“If we become addicted to the external, our interiority will haunt us. We will become hungry with hunger no image, person, or deed can still. To be wholesome, we must remain truthful to our vulnerable complexity.” (John O’Donahue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom)
Maybe you’re feeling a little disconnected from your own self. Maybe your own complexity feels terribly overwhelming sometimes.
It happens. No harm. No foul.
But now that you’ve seen that about yourself…you can never un-see it. We all know how that is.
So, what’s a person to do?
There are so many good Ways, so much wisdom to help us back to the whole self.
And lots of ways to get side tracked or confused.
I plan on writing a weekly blog that addresses questions and concerns that you all have in addition to my own musings and journey for cultivating ongoing wholeness and health, the fullest integration of my various aspects I can muster.
So I really want to know, what do you feel gets in YOUR way?
What holds you back?
What would YOU like to change, want support in changing?
What questions do you have about how to proceed on the path to remaining true to your own vulnerable complexity?
What confuses or perplexes you?
Do you try to establish good habits and then feel them fall away and wonder how to maintain them?
Do you think that meditation is an act of DOING, just one more pesky thing to cross off your already very full to-do list?
Do you feel a certain tyranny that your cell phone holds over you and sometimes wonder where all your time has gone?
Have you read every self-improvement book on the shelf and still wonder why things feel kind of fucked up?
There are no small or stupid questions. The only bad questions are the ones that go un-asked.
Please send me your questions here in the comments or if you want a more private communication, send me an email or private message.
Your questions will be the fuels that inspires new articles in my website and for a new weekly project on Medium!
Make an amazing week folks!
I can’t wait to see your questions and hear your thoughts.
May you all find peace and fully become the artists of your lives you truly are.
“Daily practice is never a waste of time.” (Sharon Salzberg)
Even though we might not see the fruits of our practice right away (like, while we are actually DOING our formal practice, while our butts are on the cushion or bench or whatever), we CAN have confidence that the fruits WILL come.
Sometimes the effects might be very subtle or we might not feel it or notice it, but then something HAPPENS! (Cuz you KNOW life is ALWAYS going to give us opportunities) And then – BOOM! We suddenly notice that the way we are reacting is DIFFERENT than it was before.
This weekend at Kripalu, while I was on retreat with Sharon Salzberg and Stephen Cope, Sharon told a funny story about one of the first weeks she ever sat and did Metta practice all alone. She spent the week focusing on her self, using Metta phrases like, May I be happy, may I be safe, may I be strong, may I have ease of well-being. She said the whole week felt sort of dull and boring; nothing interesting happening at all and that she was sort of wondering if she hadn’t wasted a week because she didn’t feel anything special while she was sitting and practicing.
But then life intervened. A friend got sick and a bunch of the folks sitting had to leave the retreat center to go help them. In the rushing around of getting ready to leave the center, she dropped a big glass jar of some kind, sending shards of glass all over the place. A real mess. She noticed that her first thoughts were, God, you’re a clutz but I love you. She realized in that moment, that in the past she would have really been angry at herself and that clearly something had in fact been happening during her week of Metta practice toward herself.
Perhaps we are calm when we might’ve flown off the handle. We don’t holler like we would have done just last week or last year. (Like when the cats woke you up at four a.m., hollering for food even though you just got home from an intense weekend. AND, even though you did just feed them a few short hours ago… Don’t they KNOW you need some sleep for God’s sake!) In fact, this did happen to me this morning and I know I handled it totally differently than I have in the past.
In the past, I’ve experienced the rapid heartbeat of being startled awake and muttering under my breath or even actually hollering at the cats. A lot of God damn it, why can’t they just shut up or be more like a dog and wait for the freaking food to arrive when I get up! A spray bottle of water has been involved many times. In the process, I’ve awakened my sleeping husband, who has the amazing capacity to sleep through absolutely anything! And how does he sleep like that? Why doesn’t he wake up and feed them? I got these cats FOR HIM after all. Shouldn’t he be taking care of them not me! Doesn’t anyone see the terrible injustice which I am now suffering!? ARGH!
I have stormed down the stairs fuming and slammed food into their dishes and wondered in my raging head, how much longer will the darn beasts actually LIVE! (They are now 18 years old, heading toward 19 with no obvious sense of physical decline.) And in case you think I’m a cat hater, know this: I am not a cat hater. New to living with cats, yes. But I love them and for proof, feel free to check my Facebook or Instagram feeds for copious evidence. Pinky, who adopted me with a fierce and adoring intensity after my dog Tiger, died, has been renamed by me, AKA The Assistant. He actually has his own hashtag. He’s a happy part of my daily writing life. He tells me when it’s time for a break by jumping up and laying across my arm so I can do nothing other than pat him. Put down that pen Mom. And I listen to his furry feline wisdom.
This morning, when they woke me, I was really tired from a day of traveling back from retreat, but I could just empathize with the reality that they were hungry and needed food. They have the communication skills they do (meowing, box and paper shredding Very Loudly for a few examples) and use them well. I was able to have a feeling of tender appreciation of their plight rather than anger. The weekend of Metta practice definitely is already making a HUGE difference. Sharon, my cats thank you deeply for your teachings.
I tiptoed down the stairs, picked Pinky up and cuddled him and quietly opened the can of food and plopped some into their dish and actually enjoyed the funny sounds they make while eating. It’s like a super yummy sound (think Young Frankenstein) with lots of lip smacking and purring. How wonderful to do something which created so much kitty happiness so easily. Then I crawled back into bed for a little extra R&R. Shortly after, I had two furry cuddle buddies. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Though our formal practice might have felt kind of boring, or uninteresting, under the surface we were changing and it just took having an opportunity (something life will ALWAYS give us) to see that change become manifest.
So have courage yogis! Have some faith.
Look closely at your thoughts, the things you say and things you do.
I bet if you look with a close attention, you will notice that you’re changing slowly, bit by bit.
Your daily practice is NEVER a waste of time.
May all be happy. May all be peaceful.
“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance form his body.” – James Joyce
Lying on my yoga mat last night in class, between poses, just grateful to be there even though I’m sweating like crazy and thinking I must really stink when the teacher, Jessica Young of Tejas Yoga in Chicago (also a friend and killer human being, writer, defender of rights of all beings) comes to adjust my posture.
Jess is calling out the cues for postures and I’m following along like a dog, a grateful yoga dog, breathing (ok sometimes it sounds like feels more like panting,) and stretching as much as I can.
I’m beginning to stop being such a border collie and going full out into what could be way too much for me on a given day and accepting the body as it is, day by day.
Striking that blessed balance between effort and ease.
I just love that I can come here and someone else will tell me what to do to help me heal my body and my spirit, my heart and my mind. An hour or more of asanas, one after the next after the next. Lots of sweating.
Finally, the rest pose, corpse pose, savasana. And I love that Jess clicks on the AC , “to take the edge off.” I pull a blanket over my body with deep gratitude. Savasana is often an emotional time for me. Whatever has been under the surface comes bubbling up.
I love that yoga class ends with this. Well it doesn’t “End” with it but it does marks the beginning of the end of each and every class.
Corpse pose, letting everything fall away and down, the brain resting in the back of the head, the eyeballs falling into the little craters in my face, the occipital orbits.
And the breath just happening on its own, letting go of all effort-fulness.
So last night, I’m lying there, suddenly my husband’s words about gentleness and living gently come to me and I’m crying; the tears leaking out of eyes and running into my ears. I don’t move but let them come. I let go even of worry and analysis.
I’m feeling grateful for his presence and what feels like a total softening of our whole thing together. I wonder if it’s all the Metta practice I’ve been up to lately or all the shit that’s come down in the last weeks or so, but I guess I don’t really have to know. I can tell you this: We have both lived our lives util we knew each other, under a great deal of duress and extremes which are next to the words in the dictionary: not gentle living. (if that was a real entry)
It feels good this gentleness. Like crazy good. Like we are finally relaxing into who we really are, deep inside. Healing the wounds. Developing the gifts. But that’s another idea for later.
After corpse pose, there’s the rolling over to the side into a fetal position and taking breaths there and when ready, allowing yourself to be born again, using the strength of the arms and the breath to press yourself up into a sitting posture. Then Om Shanti Shanti Shanti, and final gratitude and wishes for all beings to find peace.
I love being reborn every time I unroll my mat. Where else can I get that?
I end class with this. So simple yet challenging to live out fully: Committing to being here each moment as it is, but really being here instead of a short distance away.
I wish you well.
Thank you so much for stopping by.
So excited, humbled, honored to announce that I’ll be teaching at this amazing place, The Heartwood Center,in Evanston.
Mindful Metta Mondays start Monday June 6th, 7-8pm at the Heartwood Center!
Four-week sessions in June, July and August. $72 for the month or $20 drop in. Registration will open in the next day or so. Each session will integrate meditation and writing to help us cultivate Metta or loving kindness for ourselves and each other.