially our nearest and dearest, are able to disrupt our balance even when we are in a relatively relaxed state.

There is a secret to finding peace in relationships.  You must believe that you are free to live as you choose to live, to be as you want to be.  And then you must allow others to do the same.

It’s a small shift in perception that can change your entire life.  Most of us grasp on to others–we think we need them, or need them not to act a certain way, or that what they do is because of us.  We are always on the defensive, always seeing the actions of others as either a boost to our own egos or as an attack.  But relationships do not need to be this contentious or this complicated.  Especially with those people you love and who love you.

Think about it.  Accepting another as they are, allowing them to be their own unique and changing self, is the greatest gift one person can give another.  Respecting others to make their own choices without putting your own agenda on it, allowing others to try things, to fail, to grow and change–what could be more supporting and loving?  Isn’t this what we are all seeking–someone to hold space for our truest, most authentic selves?

We get what we give.  Give others permission to be themselves, and they will do the same for you.  We are, after all, sovereign of our own lives.  When we doubt that, when we think others can control us or that we can or should control them, we build relationships based on fear rather than love, and we destroy the peace we could find with others.

Face Your Fears

To release pain and return to peace,  let yourself feel whatever is haunting you.  We all spend so much of our time hiding from what causes us discomfort.  We try to ignore it, to push past it.  We either obsess over our pain or push it away, denying its existence.  And even if we are obsessing over it, often this is just another way of hiding.  We aren’t looking at what is really bothering us, but fixating on what someone else is doing, or how we wish things were different.  We aren’t willing to feel our discomfort and face the real problem.  Very often our problems are not what we think; very often our problems are not even there at all.

Remember how a child is terrified of the monster he is convinced is under the bed?  He is so afraid that he can’t even look to see if the monster is really there.  If he had the ability to do so, he would probably search for a blowtorch to destroy the monster, the bed, the entire room, rather than simply turning on the light and looking to see what is actually under the bed:  nothing.  (And even if something is there, it is still better fought in the light.)

So the first step to finding the truth and returning to peace is to be honest about what it is you are afraid of, and to let yourself feel the emotions you haven’t wanted to face.  Write in a journal, talk to a wise friend, sit in meditation, pray.  Get it out.  Be honest with yourself.  And then feel, in your body, where the pain lives.  Know that it can’t, in itself, hurt you.  It is teaching you how to find freedom.

Sit with the feeling for a few minutes–some say that a feeling can pass through you completely in only 90 seconds.  But let it be.  Feel your fear, your pain.  Pray or cry if that helps you to feel it, but don’t shut it out, and don’t cling to it.  Let it out.

Once you have immersed yourself in the feeling, and allowed yourself to really look at the monsters that frighten you, let them go.  There is a lightness, a clean feeling, that arises after we have allowed ourselves to feel our suffering, similar to how one can feel lighter after a good cry.  There is a special kind of peace that is found only on the other side of pain, simply because we have witnessed and survived it.  We are reminded that we are vulnerable, we have accepted that fact, and we are better for it.

The Truth Always Sings To You

On the road to peace, one of the simplest practices I’ve found is this:  believe only what is true.  How do you know what is true?  It sings to you.  It feels right.  It makes you feel strong, expansive, relaxed, peaceful.  You know it in your body, in your bones, in your heart. Nothing that feels wrong, that feels restricted, that feels tight, is true.  When you feel your body clench in pain, collapsed upon itself; when your stomach flutters, and your breath is shallow; you can be certain you are believing something that is not true.  Yet we often cling to our untruths, we refuse to put them down.  We go to great lengths to convince ourselves and others that the untruths we have found are real.  But truth never has to be proven–it just is.  The sun will shine whether or not you argue for it; the seasons will turn without your convincing anyone of that fact.  Truth does not need your defense.  It is your defense.  When you believe only what is true, you stop fighting.  You stop fighting with others, with your outdated beliefs, with the moment you are living in right now.  You accept that what is, is.  And you accept that what is, is always changing.

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