The Hugeness of our Divinity

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Can we step into the Hugeness of Divinity that we are and meet ourselves, our relationships and our lives from the strength and totality of this embodiment. To do this we must be willing to stop believing in the movement of our minds and their story of reality, and see that there is one here who is noticing the story, one here who is outside of the story witnessing life. And this one has no age, no gender, and is not aligned with any wounds or beliefs; this one is already complete and totally free. When we step into this as ourselves, we can meet all the painful and wounded aspects of our ego, with the healing space of Love. And as the Love, that we are, touches the painful, hurt and wounded places within us, we heal.

So this is our invitation, can we align with the boundless perspective of the witness that we are and our Divinity as us.  And as we do this can we meet fear, and misperception, misrepresentation, anger, hostility, emotional vulnerability and the impermanence of life from the spacious Divinity that we are? Can we allow our pain to heal in the Hugeness of our Divinity? Can we allow ourselves to be touched by our Love?

To the degree that we meet these things in ourselves, is to the same degree that we can meet this in others; our invitation is to take care of ourselves first. Because if we do not first heal ourselves; we will not be able to be fully present to those around us and to the healing of our world.  And yet as we heal ourselves, we heal the world; because we are not separate from Life, we are not separate from anyone or anything; we are one with all of existence as this Existence. 

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Who needs to be Enlightened?

MonkIt occurred to me when I was quite young that I must know what Enlightenment was. From deep within this aspiration arose. It was a totally irrational and impersonal impulse toward freedom. This type of deep yearning for Truth, for Freedom can come from no other place. Enlightenment, in the end, takes everything from our ego, it is a total stripping down of the narcissistic self. No ego could ever want this, to want this, would be wanting one’s own death.

But what I found somewhere along the way, was that my ego also, wanted freedom, because it thought that there was something to be gained. I thought enlightenment meant to be free from suffering and that I would finally get to rest. As I inquired more and more into this, I saw that this is what the ego wants; to rest, and that this was a very innocent request. In a sense, we all want to stop fighting against the movement of Life. And there is a tremendous relief when we finally let go. But ironically, our ego will only let go for a period of time, before it reasserts its drama. Because our narcissistic sense of self, maintains itself from creating drama. So even after we fully surrender, and deeply let go into our freedom, our mind will rise again; this is normal. Yet, we remain free as long as we resist the temptation to engage in our ego’s neurotic dance.

But as I was inquiring into this seeking for enlightenment, what I also found was a part of me that wanted to be able to claim enlightenment for my own self validation. As I looked deeply at this I saw there was still a part of me that did not feel whole, and felt that if I could claim enlightenment or hold onto to it, that somehow I would be saved. That somehow I would be a better, fuller version of myself. This is again, another dance of the narcissistic ego, it is always trying to improve upon itself as a way of fully feeling better about oneself, yet it never gets there.

It is almost as if, I were enlightened, then everyone would know how lovable I am. But again this is another dance of ego. If we truly wake up, then we know we are lovable. We know that we are complete, right here, right now, even with all of our deficiencies. And we have some work to do. What begins to dawn on us, is that we are perfect; that we all are the living embodiment of the Divine just as we are. The thought that we are less than, comes from our ego which operates out of deficiency. In a sense without deficiency, the ego may not exist. But as long as we believe that we are deficient, then our ego has plenty of room to struggle against life, and recreate itself again and again. When we are seeking to be free, it may be helpful to ask, who needs to be Free? Am I following a deep impulse for Truth from within, or am I following and my ego’s need to be somebody important? Who needs to claim Enlightenment? If we are truly free, we do not need to claim anything, because we know who we Are, and we can rest in our Divinity, and we relax in relationship to our shortcomings. As we do this, miraculously many, not all, of our short comings begin to fall away.

 

 

 

Working with Difficult Emotions through Compassion

 

It is common for individuals to protect themselves against mental, emotional and physical pain by armoring ourselves, in a psychosomatic way in our physical and emotional bodies.  This tends to happen at a moment of a real or perceived crisis, when our bodies instinctively go tense in an effort to brace oneself from being overwhelmed by feelings. As therapist and teacher, I have worked with many individuals throughout the years that hold heavy layers of protection around themselves; sometimes decades after an experience of pain or trauma took place.  I learned how to work with others, from years of working with and healing my own armoring. To this day, I continue to work with liberating myself from years of holding my body tight from trying to shield myself from being hurt, by often imagined fears. Of course there are times when these fears are real and in the present moment. If this is the case, it is wise to take action, such as leaving the situation or getting whatever help we need.

 But what I find amazing is that often, for years, we hold ourselves tense to protect ourselves from a person who is no longer in our lives or who we might only see 1% of the time.  Maybe we will never see the person who originally hurt us again, and yet unconsciously we still armor ourselves against a one day chance encounter.  We may continue to hold this protection simply out of habit, even though there is no longer a threat. It may even be that be that our body was once shocked by a sudden accident and that it habitually holds itself tight for years. Whatever the case, this unconscious psychosomatic phenomena can hold us back from fully experiencing the wonder of Life in the affected parts of our being. To be awake, means that we open and include all of our being in our experience of life. But if there are parts of ourselves that are unconsciously resisting life, it will be difficult to experience beauty in these parts of ourselves. After we discover this in ourselves, we can invite our body to open and relax.  But for our body to relax, we must first be in a safe environment and feel emotionally and mentally safe.  This might mean a change of relationship, or environment, or simply realize that we are perfectly safe right here, right now; that this moment is not the past.    

After we have established a feeling of safety in ourselves, we can talk to our bodies or the various parts of ourselves that are in pain; and let them know that it is safe to relax.  It is safe to put the shield down.    We no longer have to hold tension in our bodies.  If we speak in a way that our body can hear, then it will hear us and begin to relax. Although, if we speak to ourselves in harsh or judgmental ways, we will not feel safe and we might become more scared and become more tense.   I like to think of talking to the places within us that are still hurting, like a good parent would talk to a child.  This might be a soft reassuring voice or a voice that is calm and clear; when we talk in this way, it becomes easy for our pain to hear us.  And our body may start to relax in a very gentle and natural way. Although if we have been through deep trauma and pain, much more work will be necessary.  

After my divorce, I can remember the intense pain that I experienced and held in my body.  I sat intentionally with this pain for over a year, and I did this each day.  I used a very specific mediation practice for helping to release this pain.  I sat down and relaxed my body.  I became open and spacious inside.  From this quiet, open and spacious place, I would locate the pain in my body, often this was quite easy to find. The wonderful thing about pain is that it is loud and undeniable.  The practice was to fully sit with the pain and fully allow it to be in my body. The key words here are to fully allow it to be.    When we first do this, our minds habitually, turn and run in the opposite direction.  They do this by thinking of something very important that needs to be done right now. Or it fantasizes about some other place or person.  Or it starts planning the day.  The mind will try to do anything but sit with pain.    It can be humorous to watch how quickly our minds go somewhere else when pain is in the room.  It can find something else to do in a fraction of a second.  Our minds will avoid pain at all costs, so it is quite a task to just get ourselves to sit with pain and allow it to be.    

After we have opened and allowed the pain to be here fully, we might imagine that the pain is a child and it is sitting in our lap.  As a father, I love this image.  I can think of any time my daughter even got hurt, the first thing I wanted to do was to pick up her and hold her.  We must cultivate this type of love for ourselves and the pain that lives within us.  We have to want to hold it. Although most of us, want to get rid of this pain as soon as we feel it. But if we want to get rid of it, we miss our chance to be free.  We miss our chance to know love. We miss our chance to transform pain into peace.     

For this process to be truly healing, we have to totally be open and to want to sit with it. Another image that I like comes from the ancient Zen teachings on the angry bull.  If we have an angry bull, and want it to calm down, then we let it run around in a big open field.  We work with pain in the same way; as we open to the pain and allow it to fully be within us, it may even become louder, it may need to run around for awhile. What is helpful is for us to notice all the space in our mind and our bodies, in our awareness and to notice that this space has no end. From this spacious openeness we can allow the pain to spread out and unravel in our spacious awareness. This also, helps our ego to relax, once it knows that there is so much space for all this pain, and that we no longer have to contain it. As we open to our already spacious nature, which is always here, we may notice that our pain might make a fuss; it might send awful memories through our minds.  To fully let go and heal, these memories must be seen, heard and acknowledged; but not believed.  By this I mean, that we see in the present moment that it (the experience that is feared) is not actually happening any longer, it happened in the past and now that it is the present and we are safe, we do not need these thoughts and stories anymore.  

If we continue to believe in the stories and thoughts, then we get stuck in the past and the mind is again successful in distracting us from sitting fully with the pain. And we don’t heal. Sometimes, we need to allow for these thoughts to go on and on until they wear themselves out.  But it is very dangerous, if we believe in our stories and add to them in the present. We will continue the story and never free the pain from ourselves until, we go back and fully allow it to release. 

If we can be this open, this willing, the pain will release, in a very powerful way, when it’s ready.  And this is up to it, not us; the only thing we can do is fully accept what’s here and surrender.  This is a very important point. The pain must feel safe and fully accepted and not denied in any way and then it will release.   And as it releases we may experience a wonderful power or energy running through our body, or a terrify energy or emotions.  Most people when they experience this terror or overwhelming sensations, get scared and quit this work. It is as if a wonderful dam broke inside and began to release and it was too much for the individual, so a person closes the gates, and stopped the whole process of letting go. 

If this happens, and it almost always does in the beginning, we don’t have to be discouraged, there will be another chance. When we are willing to again open to the pain, sit with it fully and allow for its release, there will be this wonderful and terrible feeling of being out of control.  And our invitation is to allow ourselves to experience this fully; to fully embrace feeling out of control. This is what it feels like to let go of deeply held emotions; it will feel as if uncontrollable sensations are moving through our body. Any time we are deeply emotional it feels uncontrollable, this is very much normal and ok. It might be the scariest experience of our life; we may turn red or pale, and feel sick to our stomachs. This is all a part of the process of conscious letting go.  Can we allow ourselves to turn pale, and to be terrified; in the end we probably will not die from this experience of letting go, although our minds may think that. As we fully allow the emotions and overwhelming sensations to fully be here, these very emotions will most often turn to pure energy and a rush of energy will run out of our body.  And this movement, may last for a second, a minute and hour a day or longer. But when we open to the movement of emotions and see that it is just energy; and do not believe the thoughts that say we are going to die; we become free.  This is what it viscerally feels like to consciously let go. We see that it is just energy running through our body and we allow for it to move in whatever way it needs.    And depending on the depth of the pain, it may take just one meditation on pain or a hundred to heal.  If we become comfortable with working with ourselves in this way, this fearlessness will become a way of life and we will come to love going into the unconscious parts of ourselves that are hurting.  And we will find that the majority of the pain we experience, is nothing more than energy stuck in our body from the past.  

What do you really want?

What do you want?

I have always seen this as one of the most important questions to ask ourselves on the spiritual path. When we ask this question, it solidifies our intention and direction on the spiritual path. And often, if we are not clear in our intention, we find ourselves in the  confusing landscape of modern spirituality. It is helpful to inquiry into what this path or this life is really about for us. If we don’t deeply ask and reflect upon this question, we will be left to the hopes and fears of our habitual and conditioned egoic consciousness.

Today I was at a yoga workshop; a very advanced training with arm balances and inversions.  I had no business being there, I am not so good at yoga.  I normally sit for hours on Sunday mornings; meditation has always been my path. But this morning, I cut my meditation short and ran off to an advanced anusara yoga workshop.  My inner voice told me it was the wrong thing to do; yet today I decided to not listen. It is not that there was anything wrong with the workshop or the teacher; I was the one who was not listening to my inner voice and was headed into a confusing landscape.

When I approach any class or meditation retreat or teacher for the first time, I ask, “What does this have to do with Freedom, with Awakening?” I ask this because, ever since I heard the word freedom, this is what the path has been about for me.  As I sat there in this class, I began to wonder “what am I doing here?”   I love yoga as a path to awakening; I have a great respect for the Yogic path. But the yoga that I am speaking about is union with and surrender to the Divine; which I often find is quite different than what most folks call yoga. It is not that there is anything wrong with different paths or versions of yoga. But yoga is only meaningful to me, if it is about waking up from egoic consciousness.  I know that different people are attracted to different things and have different focuses in life. But as we go through life; an important question to ask is what do I really want, what is this life about for me? And if the highest answer that comes from our heart is to have a good healthy yoga body, then go for it. Likewise if the the highest movement in us is for freedom, then align your life and choices with freedom.

So as I struggled in this yoga class, I began to reflect on what brought me here. I had this idea that yoga would be good for my stiff body. But as the class went on, I began to wonder what all this yogic acrobatics was all about.  We ended up spending a few hours trying to do some very difficult inversions.  I looked around the room and wondered if I was in a circus camp.  Yet none of the people looked like they belonged in the circus. It was mostly middle aged women, who probably were therapist and who had come thinking, that this was going to be a day of spiritual practice.   What I wondered was, what does an arm balance inversion with a twist have to do with awakening or freedom?  I have often asked myself the same question when on Tibetan Buddhist retreats; what does all this imaginary and visualization and moving energy have to do with the Divine?  And for me this day, I could not make much of a connection between falling on my face and freedom. So I decided to just to be myself, and as I relaxed in my own being, and gave up any expectation of landing these complicated arm balance inversions. As I let go,I felt an expanse and a unity; Life came alive before my eyes.  I began to see God all around me. I saw God in the eyes of the circus performers.  But as I tried to do my circus trick, I fell on my face and laughed and cried, and it was God laughing and crying through me….

Being Willing, Being Free

 Being Willing. Being Free.

If we want to change and grow we have to be willing. We have to be willing to see all the difficult parts of ourselves with honestly. Not only do we need to be able to see them. We need to be willing to be fully open to them. And we need to be open with all of ourselves; that includes being willing to feel these places within us; not just think about these places.

Most people are somewhat okay with seeing a difficult emotion or pattern within themselves. But when asked to actually feel and experience those emotions, most turn away and find anything else to do. But if we want an emotion or some deep pattern within us to change or transform, we have to be willing to give it our full attention. To be Free means that we are not going to hide from anything; especially, the difficult and painful parts of ourselves. We have to be fully willing to meet them with love and compassion.

But meeting ourselves with love and compassion can be difficult or confusing for most of us.   Often when I meet with someone, and ask them if they are willing to meet themselves from this place, feelings of unworthiness or not knowing how arise. I love to use the image of the good parent.  “How would a good parent meet us in our pain and confusion?” I ask. Would they stand 10 feet away and give us a lecture about being loving to ourselves, or would they pick us up and put us in their lap and hold a deep space of love for our pain. And so this is our work, to be willing to sit with the pain, feel it fully, and meet it with a universal friendliness; experience it without pushing it away or running from it. This is not work we do in our heads from some sort of psychological perspective; this deep pain lives in our bodies, so we must be willing to sit with the emotional pain in our bodies. And as we begin to sit with it, feel it and experience it; the pain may actually get worse or louder for some time.

And at this moment, we have a choice, to sit deeper and begin to let go or to listen to the story about why this should or shouldn’t have happened, (or whatever the thoughts and beliefs are around the pain) and hold on. This is where most people go, away from the pain and into their thinking minds. And because of this, the pain does not get a chance to move, transform or release. It would be like a child who was hurt at school, and the parent began a conversation with why the child shouldn’t be crying or why life shouldn’t happen, instead of holding and embracing the child. Often deep healing doesn’t takes place, if we aren’t able to feel the pain, to walk through the doorway of grief, fully experience it and come into our own Strength, Beauty and Wholeness, that becomes clearer after we let go.

But being free does not only mean that we are able to be open and honest with all the difficult parts of ourselves.  It also means that we are willing to see our own Beauty and Spaciousness as well. And a funny thing happens, when most people look at their own Beauty and Spaciousness; they become scared.   Scared because they never knew this to be themselves.  Or scared because they know this is the Truth of themselves, and if they are going to live from that place they must give up all the silliness of their own minds (all their thoughts and opinions, about themselves and others). Or scared because it is something totally new; and most people are really scared of something new. Especially being somebody new or for the first time truly being themselves.

The biggest fear is that in embodying this Beauty, that we will somehow disappear or lose who we are. It is true in a sense that there will be a death; a death of the ego as the fore front of our consciousness.  It will be the death of our false ideas about ourselves. And in the end, the ego will certainly still be there, but it will take the back seat to this Beauty and Spacious Consciousness that we are.   And this is a whole different way of being.

trance of mind

Freedom of mind

trance of mind

For the past lifetime,  I have watched my mind or ego trying to figure out life. According to our ego, this is the ego’s job; to figure out life. But life cannot be figured out, especially by the ego. Unfortunately for us, the ego or our mind really thinks that it can find the answers to life. This very function of the ego, keeps us spinning in circles, for lifetimes. If we honestly look at what the ego is trying to do; it is trying to figure out what God is going to do next. It wants to know with certainty what is the safest plan, for its’ (our) survival. If left unexamined, we see that the ego thinks that if it has enough time, it will have life figured out.

This should be hilarious to most of us. If we have lived long enough, or happen to be really wise at a young age; we will know that our mind, our egos don’t know anything. I can think back to so many times when I thought that I had life totally figured out. And then life would come along and pull the carpet out from under me. If you have any question about this, just make a plan and see what happens.  It can be really humbling to realize this for the first time that our egos don’t really have a clue. So it is good to have a very practical understanding of the dance of ego in our mind; the dance of insatiability or never ending searching and onto the next thing. Our mind is never satisfied; that is what keeps it moving. But also wired into the ego is for us to forget this very realization, which in turn, keeps us held hostage in the trance.

That’s what the ego does. That is why we live in a trance, because even if we realize the ego has no idea about life, about which way to go, or what will happen next; the ego has us forget this so that we go back to the trance of ego. This is why so many of us wake up and go back to sleep, this is why we don’t become enlightened, because the ego soothes us back into trance, with the next promise of……whatever.

It is such a silly character the mind, it wants us to follow the next thought; if we did not it would die and we may sit there in Samadhi and lose our jobs. This is an important point; the ego pulls us back to its’ trance so that we continue to function in the world. What awakening helps us to realize is that there is a difference between being totally asleep at the wheel, to using the ego as an instrument, to being an instrument of God. These are three very different ways of being. Being asleep is a fully unconscious life. Being conscious means that we decide how to respond, despite our conditioned and habitual minds or we live outside of our conditioned minds. And being an instrument of God means we let go so deeply that the Divine moves through us; we have all had moments of this. But to live from this place all the time, would be a whole different kind of life.

The most fundamental and practical level most of us need to understand is being unconscious. We all know what being asleep at the wheel looks like. It looks like normal life. If someone drives slowly in front of us, we yell at them. If our boss blames us, we become angry at her. In normal everyday egoic consciousness, we are like a ping pong ball. Someone hits us and we go flying. This is why the world is the way it is. This is why we are still killing each other, because we are unconscious and the ego is in charge. Some of us spend our whole life in this state. And counseling is a way out of this state of unconsciousness and into a world where you are alive and awake to choose to create the life you want. The other choice is to stay unconscious and be at the mercy of the never ending spinning of you mind. So the invitation is to step out of our current mind state and into something that is big and open, clear and free beyond our habitual minds.

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