Spirituality

Acceptance and tolerance are not the same thing

starry-endsPeople often confuse acceptance with tolerance.

To accept something does not mean to tolerate it. Acceptance is love. Tolerance is “to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.” Tolerance is to endure with forbearance. It carries a negative quality. Tolerance requires patience, causes frustration, and drains our vital energy. Inevitably, tolerating too much of something, ends in some kind of explosion when we “just can’t take it anymore!”  (more…)

Love is ruthless

My teacher, Gaya, used to repeat this to me all the time during our sessions; but like with most of her pearls of wisdom, I didn’t get it right away. It sounds nice. Sort of like “all’s fair in love and war” kinda thing, right? (I never understood exactly what that phrase meant either. Either way, not important. Back to where I was going…). So, love is ruthless. The more I thought about it, the less it made sense. In my view, at the time, love was soft, warm, accepting, gentle, and tender. It was all of these really beautiful, safe, sensitive, caring, protective ideas. Love was a respite. Love was ever-forgiving. Love was a warm comfortable blanket, surrounded by oversized down-filled pillows, on a really cold day. Right?

Nope, not so. Not even close.  (more…)

Life doesn’t happen to you; it happens for you.

Often times when some negative event befalls someone we know, we shake our heads in sympathy. “What a shame. Poor guy. He’s such a good person. How could this happen to him? He was always so kind and caring. Everyone loves him…” We make the mistake of thinking that this “bad” thing that happened is some kind of misfortune. A run of bad luck. Perhaps a mistake on the victim’s part even. But this kind of thinking traps us in suffering. It is how most people live, but it is not the right way to live.  (more…)

Life demands action

When I was in my pre-teen years, the powers that be in my family decided to enroll me in a beauty pageant. I will leave the debate about the wisdom of this decision for another post; suffice it to say it got me off the couch, away from the television, and taught me some amazing lessons. In true “tiger mom” fashion, we proceeded full force ahead; no expense was spared. For the talent portion of the competition, my mother choreographed a beautiful ballet, that conceptually involved me emerging from an imaginary oyster shell as a newly formed pearl. This particular choreography required me to dance on my toes (“en pointe” as it’s called).

The problem was that I was an amateur ballet dancer with nowhere near the technical mastery required for that caliber performance. “No problem. You can do it. I believe in you. We will find a way. We have six months to get you there.” For better or worse, my mother’s faith in my ability to do just about anything is infinite. (more…)

We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.

This is such a beautiful quote by Anais Nin. Do you have any idea what it means? This quote distills the essence of projection into thirteen simple words. It is one of the most brilliant pieces of wisdom that, when understood completely, can liberate us from so much of our suffering.

We see the world through a sort of filter made up of all of the ideas and beliefs we created in childhood. When we started to observe the world as children, we learned how to earn love, acceptance, safety, and how to avoid pain. The beliefs we formed in childhood, created in innocence, are often very very false. If you dig into your psyche and root some of them out, you will see just how silly and ridiculous they are. It’s a kind of rule-book or belief system you created for yourself when you were four, five, six years old… These beliefs make up our ego structure which then guides the rest of our lives. You live your life today ruled by decisions you made about the world, and who you have to be, when you were a little kid. Sounds absurd right? 

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If you can’t joke about it, you have some work to do.

Have you ever found yourself in a social situation where someone makes an off-hand comment, a vaguely critical observation, that is so hurtful to you that you feel instantly shattered? One stupid sentence, and it feels like someone knocked all the wind out of you? Of course you have, we all have. It’s been happening since the dawn of time.

Portrait of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (commons.wikimedia.org)

Portrait of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (commons.wikimedia.org)

In the Stoic school of philosophy, the masters taught that the best way to handle a specific criticism in a social setting, is to accept it, and respond by turning it into a self-deprecating joke. Like this:

Criticism: “Boy, you’ve really gained a few pounds since I last saw you.

Response: “You have no idea, I’ve been eating everything in sight. If you think this is bad, you should see the nightmare happening on my thighs.”

By taking in the seemingly negative comment, and turning it into a joke, said the masters, you’ve taken back power over your own emotional state (from “insulted victim” to “in on the joke”), and subtly let the other person know their negative comment doesn’t affect you.

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Taking a sacred pause

In order to truly practice and live a spiritual (or “conscious,” if you like that term better) way of life, you must be willing to take a kind of personal responsibility for whatever is happening inside you at any given time. It is the fundamental understanding that all of your feelings, reactions, and judgments have absolutely nothing to do with the other person. No one can make you feel anything. It is the ideas, stories, and interpretations you make, about what was said or done, that cause you to feel whatever you feel. (This is why one person’s joke is another person’s insult. It is the insulted person’s internal interpretations that make the joke offensive).

Recognizing this, you see that there is no reason to retaliate for harsh words, no reason to get defensive, no reason to send your emotional poison (as don Miguel terms it) to anyone else. When you feel upset, or emotionally reactive, or “triggered” (as the cool kids now call it) by something, it is not the time to lash out. It’s not the time to create new rules of conduct. It’s not the time to get righteous, or set boundaries, or hit them back. Instead, it is the time to take a pause (a “sacred pause” as one of my friends calls it), and figure out what you feel and why. What are you really reacting to? Start with the assumption that anger is fear, and ask yourself in that moment “what am I afraid of here?” When you have done your internal work, when you have reached your emotional neutral, that is the time to discuss your feelings with the other person. If you don’t know the real reason you’re so upset, how do you expect the other person to address it in any satisfactory way?

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Living your truth

“Living one’s truth” or “speaking one’s truth” has become a little bit of a cliche in personal development and/or spiritual circles. It’s often mis-used as a justification for selfishness and reckless confrontation; but that is not at all the proper understanding of this beautiful concept. (more…)

The Vine of the Soul

(A small disclaimer for all the devotees who say that reading and writing about it is pointless without having experienced it – I hear you. I haven’t experienced it, but I’m going to write about it anyway. I hope she takes it as a sign of my respect and reverence that I won’t agree to drink Ayahuasca until the time feels right for me.)

I promised to write about Ayahuasca quite some time ago, but just never got around to it. My only attempt here is to collect and offer some of the wonderful resources I’ve encountered, so you can investigate further, if you’re interested.  (more…)

Your life is your teacher

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Yes. That’s broccoli. Linda loves broccoli.

So this is my dog Linda (also affectionately known as Bubba. I’m not sure why, she just looks like a Bubba to me). Although if you ask her, Linda would probably correct you that more accurately, I am her human; that I belong to her. She owns me, and not the other way around.

I rescued Linda a few years ago after she was surrendered by her previous humans. I’m not entirely sure about the circumstances of her home of origin, but it took lots of love, and patience, and many months to get her to really open up, and overcome her inexplicable fear of men and the doorbell.

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