“Surrender” is a challenging concept to bring up because it tends to trigger a lot of resistance. But there is an alternate view of surrender that I would like to share in the hope of revealing the healing and empowerment that this otherwise rigid contains.
Most often, “surrender” stirs up feelings and images of giving up yourself and your power to another, yielding, or admitting defeat. The battle cry “Never Surrender!” rings in my ears. It is a closing off and pushing back from the enemy, even when the enemy is a situation and not a person. It resonates with deep resistance, at the center of which is fear. But fear cannot fight fear and win without causing other things to be afraid of. An imposing force, if resisted, may or may not be momentarily overcome, but any apparent victory will contain within it the seeds for its defeat at a future time. If we look to nature, the tree that moves and sways with the strong gusts of wind has the surest chance to grow and thrive where the rigid inflexible tree will snap in two.
From my experience, surrender held the key to my ultimate empowerment. It was my willingness to let go of my wants and needs that diffused the resistance to what was happening in my life. In place of that resistance came a sense of peace and stillness. Instead of fighting and struggling to be heard or seen, I became very fluid, wrapping myself around the situations rather than trying to wrap them around me. I wasn’t surrendering myself to others, I was just calling a temporary cease-fire so I could see if the war I was fighting was even still going on.
That experience of peace created an opening, and I began to see things in my surroundings that I just couldn’t see before. I followed these clues with a playful curiosity, and they revealed to me a loophole in life that, when realized, released me from the need to resist anything. I wasn’t afraid anymore, and those fears that had held me so tight were revealed as having their roots in childhood when, in a very real way, they were very real fears. But I wasn’t that child anymore, and so I could let go of those fears that caused me to misinterpret so many of the situations in my life.
In a sense, I surrendered to the life that I am, and I became one with life again. Now instead of fighting the “current” out of fear that I will be taken out to sea and drown, I ride the waves and allow them to carry me to my destination. I operate now from a place of deep responsibility, and instead of fear being my motivating factor, I experience compassion and love beyond anything I can even express. It has freed up so much energy that I am able to share with the world.
Through surrender, we are transported to a platform of peace. From there, we can see the root cause of the suffering around us and are empowered to take the necessary steps to remedy that cause rather than waste energy on mitigating the symptoms. In my willingness to let go of my limited wants and needs, I became more fully myself.
I cultivate this realization each day by finding a few brief moments to surrender my wants and needs to those of life. And regardless of how grand or small the gesture, I am inevitably left feeling more energized and more peaceful. Those gestures help create the space necessary to allow awareness to surface in those other moments of the day when I feel myself beginning to resist. It’s those moments that I now realize are simply being offered as a chance for me to practice peace. As I go about my days, the battle cry “Always Surrender!” helps transport me to a platform of peace, and allows me to face any situation with strength instead of fear.
Often times we use the words “respond” and “react” interchangeably. Even when I check my MS Word 2000 thesaurus, the top synonym for each word is the other. I’d like to take some time and share with you what I feel is a very fine but powerful distinction between the two.
When we react, we are coming from a place of limitation. This limitation is the result of direct experiences that have caused us to narrow our ability to see a situation for what it really is. These direct experiences cause us to think we know what something is about and what it means to us (good/bad/indifferent), and then when we come upon that thing again at a later time we react with a pre-established bias and with pre-established behavior. Some of this type of reaction is useful and helpful, such as a reaction to imminent danger such as fire.
But by and large, most of our reactions take the form of personal indulgences or injustices. These reactions limit how we see ourselves and the world around us, and are a large source of so much of our suffering and unhappiness. They limit the possibility for us to act in a different way. For example, if as a child you were the target of a lot of yelling, you develop coping mechanisms to deal with that behavior. As an adult, without awareness of those coping mechanisms, you are probably going to react in much the same way as you did when you were a child. These limitations prohibit us from being able to respond to situations and drain our empowerment to effectively make whatever changes we need to make.
A reaction also sets us up to play the victim in situations and then we try to, either inwardly or outwardly, make the situation or person wrong. A good example of this can be seen in situations where we find ourselves saying “You’re behavior makes me feel (insert feeling here).” An important distinction is that no one’s behavior can ever make you feel anything. What you feel as a result of someone’s behavior is up to you. To use the above example, if someone yells at me, I can react from a place of feeling threatened if that’s what my past conditioning has set me up to do. Or if I am aware enough of those triggers, I can recognize that there are many other ways I could act, and then I can choose from that list of actions and respond accordingly.
So the distinction there is that no one is making me feel anything. They are doing what they are doing, and it’s my pre-established bias that makes me feel a certain way. If I can recognize that trigger, I can open myself up to new options and respond to the situation more compassionately.
So to be able to respond means I am free to act instead of react to a situation. It opens me up to more gracious behavior, and empowers me to effectively make whatever changes need to be made without adding more fuel to the fire by triggering the other person’s reactions. Responsibility means “the ability to respond”, and when we reclaim that power, we can diffuse difficult situations, we can modify our harmfully indulgent behaviors, and we begin to find a new deeper level of trust for ourselves in this world. We are then free to love difficult situations as much as we love the lovable ones because they no longer threaten us, and those responsible actions of love are far more powerful than any reaction of fear.
Acceptance can be a difficult concept to get behind. There are many different facets and degrees of acceptance, which can complicate it even more. But wrapped up in this seemingly counter-intuitive concept are the very seeds of liberation and the deepest expression of self-love.
By resisting a situation, we lock energy inside of us rather than letting it flow through us into the situation. Resistance creates roadblocks in our minds preventing creative solutions from bubbling up. Our resources churn the facts of the case trying to make sense of it, rather than simply accepting that the cause and purpose may be beyond our capacity to understand. In that state of resistance, instead of responding, we end up reacting, and that adds more fuel to the fire.
Acceptance is different from approval. Acceptance means is that we are open to the fact that, right now, this is the situation. Opportunities to practice simple acceptance present themselves all the time. Waiting in line at the grocery store, stuck in traffic, and even just the phone ringing can be a source of internal pollution. But resistance is simply there to remind us to wake up. Rather than being stuck in a limited story of what “should” be happening based on a limited idea of ourselves in a limited idea of life, open up to the possibility that maybe, somehow, what is happening right now is what’s best.
We can’t possibly know what’s going to happen next, but yet we all walk around in a bubble of illusion of what we think the day will hold. And when that bubble is burst by something unexpected, we tense up and react to the situation as if it were a personal affront. And when it is a personal attack, that’s even more fuel for the fire. We attack and defend with an air of righteousness. Meanwhile, because we’re so locked up in this story of how wrong that other person is, we can’t realize that the original attack probably had nothing to do with us in the first place. So often personal attacks are just symptoms of another person’s internal pain, but they turn and point their frustration at us because they just don’t know what else to do or because they are convinced it must be because of us.
So what if we just accept what is happening? Just allow it to be there without judgment or resistance. Is it possible to bring a sense of curiosity to it instead of being the victim of it? How about finding some gratitude for the fact that we are even here to experience it in the first place?
When we can open ourselves up in this way, and allow whatever “is” to be as it is without resisting it, we are able to look around with clear eyes and see what lesson we might have missed otherwise. Acceptance is an expression of self-love because the resistance blocks our energy creating dis-ease in our bodies, which if allowed to fester, can be very damaging to us physically. Through acceptance, we avail ourselves to creative solutions we wouldn’t have been able to tap into otherwise, and build bridges and create trust allowing others to find their own acceptance.
But don’t take my word for it. Try it out for yourself and experience the truth and power of it. The next time you find yourself in a moment of resistance, use it as a cue to turn on the light of consciousness and shine it on the situation. Become an explorer, and you might be surprised at what you find. Life will become helpful and opportunities will open up. You become empowered to make the changes that need to be made, but because those issues are being addressed from a place of self-love, you are changing more than just the situation: you are bringing love into the world.
Listening is an essential life skill and quite necessary for communication. Everyone must listen in order to learn, but how many of us have ever really learned how to listen? Listening is not restricted to hearing alone, and is not limited to a function of the ears. If we are to listen well, we must use our whole bodies.
Experiential listening happens when we learn about ourselves and about the world through direct experience. This is the first listening we do from the day we are born. We listen to our bodies and the world around us, and even if we can’t hear or see or speak, we still receive and process signals in order to listen in other ways. Experiential listening is the most influential factor in forming our concepts and perceptions of ourselves in this world, which subsequently color all other experiences unless or until a more dramatic experience shifts those core understandings.
Instructional listening happens when we are learning from another, such as a parent or a teacher or a book. The information being received is for the purpose of increasing our knowledge base so we can expand those ideas and concepts of ourselves and the world.
In conversational listening, we share ourselves through our stories and experiences. The words we use to construct those stories say as much about us as the stories themselves: are we optimists or pessimists? Do we draw our knowledge primarily from formal learning or life lessons? Are we open-minded or are we judgmental? Are we dreamers or realists?
Cooperative listening is demonstrated in business settings when we are working to achieve a goal. Whether we listen to a machine as we tend to the product it produces in order to earn our daily wage, or whether we are a CEO in a board meeting working out the details of a new contract, cooperative listening is an essential part of our daily life.
As undeniably essential as these skills are, each happens without a whole lot of thought on our part. They shift quite seamlessly as we move throughout situations in our day. But there is another form of listening that doesn’t come quite so naturally for most of us. It is something we have to work at consciously, and it’s a form of listening that can be as transformative for us as experiential listening.
Compassionate listening happens when we are very present and open with another person. It is listening without judgment, and without interrupting. It is listening with your whole body so that we can also pick up what’s not being said.
When we listen compassionately, we tune in to what the other person is trying to say, and we can then relate at a deeper level of intimacy. If we could bring exact words to best express our points we would. But we dance around ideas, trying to describe them but never quite feeling satisfied that we did them any justice. And then we look to the other person and say “Do you know what I mean?” and even if they say “Oh, absolutely!” we still may feel unsure that they really do.
Unlike conversational listening, compassionate listening is also about keeping the focus on the sender by not indulging the urge to relate our own stories about similar situations. Compassionate listening is not about sharing what I know, it’s about helping them get to a deeper understanding of what they know. Also when listening compassionately, it’s important to refrain from offering suggestions or solutions unless the sender asks for advice. So many times people just want to be heard, and in the process they find their own answers.
When I am able to “be the space” for someone in this way, I connect to the structure behind the words. I recognize how that same structure has been at work in my own life, which cultivates a sense of “sameness of being”. This brings with it a deep acceptance and understanding, which is ideally felt by the sender and enhances trust. The sender feels seen and heard, and is much more ready to listen. This leads to a very transformative experience for both the sender and the receiver by building trust in ourselves and others, and expanding our concepts and perceptions of ourselves in this world.
Compassion is an amazing compass guiding intentions and interactions. When we listen, think, and act compassionately, we have recognized the “sameness of being” between ourselves and the situation or person we are interacting with. That recognition inspires us to act with deep love and respect, and opens us up to creative solutions for even the most difficult situations. The four cardinal points of our compassion compass include:
“N” stands for “Now” (a.k.a. “the present moment”). It is the never-changing construct in which the ever-changing content of life is unfolding. “Now” is the only moment you’ll ever have, and there was never a time when it wasn’t “now” (see Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”).
If you are not aware of, or grounded in, the now, your perception of what’s happening in this moment is viewed through a distorted lens of past conditioning: the result of the compulsive stream of story telling about the past (a former now) or about the future (an imagined now). On the other hand, when you are centered in this pristine moment of now, there is no story line to color your perception and you are free to simply take in whatever is happening without judgments or labels, and without limiting yourself to a story of who you are and what should be happening. This is absolutely essential in order to listen and respond compassionately.
“E” stands for “Eternal”. If Now is the present moment, Eternal is all of time in this present moment. It’s the “big picture” of everything that happened before that made this one moment possible, all the way back to the “flaring forth” of the universe. Countless processes and infinite good and bad events went into making this one single moment possible, but each of those processes occurred within the same single construct of now. And when we enlarge our perspective to include that longer now, we can see how even mistakes and misdeeds served a grander purpose and we open ourselves up to finding compassion for the most challenging situations.
“S” stands for “Structure”. In every single Now in all of Eternity, there’s been an underlying neutral structure behind all the content of life. We, as humans, too often get hung up on the content of our lives and can act with great bias as to what we want that content to be. This inevitably causes us to suffer and struggle and make fear-driven choices. When we are stuck on the level of content, any problems we solve will only address some problems but create others because we are limiting ourselves to our own individual story. But with wisdom, we look and listen compassionately, and discover the structure at work behind the content of whatever it is we are facing. We discover the foundation of “sameness” that is at work in that situation as well as in our own lives. Only then can we respond compassionately, creatively addressing the issue without creating more issues in the process.
“W” stands for “Whole”. As humans, we are undeniably individuated, but when we tap into the Now, the Eternal, and the Structure of it all, we quickly realize that every individuated atom is one infinitesimal piece to an absolute whole organism that is inextricably tied to, and influenced by, every other atom. Each action we take, right down to the intentions behind our thoughts, affects everything else at a level our human minds cannot possibly begin to grasp. When we can begin to embrace this concept, we are much more likely to act with compassion for the good of ourselves as part of the whole of life.
And when you can embody these facets of compassion throughout your day, they act as a compass guiding your intentions and interactions, bringing a deep quality to every encounter. Peace and joy are no longer derived from what you are doing, but instead flow into what you are doing from the creative forces that are at work beyond your own individuated self from the whole of life.
As for the shape of our compassion compass, unlike a standard compass we cannot limit it to a flat circle with one needle because doing that would limit us from being able to really integrate all four points. Instead, we start with the standard shape with the cardinal points in the standard location, but from there we give each point a needle of it’s own. When we are using our compass effectively, all four needles are pointing upwards and angled towards a center point above the face of the compass. This forms a sort of cone shape, allowing for the integration each facet, and pointing the way towards compassion.
Occasionally we find ourselves in situations that make us feel really good: good about ourselves, good about others, good about life and the world in general. Typically those moments don’t come about by anything we did, but by just a seeming twist of fate or luck.
We want that good thing to last forever. But what is it that is so good about it anyway? The situation? The people or things within the situation? If that’s what you attribute it to, you are probably in for a bit of hardship before too long. This is primarily true when this “good thing” comes in the form of a significant other. When we first meet someone, there is plenty of room for us to fill in the blanks of who we think that person will be for us and who we think we will be for them. We make promises and create a dream together, but really the person we are making those dreams with, as well as who we are imagining ourselves to be in those dreams, only exist in our imagination. As we get to know each other better, the realities of who we each really are settles in.
Disillusioned and hurt, we each keep trying to mold the other into that phantom person because we really want that dream of ours to come true. “I need you to be this way so that I can be that way, and then we will both be happy.” And depending on how sweet that dream was, we may continue fighting with everything we have to recapture that dream, which only serves to make the dream into a nightmare. We want them to love us so much that they surrender their dream and fulfill our dream, and we are threatened by the fact that they are hoping and wanting us to do the same thing for them.
It could simply end in a stalemate: a realization of the truth and gratitude for the lessons learned, but the human mind doesn’t like that. It wants to win at all costs. It wants to make the other person wrong so it can feel good about the decision to let go of the dream. But what if, instead of fighting against reality or fighting for a dream, we realize that that dream represents a very limited concept of what “good” really is? What if instead of redefining reality to fit our idea of good, we redefine our idea of good to fit reality? Is it even possible to retrain our brains to let go of one singular idea of “good” in exchange for experiencing “good” as an ever-changing idea?
If we want to make a good thing last, we have to be willing and able to constantly modify what we feel constitutes a “good thing”, because in this world of form no thing lasts forever. We have to be willing to find the good, even in bad situations. We have to embody that state of “feeling good” in each situation, regardless of what things are contained in that situation.
We have to see it everywhere, and then it will become so second nature that we realize it wasn’t the thing that was good in the first place, but it was the feeling of “good” that felt good. And that good feeling can easily last. Then when we share it with another, there is an added dimension to it as we learn to trust and open ourselves to another and find that good feeling remains intact. Only then will we be able to create and share a dream come true. Only then will we discover the true depth of love.
You can never really know what is in another person’s head, or be sure that they have heard what it is that you have said. I feel what we all look for is to be understood and accepted and loved, even when we are unlovable. Especially when we are unlovable. It is far easier to judge someone than it is to understand someone. Even with deep understanding, some judgment often remains. And within that judgment lies the feeling of separateness that strikes fear at the very core of your being. Fear of not being right, fear of being alone, fear of never really feeling seen and honored for who we are by another human being. And when that judgment comes from someone who you have bared your soul to, it is perceived as a most vicious betrayal that cuts you deep and closes another door.
We use that judgment as a shield to protect us from another’s inexcusable behavior. That judgment is the very wall of our own making that keeps us trapped in loneliness. It’s a weapon that we wield in order to set us apart from and above the other. We comfort ourselves from our soapbox: “I may not be perfect, but they are really messed up.” In our most honest efforts to help, we open ourselves to try and express to them the “error of their ways”, but at the same time we are forgetting the many examples of our own inexcusable behavior.
And people are often flawed in their thinking and actions, but does that make them worse than you…or does it just make them human like you? Even in the most idealized upbringing (if there is such a thing), there’s going to be hurts and scars along the way that will color that child’s experiences and therefore their behaviors as adults. And if others continue to “make them wrong”, it only drives that child to want to push that person away who, in all their most honest efforts, is just “trying to help them see the error in their ways”. But by who’s standard?
Wouldn’t it be far more effective to just curl up inside that difference with the other person rather than making them feel wrong? Really just sink in there with them and listen without judgment or fear until that child inside them feels seen and heard. Discover together the structure of the issue at hand and realize that it is this same structure that is also at work inside of you. Realize in that moment that you also have a child inside of you that feels betrayed and not seen or heard. Only then can we, as humans, really relate at a very intimate level. Only then can we feel open enough trust that it is safe to listen and see issues from other perspectives. Only then can we allow another to be who they are without feeling like we have compromised who we are.
Understanding and accepting another person’s behavior is not the same as condoning it. It’s simply about not limiting yourself and not making yourself separate and apart from them. It’s about realizing that the structure behind the behavior that you are at odds with is also at work inside of you, but that it is simply manifesting in a way that seems out of sink with your idealized version of how people should behave. It is the very same structure that has caused you to think and do and say things in the past that you wish you could have done differently, and that is causing you to judge the other’s behavior now. You arrive at a place of grace and clarity, and you realize that understanding and accepting another person’s behavior is about compassion for yourself, rather than judgment of yourself, in another.
I read somewhere (probably in Tolle’s “A New Earth”) something about emotions being the body’s reaction to thought. This concept has been of particular interest to me lately as I have been experiencing such an intense range of emotions over the past week or so. Over the past year, I have to a large extent learned how to step outside of the emotional reactions that come up, effectively diffusing them and finding creative solutions, but lately I seem to be fully embodying each reaction. I get lost in the story of it, and I spiral down a long, dark hole.
So it all seems to start when I am confronted with a situation that under normal circumstances I’d rather not be in. This happens to us all the time, and takes on many different forms and degrees of severity. The initial judgment as “good” or “bad” and corresponding initial emotional reaction happen almost instantaneously, but much of the time I am able to just use that feeling as a cue to grab my compass.
With compass in hand, my usual course of remedy is to just accept that “this is the situation”, and set about exploring the possible ways of handling it. By accepting it, I just allow it to be there and don’t get myself mentally entangled in a battle of “wishing it was different”. In that way, I am able to respond to the needs of the situation by harnessing the energy that would have been tied up in resistance and putting it to good use in resolving the issue in a compassionate and efficient way. These solutions typically benefit all concerned without the added stress or tension to my body.
But lately I realize that after that initial emotional reaction, I am entering a resistance phase. Rather than accept what is happening, I start telling myself a story about how I wish it wasn’t happening and I quickly assign blame (often to myself). Those stories perpetuate the emotional reaction which perpetuates the story and on and on until I end up in either a huge explosion and/or a mess of tears. It’s been at this point lately that I find my compass and ask myself “what in the world am I doing?” I am then able to witness my body’s reaction to those thoughts: trembling, quivering, dense, stiff.
How am I supposed to be able to come up with a creative solution if I am locked in such a mental and emotional fetal position? It’s not possible, and I am only doing damage to myself and those around me by reacting in such a way. I also begin to flog myself with the internal dialogue of how I should know better than this by now. This undermines my creativity even more because then I feel like I’m some sort of a fraud for posting all these posts promoting conscious living and here I am still falling pray to this most common tool of the ego.
So I write this today partly in an effort to come clean and say I am not perfect, partly because acknowledging and accepting our limitations is often the first step to moving beyond them, and partly because I thought it might also be helpful for others too. I remind myself that it’s in these imperfect moments that we can often find out greatest lessons, that emotional reactions are often just our past presenting itself now so we can have the opportunity to do it differently, and that it’s okay to be a mess from time to time especially if we can be a mess consciously.
All the answers to the really big questions in life can only be found in one place: inside yourself. But until we can get through the filter of past conditioning, we continue to seek the answers through our thoughts. The trouble is that thoughts can be deceiving. All thought begins with an initial impulse, but how that impulse is interpreted is subject to our awareness of the past conditioned filter we have been cultivating since our first experience as humans soon after we were first born.
That first experience was one of separation. We had a direct experience of our dependency on another for survival, and this is by far the most powerful influence over every choice and decision we make. Depending on the situation, we either feel at the mercy of another or we rail against the need of another, but regardless they are still just reactions based on the illusion of this first direct experience as separate beings.
[I know: “but we are separate beings”. While I can’t deny the overwhelming evidence supporting this fact, the best I can offer is that it’s not the only fact about us as a species, just the most apparent one. The rest of the truth, again, can only be discovered by you through your own direct experience, and any words I offer can only help direct you to that experience if you are receptive to having that experience.]
A direct experience of truth is far more powerful than any knowledge acquired through thought or study. Without this filtering process of ourselves as separate beings, as is the case with infants, a person just takes in all the information without labeling it as good or bad. It just simply comes in, is processed, and then a response comes as a result. But as we get older, and we have collected enough responses and labeled them as good or bad, we begin to anticipate certain outcomes based on our limited perception of a situation, and that anticipation sets us up to find the very experience that we are expecting to find. Instead of responding to situations, we now begin reacting to situations based on this limited perception and anticipated outcome. Then, when we have “confirmed” our expected results enough times, we simply avoid that situation all together because now we are sure we know what the result will be without even venturing to try.
But what is that past filter based on? Again, it’s based on direct experiences from our childhood of ourselves as limited beings. And unlike in other cultures that have “rights of passage” to help children disidentify with this necessary but limited perspective of themselves and of life, we in contemporary cultures continue to identify ourselves as separate beings and view our lives from this stunted perspective. It limits everything we think is possible in this life, and everything that we are capable of achieving. Everything either becomes a battle for resources and power or a reinforcement of ourselves as being at the mercy of others. Any attempts to “reclaim” power are just us waging our own war against what we see is an unjust situation, but really the only injustice is the one that we have created for ourselves. And really, it’s more of just a tragic misunderstanding than it is an injustice, but it creates the same turmoil for us nonetheless.
So what is the solution? How can we step outside of this perspective of life when it’s the only perspective that seems to be logical and reasonable? I freely admit that so many of the concepts that I share sound absolutely ridiculous. I shared those same feelings of “it sounds great in theory, but it could never apply to my life” and “people who see the good in bad situations are just deluding themselves in order to cope with their difficulties”.
But then I had a moment of direct experience of the truth of it all. My thoughts and logic and rationalizing faculties all broke open for just a few brief moments, and I experienced the absolute truth beyond all the concepts. This happened without years of studying religions or traditions, it happened without having to give up anything I have and without having to shave my head, and it happened without me having to change my diet or move to a cave in Tibet. It happened, quite simply, while reading a book. And it can happen for you if and when you are ready for it to.
And when you get there, you will see the absolute simplicity of life, and all the answers that have continued to plague you will come to you without any effort at all. I’m not saying you’re going to like all the answers you find, but they will be there and you will realize it as truth and that realization will give you the strength and focus to face any challenges you might have with grace and certainty. What stops is the internal struggle, and in that cessation of hostilities, you get filled with a deep peace, inspiration, compassion, and truth. But don’t take my word for it…
I have several everyday meditations having to do with laundry because this is such a common chore that anyone can do. Of course, if you don’t typically do the laundry in your house, you can still benefit from reading this post by taking the structure of what I am sharing and applying it to some other aspect of your life that is equally as monotonous and mundane. Again, it’s not that you’re always going to have time to tend to the laundry in these ways, but if you catch yourself pushing through the task just for the sake of being done, you may choose instead to take a breath and then try out one of these practices.
I already shared one “everyday” laundry meditation in yesterday’s post, “Meditation: Slow Motion”, which focused on sorting the laundry before washing. Another meditation opportunity I embrace sometimes is when I am folding the laundry: as I handle each piece of clothing, I smooth it and fold it with great care, and just open myself up to being the action without any concern for the what is accomplished by the action. By opening myself up in this way, I generate an intense sense of quality and precision which feels very satisfying, and that feeling then carries over into other things I do in my day.
Other times instead of just being the action, I bring to it a deep sense of gratitude for each item I fold. Gratitude for having the money to buy it, gratitude for having a washer and dryer to clean them, gratitude for the children they clothe, gratitude for this simple task I can do for them as a way of letting them know I love them, gratitude that I don’t have to carry my clothes down to the stream each week to wash them, then have to carry a basket full of wet laundry back home to hang them to dry. I even find gratitude for having the simple chore that allows me to practice this mindful meditation.
Other times I contemplate the process that went into why I have this laundry to be folding in the first place. I work my way back down the chain, beginning with why I bought them, where I bought them, how the store came upon having them to sell, the delivery trucks that carried them, the manufacturers that made them, the designers that designed them, the manufacturers that produced the material, the farmers that grew the cotton, the very first humans who figured out how to spin and weave material, and all the incredible feats of engineering that were necessary each step of the way. And a sense of fascination comes over me as I recognize the fact that many of the items I’m folding cost less than ten dollars apiece. How is that even possible? And so as I finish the chore, I am filled with a renewed sense of just how fortunate I am to live in these times.
It’s these simple tasks and chores in our days that give us an opportunity to open up to the greater wonder of this world we live in. We avail ourselves to a much bigger perspective by stepping outside of the limited confines of our conceptualized reality. We touch a sense of peace and perfection that we can take with us in our other interactions throughout our days, and share it with others we come into contact with.
If you have any tips and practices with simple everyday tasks, or if you wanted to report any results from trying my suggestions, it’d be great to hear from you.
Rather than restrict meditation to sitting in stillness, I tend to get huge benefits when I bring a meditative state to whatever it is that I happen to be doing. An “everyday” meditation I often get a lot out of is centered on the concept of slow motion. There are so many different ways to apply this concept to the simple things you do each day, and even just working this into your routine for fifteen to thirty minutes a few times a week can open you up to some remarkable insights.
I first started this one a few months back when I was cleaning the kitchen. I caught myself just rushing through the task for no particular reason, lost in a train of thought. I reminded myself: do it for the sake of doing it, not for the sake of getting done.
I immediately slowed down each motion, and felt gratitude for the reminder to awaken. My mind was “still” as I just watched the cloth swirl in circles on the countertop. I lost myself in the motion, and forgot completely about the fact that this was a chore I didn’t enjoy. And as I finished that area, my attention was drawn to a spot on the cupboard that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise if I had been rushing, and I slowly took care of it, which led me to the next spot, and so on throughout the entire kitchen. Granted, it took me much longer than normal, and it’s not something I can do every time I clean the kitchen, but the feeling I had when I was done was one of pure nirvana (as ridiculous as that sounds).
I brought the slow motion practice to the chore of laundry next, only this time instead of just being the motion, I allowed my mind to consider some various aspects of the task. For example: as I caught myself hurriedly sorting laundry one day, I decided just to sit down in the midst of it and slow the process way down. For a while, my mind was still, and I just watched as the laundry was getting moved from the big pile into two smaller piles. Several items later, I started wondering: “why did I choose this piece and not some other piece?” and then I would watch again to see if some reasoning surfaced. Sometimes I noticed I chose it because it was a similar type or color as the last item. Sometimes it was based on proximity or whether or not it needed to be turned right side out. As I picked one item, I realized I had already mentally picked it as the “next item” while I was in the process of picking the last item.
Why is this important? I don’t know. I guess what it brought up for me was a sense of wondering how many other processes I tend to in the day on automatic pilot, and for the first time I was observing those otherwise unobserved patterns. This could be very useful, because in the process I might find something that I’ve always done out of habit, but maybe by slowing it down and exploring the process, I might discover a better, more efficient way of doing it.
Finally, I also bring the practice of slow motion to my thoughts when I just can’t turn them off or if I can’t get a song out of my head. I slow it down to one word per breath, and before long I just lose interest in whatever it was that had taken over my thoughts in the first place, and I find myself in a place of stillness and peace.
As you go through your day, try to bring awareness to those activities you do on autopilot, and consider how you might apply some of these concepts to those activities.
The human mind is designed to focus on things it doesn’t understand: things that seem out of the ordinary. Anything we have a solid understanding of is quickly dismissed, most often before it even rises to the level of consciousness. But when something is unusual, or when something is impeding our perception of what’s supposed to be happening in “our” life, we take strong notice of it. We swiftly classify it as good or bad, then we experience a feeling based on that classification. If it’s “bad”, we will feel some form of unhappiness about it. Those feelings can cause many different reactions: but they basically all serve to either give you power or steal your power.
What about when we’re happy: why is that the preferred state? I mean if everyone were happy all the time, we wouldn’t begin to even notice what it feels like anymore. We might experience varying degrees of “happy”, but then the “happy enough” would become the “unhappy” in contrast to the “extremely happy”. So in every feeling of happiness, there is an inextricable unhappiness woven into it. The brain will always seek out that unhappiness or create it for itself in lieu of actually having something to feel unhappy about because it wants a puzzle to solve.
There is beauty and perfection in unhappiness. If you can find that place of recognizing the unhappiness as a temporary state, then you can realize that it contains within it the seeds of happiness that will inevitably blossom. Embrace the unhappiness. Even celebrate it. Unhappiness helps identify things that you might want to change or highlight areas where you can grow. It serves to help you deeper know yourself and brings you to that place of peace where the unhappiness looses it’s heaviness and even significance. You reclaim your power and free up energy that you can then focus on making those changes in your life where that peace can flourish.
But what is it that you change? Your car? Your job? Your clothes? Your spouse? Sure, you can try that. But how many times have you tried that before? It works for a little while, then the happiness loses it’s effectiveness and you fall back into unhappiness again. And that will always be the case when you haphazardly look to change something externally in order to find happiness internally.
The only thing you can really change in order to be truly happy is your perspective. You need to start retraining your brain to notice all the things that are “good” so you are not so focused on picking out the “bad”, and you need to realize the perfection in the unhappiness and how useful it is to bring about positive change. When you are able to do those two things, you quickly recognize what things that you are unable to bring happiness to, and then those things stand out as areas for growth or change. You are then in a position to claim your power and make those changes instead of giving away your power and feeling like you have no control.
By noticing the “good” that’s already there, you stop arbitrarily changing things that are actually good but which seem bad because the level of “happy” that they bring you has become diminished simply because you’re so used to them and they no longer hold any mystery or puzzle. You no longer feel the need to chase happiness, and can use that energy in more effective ways. Instead of looking to things and situations and people to bring you happiness, you bring happiness to people and situations and things. You begin to realize that happiness was there all along, and all it took was changing your perspective to find it. And when you’re there, when you’ve reached that point, that’s when you find the peace and perfection of unhappiness.
Gratitude is an amazing opener. And there are so many ways of utilizing it in your day to bring you back to that sacred connection with life. Anything you are doing, especially the least desired things you are doing, can be transformed by just a small handful of genuine, embodied moments of deep gratitude. In other words, it is not enough just to think the words of gratitude, you need to feel the words as they roll through your mind in a way where at some level you become that feeling of gratitude.
So let’s say I’m stuck in traffic, and I’m really late for something critical, and my cell phone is dead and there’s just nothing I can do but sit there and wait for traffic to clear up. Sure, there are always lots of personal things that you could be grateful for, but rather than go straight to the easy stuff, let’s make it more situation specific.
How about being grateful for even having a car? Think about the olden days when people had to walk to town, or the people in this and other countries whose lives would be transformed if they only had a car: being stuck in traffic would be a good problem to have. What about the amazing feat of engineering that went into having the roads to drive on and how most days they carry you swiftly and safely from place to place? How about a shout out to the fact that you had enough money that you could buy the car? And then there’s the gratitude for how many times you travel each year without getting into an accident. Oh, and another good one is gratitude for all the parts of the car that are absolutely overlooked but that function without any effort or intention from you.
And if I’m in a really tough spot, and there’s just nothing I can find in my situation to bring gratitude to, I turn my gratitude to my breath. Without it, I wouldn’t be here to experience this mess I’m in. :) I express gratitude for my heart for circulating, and for my brain for processing. I try to consider those organs inside me that I have absolutely no awareness of whatsoever, but that do whatever it is that they do without any instruction from me, thereby freeing me up to focus my attention on other things. Incredible…
And from there, the real test of gratitude is gratitude for the mess you find yourself in: after all, it provided a cue for you to awaken, and an opportunity to practice gratitude. By connecting to life in that way, you open yourself up to possible solutions that you simply couldn’t see before.
Another way you can utilize gratitude is to consider all the “things” in your life. The things that bring you joy are the easy ones, and from there you may start noticing those things that are so often overlooked and discover a renewed spark from them. But the things that bring you pain are again the real test. Finding gratitude for those things and how they can serve, if nothing else, to remind you to awaken and reclaim your connection to life is indeed something worth a moment of deep gratitude.
And a final tip: next time you find yourself saying, “Oh, if I only had (fill in the blank), then I’d be so happy!”, stop and say it again, only this time replace the word “happy” with the word “grateful” and see how that feels. That feeling will be a big indicator as to whether or not you really need that thing.
And if you can genuinely embody that feeling of gratitude just a handful of times each day, it will lead you to discovering the happiness that you already have but which, like so many other things in your life, was just simply being overlooked.
I was in the kitchen one day leaning against the oven, looking out the window to the birch trees that line our back yard. It was a cloudy day, with heavy, gusting winds. I saw a robin sitting on a branch of a birch tree, and as the wind blew, the tree swayed back and forth. The robin kept rebalancing itself and bracing itself against the wind. At one point it seemed like it had gotten a good footing against one gust of wind when an even stronger one followed up and pushed the branch even more. This caused the robin to flap a little: but yet still it stayed put on the tree.
I asked myself: Why did the bird stay on the tree? What I realized was that when the bird felt unbalanced, it made adjustments but never got deterred from what it was doing. It wasn’t resisting the fact that it was windy: it was becoming one with the wind and the tree. It was doing what it needed to do, while at the same time allowing the wind to do what it needed to do.
What the scene reminded me of is that balance is not something to be achieved and then checked off your list as an accomplishment. It’s not something you can quantify, and is not the same for everyone. You won’t find balance by assigning a point value to activities and making sure the “have to do’s” equal the “want to do’s”. Balance has nothing to do with what you do and everything to do with how you do what you do. Balance isn’t making sure in a day that you had time for body, mind and spirit. It’s about considering body, mind, and spirit in everything you do.
Balance is a process: a way of growing and learning and building in new information and knowledge. It’s about taking out old information that isn’t useful, or that may have been outdated or proven false. It’s a never-ending cycle of growth and attrition, and so it’s important to remember to let go sometimes, of both things and ideas, and trust that maybe this is just an adjustment to get you back to some equilibrium.
Sometimes there is important knowledge gained when you experience the extremes. One helps you appreciate and value the other. Without fear of death, can you truly enjoy and savor life? And so much of the drama we experience comes down to fear. Every worry or concern or frustration or anger or sadness or excitement or passion or hope all have fear at their core. Without the fear of being alone, can you truly feel passion? Without the fear of loss, how can you have hope?
Drama and fear arise from the duality of life: the seeing of yourself as separate from another and from life. In times when you find yourself in a struggle with another, keep in mind that diversity and differences are what help us grow and learn and thrive as a species. Collectively we balance out life. If everyone were the same, we’d all be on one side of the scale and it would be life that would be off balance.
And when you find the perfection of each extreme, and are able to value and savor both sides, it is there that you find balance: the peace that surpasses all understanding. And once you find it, you apply it to the next moment or the next trial, and with each turn of the wheel you find it easier to regain that equilibrium.
Life is always adding or taking away, and you have to be able to constantly adapt and adjust seamlessly in order to accomplish what it is that you set out to do, even if what you set out to do is just sit quietly in a tree.
Ever since I was a child, I always thought it would be so cool to learn how to intentionally wake up inside my dreams, otherwise known as lucid dreaming. Maybe a dozen times in my whole life I’ve been able to do it just by accident, but within minutes of gaining that heightened state of awareness I would end up waking up from the dream before I had a chance to really test it out and see what I could do.
And so in this past year, I had been thinking more and more about that curiosity of mine to gain that skill. I started looking into various media that might guide me to that experience, feeling like there was something important about that concept that could aid me in my quests in other areas of my life. But before I ever got to explore or begin any practice of it, I was struck by a huge insight.
It occurred to me that the real trick isn’t to learn how to wake up while you are asleep: the real trick is to stop dreaming while you’re awake. Within that realization, I was shifted into a new realm of absolute reality: one that coexists alongside my very own personal perceived reality that I have been constructing since the day I was born. Upon experiencing this shift, I was also able to clearly see all the other realities that coexist in this life: be it from the perspective of animal, vegetable or mineral.
It’s this absolute reality that provides the canvas that each of us paints our personal realities on. It’s this absolute reality that is not limited to stories of personal pain or fear or love or loss. It’s this absolute reality where absolutely anything is possible. By awakening from the dream of my personal reality and awakening to this absolute reality, the limited story of “me” becomes transformed into the limitless experience of “I”. I tap into that source of pure creative energy, and the clarity that accompanies it reveals what I need to focus that energy on. It’s this absolute reality that I began to realize was life’s dream for itself.
And so I wanted to share that experience with you, because I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than helping life fulfill it’s wildest dreams, and that starts with helping others awaken to it too. Imagine what we could accomplish if we set aside our own dreams and embrace that dream of life. Essentially, we are life waking up inside of it’s own dream. Let’s test it out and see what we can do.
What is it that causes us to struggle and suffer so? It is as if we are wild animals, caged by trappers who are trying to train us to do their bidding. The things they ask and expect from us strike at everything that seems normal and natural to us. We bite and snarl and tear at the cage trying to get everyone to change to fit our ideals, which all but precludes any real ability for us to properly honor and respect their ideals.
We create these cages out of wants and expectations of ourselves and others based on concepts of how we believe life should be. These concepts are rooted in our past and in society, and compounded by the fact that from a young age we start practicing how to “want”. By the time we are adults, we’re very good at wanting, and that limits our ability to recognize and value all that we already have. It reveals ourselves to be limited beings, and closes us off to the infinite possibilities that are available to us Now. Through this filter, we project images of the dismal future that we are sure is awaiting us, and these become the bars that seemingly condemn us to a life less lived.
Even when we get our way, we’re still trapped in this cage and we just move on to want something else because that’s all we’ve ever trained ourselves to do. We will never find our way out of the cage by wanting our way out, but by realizing the cage was just an illusion created by the mind and based on a limited perception of ourselves and of life.
So how do we free ourselves from this illusive cage?
The illusion dissolves by itself when we stop looking to the world to make us happy and instead start looking inside ourselves. It dissolves when we let go of expectations of how we thought life should be based on past scenarios in our mind, and look around to see how life actually is. It dissolves when we begin to notice all the things that we already have that we had wanted at some level before, and find the honor and gratitude for those things. It dissolves by itself when we learn how to tell the truth, to ourselves and to others, about what is the true cause of our unhappiness.
Then we find ourselves in a space of clarity and peace and acceptance. We look around and can decide what’s working and what’s not, and then we can address those issues that need to change from a platform of empowerment instead of lack. But until we can step outside of past-conditioned thoughts, we will remain trapped in the cage.
The good news is that even just the awareness of the cage is enough to remove some of the bars. We become more tolerant and compassionate, because we recognize others are in their own cages too. We become open to new possibilities that we were just unable to see before because we were so locked in to some single concept of how life should be. Fulfillment and joy is suddenly found in unlikely places, and we end up with more of what we want but without all the struggle and suffering. More importantly, we end up with more clarity and peace.
Always, everyday, there are so many choices. And just beyond that, there is something driving those choices we make. I walk into a room, and something grabs my attention: do I tend to it now or do I shrug it off in favor of another activity? Too often I just say, “Oh, I’ll take care of that later” and head off to do something more urgent or more indulgent. And then later, when it comes up again, do I do it now or choose to put it off again? I mean, what is it that keeps drawing my attention to those things anyway? There are thousands of other things in my surroundings that I simply don’t take notice of: Why that thing? Why now? What is it that it is here to teach me?
While we certainly can’t immediately tend to every little thing that draws our attention, it is important to recognize that there is something unique about those things that draw our attention. The thing itself is just a symbol of something deeper. Everything that is in our lives can help reveal something about ourselves if we just see past the object to the subjectiveness of the object or overall situation.
It is important to recognize our patterns of resistance and indulgence. I mean, face it: indulgence is typically only really indulgent if there are other things you “should” be doing instead. The more off limits you make something in your mind, the more indulgent it becomes when you do give yourself over to it. It is selfish decadence at it’s best. “There are so many other things I should be doing, but I just really want to be doing this right now.” And then when that moment is over, you’re still left with all those other things that needed done, but now you have less time and more stress.
What I have found is that if a couple times a day, even for maybe only fifteen minutes, I give myself over to those things that I would otherwise put off, and I do it in an open and willing spirit, I find more peace and fulfillment than I ever could by doing whatever else I wanted to do instead. In those moments, I get insights into questions that have been plaguing me, or I get filled with a sense of aliveness and gratitude. And just having those experiences a couple times a day helps me meet the rest of the events in my day from a point of calm rather than chaos. Rather than limit meditation practices exclusively to sitting in stillness, I make those experiences into my meditation.
And when I open myself up to the lesson that the things in my life have for me, I quickly realize the reason an activity drew my attention had nothing to do with what needed to be done and everything to do with simply providing me an opportunity to stop resisting for a few minutes. In that surrender, I have found more clues leading me towards more fulfillment than I ever could have found at any level of indulgence.
So whether what it is you resist is putting something where it belongs or leaving things where they don’t, recognize the resistance and then do it anyway. The next time something grabs your attention, if you’re fortunate enough to catch yourself in the moment of resistance, surrender to it instead and see what you find hidden within that surrender. You may just find peace, and maybe even joy, and from those platforms you will find clarity to see what really needs done and the empowerment to do them.
What is it that keeps us from finding the joy in our activities? There are many symptoms I could point to, but really what it comes down to is that we are lost in a story. One story is that of “why I am doing this in the first place”, and another story is “what I expect to get out of it when I’m done.” We humans have a unique way of covering up those basic elements with all kinds of content: love, loss, lust, anger, greed, fear, hope… But underneath that content, the structure remains unchanged.
The issue isn’t that we shouldn’t look to past or future: it’s simply a matter of having skipped over the only critical element of the structure that has any reality. It’s that element where we tap into a pure creative energy that can carry us through any issues that may surface. It’s that element where we embody an adaptability to mold ourselves to whatever it is that is needed in the situation to bring about the best results for all concerned. That critical element is this moment. That critical element is now.
“Now” is the only point in our lives that has any true reality, and yet we go about our plans and intentions without any notice of it whatsoever. It is the veritable platform on which our entire existence unfolds, and yet all our experiences are projections of an imagined future through the filter of a distorted past.
What do I mean when I say “distorted past”? A distorted past results from experiences in a former now that limited how we see our self in this life. It is the identification with this limited perception of yourself that distorts and limits your choices now.
For example, if a child “learns” that their scope of influence is very limited at home because they are not taken seriously and feel like they are not heard or seen, this creates an impression of themselves as a limited being. A couple ways that may play out: some may overcompensate for that and exert extra influence over other children, others may embrace it and feel they just don’t have much to offer anyone. Flash forward twenty years: you are likely to find the same person behaving in much the same way. They are behaving now in a way that supports and reinforces the experience they had as a child of themselves as a limited being, and so how can their actions now be anything but limited? They are unaware of the truth of themselves now because they are identified with a story of what was true in their past. But was that past moment really real? Were there other ways that the same situation could have played out differently?
That’s the real question. Although it’s true that children do have a limited scope of influence at home, it is not necessarily true that they needed to internalize that as an aspect of who they are as a being. A child’s influence can be limited, and they can still understand that it’s not personal but is instead just a point of fact that will surely grow and change over time. It is also possible that a child can recognize that the parent’s attempts at controlling them is just an aspect of the parent’s own perception of themselves as limited beings trying to exert control over the only thing they really feel they can: their child. Maybe such a level of awareness in a child is not quite so common, but it is certainly possible.
So when an adult with a limited perception of themselves contemplates undertaking a project, they view the possible outcomes through this filter of a limited “self”. Based on that, they decide whether or not to even enter into the project by what they imagine, through this limited filter, are the possible outcomes. If they decide to go forward, they are focused on achieving the outcome they saw as achievable, and get anxious or frustrated when the unexpected happens or if the project doesn’t work out as they planned.
In short, there is no joy in what they are doing because they are so focused on what it is they want or expect to come of their efforts. Even in success, any joy they find is short lived because now they are still faced with looking to the future through the lens of a limited self, and how can they see anything but a limited future?
Is it even possible to drop this limited perspective of ourselves? I mean, we are actually limited beings, aren’t we? Sure, if that’s the reality you want to create for yourself. And I’m not necessarily saying that you aren’t limited in some way or another, but I think what my point is is that perhaps you are far less limited than maybe you thought you were. You don’t have to let go of the past, I’m only recommending that you stop identifying with it.
Open yourself up to what is true for you now and you may be surprised at the myriad of possibilities that avail themselves to you. In doing that, you also avail yourself to the absolute joy in the only place it can ever truly be found. But that absolute potential is only available for a limited time. In order to take advantage of this special offer, you must act now! :)
There is joy in absolutely everything you do in your day, and if you’re not “in-joy-in” what you are doing, then you are destined to experience only brief moments of limited joy in your life.
Everything you come across in your day can be a source of absolute joy, and all it takes is for you to open yourself up to the possibility and investigate it for yourself. How? By “doing” for the sake of doing and not for the sake of what is being done. If you lose yourself in the moment of what this one crucial moment is offering you, you will come to feel as if you are seeing it for the first time, regardless of how many times you have done it in the past. Essentially, every moment is a new moment, with new possibilities, but you can only tap into them if you are open to finding them.
Typically, when I would set out to do something, I would have a goal in mind that I wanted to achieve. Then I would set out trying to find the best way to get there, and sometimes that would be as far as I would get. Negative self-talk would often creep in and tell me all the reasons I’ll never be able to do it, or that someone else can do it better, and so I’d be dead in the water before I even tried to swim. But on those occasions where I did persevere, and maybe even make it all the way to the finish line, I’d look around with some sense of satisfaction, but it would never last. I expected that result to bring me joy, and when I got there, any joy I did find was short lived and I was off looking for something else to bring me joy.
Maybe in the process of meeting that goal I was energized and driven, maybe I got frustrated or lost momentum, but regardless I was not enjoying the process. How do I know that? Because I was looking towards the time when I would be done for that moment to bring me joy, and it just can’t. All I did the whole time I was working towards that goal was practice looking to a future moment to bring me joy, and so that’s what I got better at: looking to a future moment to bring me joy instead of finding the joy that is all around me in this moment.
The only place you can ever find joy is right here, right now, in whatever it is you are doing. It’s in the process of “doing” where you find joy, not in the end result. And when you are enjoying what you are doing, the results will take care of themselves. The outcome can be nothing short of quality, because each moment that went into that result was one of quality. And when you are done, it’s almost like you just let go completely of the results and just set right out again to find something else to do. You have experienced the truth that the joy of doing is also the joy of being right here, right now, regardless of whatever it is that is contained within this moment.
But don’t take my word for it. Look around. See where you’re at with fresh eyes. Upon discovering just one or two things that you hadn’t noticed, you’ll start to feel an aliveness tingling inside you: that’s joy. Even if all you are doing is breathing, just notice that breath, and you will find joy. (I like to feel my hands breathing. It’s a sensation that I discovered one day a few months ago and I have yet to meet someone who knows what I’m talking about.)
And when you find yourself in that feeling of joy, you realize that all the boredom and frustration and angst that were filling up your thoughts are no where to be found. Become like an explorer, seeking out joy in everything you do: you may be surprised at all the unlikely places you find it, as well as all the insights and inspirations that arise in its discovery.
So in yesterday’s post, “Unknown Love“, I asked you to investigate, and feel without naming, what it is that you are most afraid of. How’d you do? Did you find it? What did it feel like? It’s that feeling, reinforced by the stories your mind continues to tell you about it, that limits your being in this life. It’s that feeling that is masking the love that you seek.
But it’s more than just masking the love. The real joke is…it is that love! That dense, sick feeling that makes you want to cry or flee or fight or die: that is love. That is the absolute passion of life. You call it fear and it becomes scary. You make up stories about how bad it is and so you turn away from it. It colors every choice you make so you can avoid it. And yet…and yet, what you will find is that what you have been running from all this time…is Love.
You run because when you open up to the experience of it, there is no need to make up stories about it anymore. The past dissolves, along with the limited story of you. All that’s left is who you are in this moment, and what you find out is that you are that love.
And the need to forgive is replaced with a compulsive compassion and gratitude. And the knot dissolves, and life floods in to fill the space. Awareness expands, and everything you thought you knew to be real is revealed as just an illusion: a story you’ve just been carrying about all the things you thought you knew.
And then you use that feeling that you used to call fear as a compass to guide you on your rightful path. It’s your cue to awaken and notice where you’re at and what lessons have surfaced for you to learn, and what signposts are around to guide your way.
I know: it sounds absolutely ridiculous. So let’s test that idea. Now recall a time when you felt absolutely in love with someone: What did that feel like? Really linger in that thought for a moment.
Was there a dense tightness? Did it make you want to spill over with tears of bliss and relief to have found it at last? Did it make you want to just drop everything and run to them? Did it make you want to just rip through all the obstacles that stood in the way? Did it make you want to just die because you felt too small to contain such an enormous feeling?
Those experiences of feeling love (cry, flee, fight, die) were all just appetizers, mere tastings of that absolute love that is waiting for you to find it inextricably woven throughout what it is you fear the most. And when you can experience that love, you know it was always there, and that it will always be there. You know yourself as that love, and you are liberated and empowered to really live your life instead of just survive it.
So the answer to the question “what is it you are most afraid of?”…is love. Fear is love in disguise. It is the last place you would ever think to look for it. It is a bigger and scarier than any love you’ve ever known, because in it, you let go of the story of you and all that remains is who you are now. And who you are now is limitless.