We are vulnerable

To be human and to be alive is probably to be vulnerable.  Its a thought that I had today after re reading a prayer I wrote earlier asking for help to overcome fear.  I wondered after reading it if I had been asking for something that is only possible for moments rather than as an ongoing state of being a world so often fraught with insecurity and peril.  My question Isn’t a bit too much of an ask for us to have it together all the time and not struggle with the inherent insecurities in our lives?

That said a lot of what we expect to experience is based on past experience, so if in the past things didn’t go well or we were hurt this becomes our point of view or expectation and we do need boundaries and self care and some protection, just not so much that we limit our ability to live and love and forward move and grow in this life.

I became a fan of Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron a few months after my last serious accident in 2005.  I was recommended to read her book When Things Fall Apart by a friend who had also nearly lost her life and the central message of her teaching involves not erecting defences against what she calls ‘the soft tender sore spot’ in one’s heart.  Pema claims that it is part of our human nature to always be struggling to get some solid ground under our feet but paradoxically the more we strive for this the more we can become attached to things being a certain way and then we just end up suffering more. The more defences we erect against pain too, the less we become connected to our pain as it is a central tenant of Buddhism that we look to our mutuality and inter dependence with other human’s and all living things and all living beings are vulnerable and suffer.  The Buddhists recognise a seamless web of interconnection between every living thing that we only split and divide and pay a price for so doing in neurosis.  Its only in embracing this inherent insecurity that we have a chance of finding some inner security and happiness.  The Buddhists also recognise that it is through opening to our pain and suffering instead of defending against it that we experience our interconnection with others, so opening our hearts is actually a powerful practice not only to heal but also to reconnect to our essential oneness not only with humans but also with nature and cycles of birth, growth, loss, death, change and transformation that are involve in all of creation.

With these thoughts in mind I am sharing tonight an excerpt from The Pocket Pema Chodron.  

No Happy Ending

In one of the first teachings I ever heard, the teacher said, “I don’t know why you came here, but I want to tell you right now that the basis of this whole teaching is that you’re never going to get it all together.”   I felt a little like he had just slapped me in the face or thrown cold water over my head, but I’ve always remembered it.  There isn’t going to be some precious future time when all the loose ends will be tied up.  Even thought it was shocking to me, it rang true.  One of the things that keeps us unhappy is this continual searching for pleasure or security, searching for a little more comfortable situation, either at the domestic level or at the level of mental peace.

Learning to bear the storm, to find a centre in the middle of the storm or change, that is what an opening up practice is about. Its not always easy to stop defending our selves or reacting from primitive parts of our brain to find less reactivity in the middle of chaos or change, but its definitely worth a try, as is, in our moments of darkness and pain the recognition that despite the aloneness we may feel so many other suffers and struggle just like us and experience loss and feelings of insecurity in failing to get it all together too.

Remaining Steady

Emotional turmoil begins with an initial perception – a sight, sound, thought – which gives rise to a feeling of comfort or discomfort.  This is the subtlest level of shenpa, the subtlest stage of getting hooked.  Energetically there is a perceptible pull; its like wanting to scratch an itch.  We don’t have to be advanced meditators to catch this.

The initial tug of “for” or “against” is the first place we can remain steady as a log.  Just experience the tug and relax into the restlessness of the energy, without fanning this ember with thoughts.  If we can stay present with the rawness of our direct experience, emotional energy can move through us without getting stuck.  Of course, this isn’t easy and takes practice.

Today`s prayer

Crossed Hands

Dear God

Please help me to quell the fears and anxieties in my heart

Please help me not to be paralysed by a negative view or perception

Or allow past loss to colour every new interaction

Painting it black

Let me remember

That the present is not always like the past

That the past comes into awareness

Only for me to see it

And bless it on its way

Taking the lesson at the heart

And leaving any fear behind

Help me to realise

That an acknowledged past

Has only the power over me

That I choose to give it

Help me every day

To choose love over fear

And belief over doubt

Courage over insecurity

The seed of love

Seeds of love 3

You thought love was the wave

That came crashing around you

A deluge

In which you might find oblivion or drown

But, no Love what remained

After that wave finally washed you

Up upon the shore of broken dreams

Within whose wrecking and breaking

You discovered a force far deeper than desire

Yes Love is the seed that

Is then planted

Growing with a power

That can never be obliterated

Once it has taken root

And begun to sprout and bloom

Within your soul

Second chances

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In the silence

I hear you call my name

From so far away

So how can it be

That you are still here with me

In the lacunae spaces that open

After long wind swept walks

Lead me home to silence

Queen of my domain

There is here

Only music, breath of wind and these voices

Carried on the breeze

And my heart beating still

After so much tragedy

Memories come

Lingering with a haunting refrain

Reminding me of

So many mistaken choices that seemed so right

When I was held ransom by pain

But now I see

All the lost opportunities

(When one door closes?)

But if youth is wasted on the young

Then maybe I can dare to reach again

Using all the wisdom

Error brings

Opening my lungs

Breathing a new breath

Aware of second chances

Left within the wide open spaces

Of so many goodbyes

Of so much unlived life

That seemed to pass me by

Now revealed to be a lie

For isn’t it true

I am still alive?

Back to supreme source : You are the Universe

Fondly.png

For them (the great masters of Buddhism) death was not this evil, existential ending.  For them, death was not the end of everything.  For them, death was going back.  It was returning home to the Supreme Source.  I know many people may be wondering what this Supreme Source is.  It is jut another way of naming the universe.  You are going back into the universe. You are the universe, but you are also the play of the universe.  The universe is manifesting, manifesting as you, and when you die, you dissolve back into the universe.  The universe is always dancing, manifesting itself in myriad expressions.  Then all of the expressions dissolve into the universe and manifest again.  It is an eternal play.  You are part of the eternal play.  So you are the universe in the end.  You are everything from that point of view.  You are the stars in the sky.  You are the trees in the forest.  You are the Milky Way.  You are also all the things in landfill.  Of course, you are all the beautiful, exotic flowers in the garden as well.

Anam Thubten 

Embracing Each Moment : A Guide to the Awakened Life

 

A grief deeper than I can name

A grief deeper than I can express or name is bursting out of me lately.  After years of working through my anger and frustration and disappointment with my parents I am seeing and feeling a much deeper reality that lay beyond my own needs, wishes, hopes and dreams.  I am fully experiencing the truth that my parents did the best they could with what they knew and I am feeling even more deeper grief for the lost children in them that had to go on in such harsh conditions.  I am even feeling the same for my much older brother and followers of this blog for some time will know of the conflicts I had with him just prior to my Mum’s death in December last year.

He is America for six weeks at the moment at the house he owns over there.  My cousin asked me on Friday, why don’t you go over.  Simple answer.  Never been invited but then my brother would not.  When I asked him how he is spending his time now his wife went back home he told me he goes for three hour long walks and about the deer that come into his garden then and leave their pooh.  I had a dream the other night I was in a cave and there was deer pooh everywhere and I had bare feet but where ever I trod I could not escape the pooh which was then ankle deep.  I understand that this is actually a dream about grief and about the messy uncontrollable world of emotions that my family found so problematic and me too with my descent into addiction from a very young age.

My brother was 39 when my father died and they worked together for years.  Mum would tear up when she told me of how she went into their office one day in the year after Dad died and my brother was sitting there wearing his cardigan. This is a man whose own wife never once told him she loves him and told my mother after Dad died she needed to toughen up and ‘stand on her own two feet!’ What the fuck else did my Mum do for most of her childhood?  Anyway leaving aside my sister in law who is incredibly severe and scary I feel for my brother so much and realise what is hidden under the words he does not say.

I’m feeling for my Mum and Dad too and I feel them over in the land of the passed with so much love in their hearts for me.  I feel them as they guided me to Scott who also lost his Dad a year before me at 21.  Don’t ask me how I know this, I just do.

I just came home from the veggie markets crying listening to one of my most favourite songs If You Wait by London Grammar.  This song is so evocative and it blows my emotions wide open.  At times the grief I feel feels too large for my body and I wonder if what I carry is not only personal but ancestral for I feel the connection to my maternal great great grandfather so deeply at times.  He entered an institution for alcoholism later in life, never having been able to grieve for the mother he lost at 12 years old (the same age my father lost his father!).   I think of how each of my sisters and were also left by men and of how now I have been trying to help someone get out of a life and death situation overseas where war is just about to be declared so we can come together and start a new life.  And how terrified I am that he will be killed before we can finally meet.

I am also aware we are deep in the final shedding time prior to the New Moon Solar Eclipse in Leo on 11th August.  It falls  smack bang on my North Node In Leo.   So much is coming to light from deep within my own shadow and unconscious as well as that of the family.   I know I can bear whatever happens but lately I feel so many echoes around me. Echoes within echoes within echoes resounding along a long corridor of time.   I am in the antechamber awaiting a new birth, what ever comes to pass.

The feminine side of love

Red Rose.jpg

“Everything that comes into life has two sides, a masculine and feminine quality, even love. The masculine side of love is “I love you.”

Longing is the feminine side of love: “I am waiting for you. I am longing for you.” Longing is the cup waiting to be filled. And sadly, because our culture has devalued the feminine, we have repressed so much of her nature, so many of her qualities. Instead we live primarily masculine values; we are goal-oriented, competitive, driven.

Masculine values even dominate our spiritual quest; we seek to be better, to improve ourself, to get somewhere. We have forgotten the feminine qualities of waiting, listening, being empty. We have dismissed the deep need of the soul, our longing, the feminine side of love.”

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee,

Love is a Fire: The Sufi’s Mystical Journey Home

A good heart

I spent a lot of years in the rooms of AlcoholicsAnonymous before I decided to concentrate more energy on personal one to one therapy in my recovery and what I witnessed there was that most people who own up to addiction are good people at heart, people who had a lot of challenges or loss or may have turned to addictions to cope with emotional neglect or abuse.  And that is why it hurts my heart when those who work so hard at recovery day in day out put themselves down.  I know I do it to myself all the time and am so glad I found  good therapist who helped me to see beyond this to deeper injuries and lacks which drive this inner self critical perfectionist within me that formed as a defence against loneliness and emotional neglect/abandonment.  It just really hits me full force when I witness others doing the same and so I felt the need to write this to affirm what goodness I see in your heart, all people working in recovery to overcome past neglect, abuse, humiliation, betrayal or pain.

I believe there is an essential part of us that is our core and that is whole and good, it is complete and it does not really require anything outside of the self to complete it.  I hear echoes of this in the Buddhist idea of bodhichitta which is a name given to that which exists beyond and beneath all the thoughts and actions and mind forms we engage with that is purely wholesome and complete, lacking in nothing.  It is really only when we have the time to sit with ourselves and feel deep within in the silence that I feel we most truly touch base with this part of ourselves that knows at heart we are connected to everything.  It happens when the voices of criticism and shame are silent and/or when we can answer back with love.

In this place live memories of all those souls we connected to in our lives and even if we had tough experiences with those people underneath there is a part of our soul that knows this experience was given to us for a reason, not one we chose but one that we can and do learn from if we can trust ourselves to be honest and question deeply inside.   I wrote a poem about this the other day but a strange thing happened it just vaporised from WordPress.  I was at the library typing it and I hit publish and it just disappeared.. very strange, it was called Eternal and was about a spiritual experience I had recently of revisiting painful relationships from my past and feeling them resolved.   Oh well its gone now and its a mystery as to why.

I am presently reading Bev Aisbett’s book I Love Me.   As a survivor of anxiety and panic attacks herself Beth has worked for nearly 30 years on a path of self discovery to help others, what she sees as lying at the basis of all of these disorders is actually a lack of self love, not self love of the narcissistic kind, but that which lets us know our true worth as souls and persons equal to others.   When I read this kind of stuff it fills me with the understanding the self love is really the start of all love, I know it’s a kind of truism we hear a lot about but the more we can work to stay in touch with this pure essence of us which is heart centred and that means taking good care of ourselves across all levels, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual the more connected we feel, the less anxious and the less alone.

We are wont to condemn self love, but what we really mean to condemn is contrary to self love.  It is that mixture of selfishness and self hate that permanently pursues us, that prevents us from loving others and that prohibits us from  loving ourselves.

Paul Valery

 

Understanding the truth beyond suicidal urges

This is a deeply enlightening video which I found a while back after reading Jeff Foster’s wonderful book The Way of Rest and deals in depth with the existential feeling of homelessness we can feel which so often leads people to feel suicidal.   What is it that we really wish to kill when we feel suicidal?  And how can we really help someone in this place?   He answers these questions in a deeply spiritual way.

Your pain : my pain : our pain

I have felt some understanding and realisations deepening over past weeks with all the reading and contemplating I have been engaged with it is that it is through our pain that we are all connected and that through our pain we connect to a deeper spiritual place.  Our joy can connect us too, and there can be a kind of mysterious joy in allowing our pain just to be what it is, so hard to describe in words but felt so deeply in the cells of our body and the marrow of our bones.

I am a strong believer in archetypes and astrology.  Its not purely a head knowledge I feel the energies as planetary energies shift and powerful archetypes are energised and I have watched these forces move through my own life and the deeper understandings I gained help me contain things.  I was discussing archetypes with my therapist yesterday and asking her about them.  They represent universal, collective human experiences that we all undergo and this mirrors what Buddhist teachers say that pain and loss and change are all a part of our human experience, and that it is through developing the capacities of compassion and openness that we build a bridge to each other and to our own hearts. It is something that Christine Neff focuses on in her book on Self Compassion as one of the three aspects of that state.  When we find compassion and depth through our suffering we can extend that to others and recognise our common humanity.

With all the struggle and strife in the world and with the big earth changes going on at present one thing I am noticing is this.  That a rebirth of love is trying to take place on this planet.  We all have our little part to play in being honest and opening up to express our truth and work towards not negating our darker shadowy sides but rather embracing them to bring them to light.  When we find a way to express even our darkest thoughts they have a way of being in the world and no longer are held so much under that cover of darkness and then those who also feel covered in the very human darknesses we can all know at one time or another feel less alone.

My experience is that the dark night of the soul is a very powerful experience.  Many, many of us undergo it.  I am thinking about it again after sharing a lot from Robert Romanyshyn’s book on grief in which he shares of his own dark night of sadness and grief following the sudden death of his wife.  In the beautiful chapter on Mourning that I quoted a little from yesterday he shares about two things that touched me deeply.  The first is how he lived through a deep experience and encounter with the Orphan archetype.  In this experience he felt not only his personal but also a deeply cosmic aloneness,   but mysteriously it was through this that he connected to nature and to other primal energies.

The second thing that touched me so deeply yesterday and moved me to tears was how he shared that in and through his grief and mourning process he connected so deeply and was comforted by animals.  He visited a zoo one day where he engaged deeply with the eyes and consciousness of a silver back gorilla.  During their encouner Robert threw the gorilla an orange on a whim and instead of taking it to eat in the corner, the gorilla threw it back over the fence to him.  Robert threw the orange back to the gorilla and so it went on for several rounds until a harsh voice cried out “don’t feed the animals”.  This broke their magical connection and the gorilla retreated with the orange to the end of his cage.  What Robert writes towards the end of sharing all this moved me so deeply :

I left the zoo and walked out into the city.  The cold, dark, winter afternoon did little to cheer the sadness I felt at having left the gorilla inside.  I was different, changed by that encounter and even more lonely in the midst of the crowded city.  The gorilla had suspended his appetite for a moment.  For the sake of an encounter, he had bridged the immense gap between our worlds.  In his gesture of tossing the orange back to me, he had reached out his hand across an emptiness so vast as to be beyond measure.  Together we had built a tremulous bridge of gestures, and for a brief time we stood on opposite sides of that bridge, connected in a way that seemed to acknowledge in each other a lost kinship.  Even to this day, I know that I will I know thatI will never forget the eyes of my winter companion on that day of long ago.  He had greeted me, and as strange as it might sound, I felt so grateful for that recongition.  But I also felt how far I had come, and howI knew with a deep feeling of sadness that we would remain forever more on opposite side of this bridge, and that at the best moments of my life, I would be able only to stop and linger and turn around to see, once again, what was left behind.  I knew that, and I knew too, that what I saw before the spell was broken was his sadness for me.

For some reason those final words undo me.  So much of our pain of grief or during the dark night can lie in a failure of the human world’s sensitivity to the deep level of our pain and distress we feel so unseen and unknown and often rejected when others find our pain ‘too much’.  I have felt recognised in very similar ways my own dog, Jasper when his deep limpid pools of eyes look at me with the same deep sadness and recognition at times and also undone by the way when I am really struggling or sad with repressed pain or sadness he will come and sit patiently by my side, just to be with me while I cry.  That simple gesture of care and concern undoes me in a way I cannot fully explain.  It fills an empty vacancy in both my heart and soul when I feel so very far from human aid and care.  At these times I am in the orphaned state, it is a kind of deep spiritual orphanness that I am feeling, and I cannot help but feel that Jasper understands just like the gorilla did.  Do animals feel compassion for us humans who can be so lost sometimes, driven so far from nature and deeper connection?  I believe they do.

I want to share more about the Orphan later as I work through Romanyshn’s book.  I am only half way through that chapter because I feel that Orphans do connect with other Orphans.  We recognise each other implicitly, those of us who have known that deep soul abandonment or betrayal of the world connect and we know the profound emptiness that can come from pain, many of us also resonate deeply with and connect with the profoundly spiritual in nature and animals.

It is through sharing about this with each other that we can and do connect and in a small way bridge that deeper disconnection that hounds us.   In this way I feel that for all our suffering in some way we are far richer than those who at this time in the world would rather turn a blind eye towards deeper truths, pains, losses and abandonments.

The zookeeper put paid to the beautiful exchange between Robert R and the gorilla on that afternoon with a few words, putting the focus on human ‘rules’ and it was sad for both of them.  We do have the gift of both animals and nature to help us in our abandonment, orphanhood and the deep isolation we undergo after losses or during the dark night.  We can use these gifts to deepen our isolation into a richer soulful solitude through which we can connect both to the heart and soul of our inner worlds, of the universe and of each other.