How Can I bring More Love to This?

Yoga,_double_exposure_by_Victor_TondeeI was twisted into some pretzel of a pose when my yoga teacher, Genevieve Oswald at Shree Yoga Taos, gently dropped this profound question into my mind:

“How can I bring more love to this?”

That question has continued to ring through me, gently and quietly, in moments both on and off the yoga mat. Whether I’m challenged by an asana that stretches my hamstrings or stretching myself to move through fears in my personal life, this simple question helps me be more present and compassionate with myself.

“How can I bring more love to this?”  

“Breathe,” my body whispers. “See how you might soften into this.”

“Be patient with yourself,” says the voice of Big Compassion. “I’m with you.”

“How can I bring more love to this?”  

Tears begin to flow. I can let go and feel the feelings I’ve been holding back.

“How can I bring more love to this?”  

It can be as simple as turning on my favorite music and instantly filling my space with sounds that open my heart.

These are some of the answers that have bubbled up, within me. The answers are always something I can do in that very moment.

Try it. Ask yourself, “How can I bring more love to this?”  

Let me know what answers you discover. Please leave a comment, so we can all benefit from your wise, loving inner voice.


5 Warning Signs that You Need Self-Compassion

  • pointing fingerYour Inner Critic is beating you up by saying all kinds of mean things about you.
  • Your Inner Judge accuses you of wrong-doing. The gavel comes down. Boom! Guilty as charged!
  • The Self-Hater is making you feel like sh-t.

Quick!  Take a large dose of Self-Compassion. No negative side effects. Repeat as often as needed.

Sometimes it’s obvious that you are in need of the warm embrace of self-compassion. The warning signs are like flashing neon lights in Times Square.  You feel really bad, and you know you need relief. At other times, the signals are more subtle. Or, maybe you are just so used to hearing those harsh inner voices that you don’t even think about them as calls for compassion. I’m noticing that the more inner work and healing I do, the more I’m able to sense a very faint signal of distress that’s at the very root of the ego: A basic sense of “not ok-ness”.

Consider these 5 warning signs, so you can be more aware of your need for compassion, whether the signals are loud and clear or faint and muffled:

1. Feeling “not enough”. “I’m not __________ (fill in the blank) enough.”  Not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not loving enough, not dedicated enough… The list could go on and on.

2. Should-ing on yourself. “I should be doing __________ (fill in the blank),” or “I shouldn’t be doing __________ (fill in the blank).”  In either case, the voice tells you there’s something wrong with your behavior.

3. Attacks on your body: Criticizing how you look, how your body feels, or how it’s functioning. “My body is too __________ (fill in the blank).”  Too fat, too skinny, too wrinkly, too stiff, too tired, too achey…

4. Guilt and shame: “I am a bad person because __________ (fill in the blank).” I hurt someone, or I was hurt by someone else, and I deserved it.

5. Awash in uncomfortable emotions: anxiety, sadness, loneliness, grief, fear, anger…heart in clouds

It may not be immediately obvious what thought or whose Inner Voice is making you feel badly. Sometimes it’s just a sense of feeling blue, heavy, tense, or off center. If you inquire into what’s behind the subtle feeling of “not ok-ness”, you may discover one of the 5 warning signs is being lit up. But even if you don’t dig down to see what’s underneath the feeling, you can still benefit from applying a good dose of Self-Compassion. Take another dose as often as needed.

Don’t know how to give yourself compassion or want some support?

Listen to this 18-minute guided meditation designed to help you practice Self-Compassion.

 

 

 


Big Compassion: The World’s Biggest Hug  

My heart feels tender as I turn a loving gaze upon some uncomfortable feelings. Anxiety. Guilt. Failure. Frustration. Oh, and did I mention anxiety? I’ve come a long way from the days when I suffered from serious depression and intense self-hatred. I’m on a pretty even keel, most days. But lately, I’m acutely aware that bits and pieces of some old patterns still remain, lingering in the shadows.

I’ve learned how to process my emotions with much more awareness, and I know the importance of being gentle with myself. I can manage my Inner Critic so she doesn’t torture me, and I’ve got a reliable set of stress-busters to call upon as needed. My spiritual practices uplift me, while time in nature keeps me grounded. These are some of the things help me stay balanced. Yet, the most powerful medicine has been the recognition of my True Nature. I’m no longer completely hooked by the idea that my body, my stories, and the feelings and thoughts that pass through me, define who I am.

Does this mean I never feel fearful, upset, or uncomfortable? No. The other day my car skidded out of control on a patch of ice. Was I scared? Yes. Even after I arrived home safely, I felt afraid. What about the next time I need to drive down my steep, windy, icy road? Should I hole up at home for the rest of the winter and avoid driving altogether?  Next in the parade of worries came the financial concerns: My insurance company balked at accepting my claim for damages to my vehicle.

Letting go of the train of thoughts skidding out of control in my head, I brought my attention down into my body. Here’s what I found: A contraction around my heart. An uncomfortable vibration in my nervous system. Then, I noticed a sense of a bigger space, in which the vibration was moving. A sense of a bigger space in which all that I typically think of as “me” was being held with compassion…Big Compassion.

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Seeing the distress of my personality-self through the eyes of this Big Compassion, all is accepted and allowed to be as it is. All is embraced within a larger energy field…a field of spacious awareness. All is permeated by a loving consciousness. Everything is ok. All is forgiven. It’s like a giant hug that has no arms…no boundaries or limits. That one who gives the hug with no arms, that’s my True Nature…my True Self.

I’ve discovered, in my own awakening process, that there is a natural flow of expansion and contraction. When I contract in fear or resistance, there is a temporary forgetting of who I really am. There is a condensing down that Icy Rio Hondo-1-4seems to solidify the small identity…the identity I think of  as “Sajit”…the identity tied to this body, this personality, and these fleeting emotions and thought streams. When contraction is happening, I know there is something that yet needs to be seen, and then seen-through. Contraction doesn’t mean something’s gone wrong. Contraction doesn’t call for self-flagellation. Contraction calls for the pause button.

Big Compassion is always there. When I’m able to remember to shift my attention and look through Compassion’s eyes, the contraction begins to unwind. I can relax into the safety of the arm-less hug. As I identify once more with my True Nature, expansion occurs, naturally.

It’s like breathing. It’s like the flow of the tides. BIG COMPASSION…TRUE SELF…contraction…small identity…suffering…BIG COMPASSION…TRUE SELF.

Don’t sweep your uncomfortable feelings under the proverbial rug. Don’t try to hide them from yourself and pretend they aren’t there. What they need is to be embraced with Big Compassion. Give yourself the world’s biggest hug!


Looking in the Mirror

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In each and every moment, you cannot be a victim of what you see, and nothing is outside of you. What you experience, you have directly and deliberately called to yourself. If you hold the thought, “I do not like what I have called to myself,” that is perfectly fine…Merely look with the wonder of a child, and see what it feels like, and ask yourself, “Is this an energy I wish to continue in, or would I choose something else?                                  -Jeshua, The Way of Mastery

When I was first exposed to this idea, through A Course in Miracles, I felt a lot of resistance.  “What do you mean, I’m responsible for what I see?!?”  I protested. “I certainly didn’t ask for the emotional abuse I experienced in my first serious relationship. I didn’t send a request to the universe, asking for  a neck injury. I didn’t put in my order for an unbridgeable rift between me and my father.”

I wanted to push these painful experiences away.  I wanted to dis-identify with them. I wanted to believe that these things just happened to me, but they weren’t connected to something within me.

I know I’m not alone in having this kind of reaction to the spiritual principle of “taking responsibility”.  I’ve seen many spiritual seekers struggle with, and reject, this idea. The reason why it is so difficult to accept is because, when we’re first introduced to the idea that we’re responsible for what we see, the following thoughts tend to arise:

  •  If I’m responsible, then I lose the option of seeing myself as a victim. I cannot project blame outside of me.
  • If I’m responsible, then somehow I’m guilty…guilty of creating these distressing experiences. That leads to a downward spiral of self-blame. People often ask, “Why did I create that?” with a tone of self-condemnation.

Please, don’t go down that spiral. Instead, let’s take a few steps back. Before we can gently and graciously accept responsibility, we must stand firmly rooted in the awareness of our innocence. At times, we all make mistakes. We all act from unconscious patterns. We all let fear guide many of our choices. Yet our True Nature is innocence. Our True Nature is love. Our True Nature is beyond the personality, and even beyond the soul.

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Take a few moments and let yourself rest into that feeling of your innocence. Let your awareness expand, out, beyond your body and your personality.  Identify with the fullness and spaciousness of your True Nature.

Breathe in the love that is your very Being.  You are perfect, whole, and complete. You are loved and loving.

Now that you’re rooted into who you really are, let’s take another look at the idea that you’re responsible for what you see. I encourage you to look at this from the perspective of the soul’s evolution: We each come into this incarnation with old baggage, old conditioning, which the soul carries as an energetic imprint. You might call it a “pattern” or a “vibration”. This energetic pattern attracts to itself relationships and situations that are in resonance with it. Mostly, this happens on an unconscious, energetic level. We do not consciously think, “I want to have painful and distressing experiences.”

What drives this process is not so much our thoughts, nor our behaviors. It comes from a much deeper place. Our unsavory experiences reflect aspects of the old, stuck patterns and false beliefs we’ve brought in, on a soul level. The good news is, we’re not doomed to eternal repetition of these patterns. Taking responsibility, by seeing that what we’re experiencing is a reflection of our own soul patterns, is what gives us the power to choose again…to choose for something different.

The evolutionary purpose of this reflective process is to show us where we’re still stuck, so we can disentangle ourselves. Our undesirable manifestations are there to show us what we don’t want to keep repeating. We get to see what we’ve believed, which isn’t really true, so we can let the false beliefs go. Our experiences serve as a mirror to what’s going on within our own unconscious, including the things in the shadow, that we do not want to see.

shadow is an illusion.web

When we know we’re basically innocent, when there is no investment in either guilt or blame, it is empowering to take responsibility for our own experience. When the old patterns are seen through, as mere shadows from our conditioning, we realize they have no power to hold us back. Then we can let them go, and choose again.

And don’t forget, you’re responsible for all the cool stuff you see in your life, too!

Please leave me a comment, and let me know how this lands for you. Do you feel resistance? Empowerment?  Bewilderment?


Would you rather be right or happy?

When under the influence of the Sagittarius Moon, you may fall into the trap of wanting to be “right” about everything.  If you’re politically minded, you may try to convince everyone that your political opinion is the right one. You could find yourself standing on a soap box, yakking away, with no one listening.  If you’re a spiritual seeker, maybe you think you’ve got the correct spiritual philosophy.  It’s amazing how quickly our minds can shift from being open and accepting to being fiercely dogmatic when someone challenges our beliefs.Smith_Wigglesworth_preaching  If you’re a smarty pants, you want to be right about facts and figures.  You  try to prove that your point of view is the right way to see things.  You’ve probably had Google races with friends and family, to see who is first to get the “right” answer when a question comes up in the midst of casual conversation.

When you win the Google race, or when your friends admit that you were right all along, there can be a feeling of victory.  “I’m right!” But after your little  happy dance is over, what are you left with?  Being right can get in the way of being truly happy, because being “right” assumes that someone else is wrong.  Being right sets up an opposition, which can lead to arguments, judgments, and grievances. Not only does the need to be right create separation between people, it also causes inner tension. What if I’m NOT right?  Then what?

The bottom line is that being self-righteous doesn’t really feel good. Being right is a precarious position. You can be knocked off the top of the hill at any moment, because you actually could be wrong.  Being right calls for constant vigilance and defense of your position. It’s also lonely up there, because it pushes people away. In our rush to be right, we sometimes stumble past the reality of what’s actually true.  You can argue with reality, but reality wins every time.  Being in conflict with reality is very stressful.

What if you don’t know all there is to know?  What if you’re not right about the things that make you miserable?  What if your opinion is just one way of seeing things, and some other perspectives are just as valid?  Being willing to be wrong makes your mind open and supple. It makes room for God’s thoughts.  It makes room for the reality of “What is”, and that’s where peace resides.

Harris_Hawk_in_flight_3_(6022357849)True happiness lies in the mind that knows that it doesn’t know. Happiness is an open mind that is willing to see different points of view, because no one point of view grasps the whole picture.  Only God sees it all, knows it all.  With our limited human perceptions, we can’t absolutley know what should or shouldn’t be happening.  So how can we judge anyone or anything?  It’s not that we shouldn’t judge, it’s that we can’t judge.  And that’s good news!

At this full Moon, the Gemini Sun illuminates the pitfalls of  Sagittarius’ need to be right, and reminds us of  Sag’s desire to be free…free to fly high, and see more and more dimensions of “What is”.  Forget about being right.  Let’s be happy, instead.


Gemini New Moon: Do you have a dirty mind?

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No, I’m not talking about sex. Sex isn’t dirty.  I’m talking about those thoughts in your head that mess you up.  Those thoughts that blind you to your beauty and innocence.  Those thoughts that stress you out.  Today’s Gemini New Moon can help clean up and clear out your dirty thoughts. Let’s move into the new lunar cycle with our minds open wide, letting the spring breeze blow through!

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Hygeia, Goddess of Health Maintenance

Gemini relates to how we think, how we get our information, and how we communicate.  This New Moon in Gemini is soaring through the sky with Hygeia, goddess of health maintenance.  When you put these two together, you get mental (Gemini) hygiene (Hygeia).  Like I said, it’s time to clean up your mind!

In its essence, the mind is like empty space, and Gemini, an air sign, is also spacious. Our thoughts are like clouds that pass through the wide, open space of the mind.  Thoughts arise and pass away. As my friend and teacher Fred Davis likes to say, “We don’t suffer from what we think. We suffer from what we believe.”  That’s because thoughts have a natural fluidity and lightness. If allowed their natural flow, they simply pass through us. But when we believe a thought, that thought becomes fixed, solidified, and it narrows our view  The vast open space of the natural mind gets closed down.  Solidified thoughts get stuck.  They can’t move on through.

We suffer the most when we believe our untrue thoughts.  How can you tell if your thoughts are not true?  One way to tell is if the thought involves shouldas, wouldas, or couldas.  Every “should” is an argument with reality.  Here’s an example: My car died in the middle of an intersection. It was a dark and frigid night, and I was ravenously hungry.  That’s why I was on my way to the store.  But my car died. I had the thought, “This shouldn’t be happening.”  But you know what?  It was happening. I didn’t know why.  I didn’t know how it fit into some Divine plan, but one thing was for sure: I was indeed stuck in the intersection with a dead battery.  When I let go of the thought that it “shouldn’t” be happening, I was able to simply be with the experience, do what needed to be done, and feel more at peace.  Then the cops came, gave my battery a jump, and escorted me home.  It shouldn’t have happened?  It should have happened?  All I know is that it did happen.

Any thought that creates stress, discomfort, or inner conflict is suspect. Any judgment about someone else is worth investigating.  Start by simply asking yourself, “Is the thought really true?”  For example, “Betty Sue is wasting my time.”  Is it true?  Maybe I’m wasting my own time, and that’s why I’m getting pissed at Betty Sue.  “Billy Bob needs to be nicer to me.”  Maybe I need to be more kind to Billy Bob, or maybe I need to be more kind to myself.

If you’re judging and criticizing yourself, those are dirty thoughts, too.  Thoughts like, “I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not _____ enough.” “I should be… getting more done, making more money, being more loving, taking better care of myself…”  If you’re shoulding on yourself, you’ve got a dirty mind.  Our dirty thoughts are not bad, they just cloud our awareness and put us at odds with reality. And when we argue with reality, we lose every time.

Open the doors and windows of your mind.  Welcome in the Gemini New Moon and Hygeia.  Let them help you sweep out your gull in skyuntrue thoughts.  At its best, the Gemini mind is open and curious.  It takes itself lightly and has a great sense of humor. It is like the mind of a curious four-year-old.  Everything is fresh, new, and full of possibility. Things aren’t limited by labels and explanations.  The clean and clear Gemini mind allows thoughts to flow in and out like puffs of cloud moving across a bright blue sky.  The mind is free and can move quickly, like a small bird flitting through the branches.  Let your mind fly beyond the clouds, expanding into the vast, open, unconditioned space that is the mind’s natural state.


Virgo Full Moon: Are You 100% Pure?

When you think of Virgo and the word “virgin”, don’t think about sex.  Think “virgin olive oil” or “virgin forest”.  These virgins are in their natural state of wholeness. They are “100% pure”, which means that nothing was added, and nothing was removed.  In astrology, the archetype of Virgo is about helping us get back to our essential wholeness.

At the Virgo Full Moon, we get to experience the energies of both Virgo and it’s opposite sign, Pisces. Virgo, an earth sign, is concerned with wholeness at the physical level. It clearly sees the boundaries that separate one thing from another, and is quite skilled at figuring out “What’s wrong with this picture?”. That type of discerning vision sees what might has been added that doesn’t belong, and what  has been taken away, that should be there. Virgo sorts, clears the clutter, cleans things up, and gets us organized.

ocean mistPisces, being the polar opposite of Virgo, does not see any boundaries between things.  In fact, it doesn’t see “things”.  Pisces is aware of Oneness.  It sees that all appearances arise and pass away within the vast cosmic ocean of our one shared Being.  There is no separate self.  Nothing is wrong with any picture.  Everything and everyone is perfect just as it is.  It couldn’t be  any  other way.  Pisces’ vision shows us our wholeness and perfection at the spiritual  level.  We see ourselves as 100% pure spirit.

While Virgo strives to fix and improve things, Pisces accepts everything just as it is and embraces all with unconditional love. How can we bring the two sides of this polarity together and make sense of this paradox? 

One way to understand this paradox is to consider that we are Divine Humans: our being is both spiritual and physical.  We are complete and perfect, spiritually, AND, on the physical level, there are always some things to clean up or improve upon.  After enlightenment, we still need to do the dishes and take out the trash.  Pisces helps us to know who we really are, in our spiritual essence. Virgo keeps our bodies and our physical environment healthy, wholesome, and in order.  

Sometimes, Virgo’s desire for wholeness gets distorted into perfectionism, and we can become critical of every little flaw.  Pisces offers a balance by helping us remember the true perfection of our spiritual nature.  We can let go of trying to control and fix everything. We can accept ‘what is’, even if the personality self can’t see how it could possibly be ok. With an attitude of compassion toward ourselves, we can use the discernment of Virgo to clear out false beliefs that make us think that something is wrong.  The Work of Byron Katie is a great tool for cleaning up our untrue thoughts so we can love ‘what is’.

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On this Virgo Full Moon, may you realize there’s nothing wrong with you.

May you clear the clutter with an attitude of compassion and truly letting go.

May your accept your virginity…your purity…your wholeness.

And may you forgive any typos in this post!