This post has taken a while to write. And in that way in which Life provides the curriculum, I feel like it took going through the past few days to really fully appreciate the focus of this particular blog post: creating spaciousness in one’s life.
Pema Chodron does a really great job of talking about how we need to create a sense of spaciousness to see that the craziness in our minds is small compared to the natural space and balance that already exists before our thoughts, problems, and emotions fill up our mind.
What I have gotten from the past few days is that, even if spaciousness is the natural state of our minds, it does take conscious effort to return to that space. We can’t just assume that we can sit in meditation for an indefinite period of time or adopt a positive attitude towards our circumstances and expect that spaciousness will just automatically emerge.
It is in being conscious in our seeking and returning to the mind’s natural state of spaciousness that we realize that state. …
This past month has felt enormously difficult, and I feel like my reaction has been to block out anything that threatens to disrupt the semblance of Balance that I’ve managed to achieve for myself through it all. Taking an honest inventory, though, I recognize all the ways in which wanting to survive through the day led to me being and doing things that, in a better space, I would not necessarily choose to do.
We get triggered all the time. It is a function of having senses that give us stimuli and a mind that interprets that stimuli based on past experiences, our current emotional states, aspirations, meta-narratives, and other thoughts. As a result, our humanity has us react: We suddenly get upset, angry, righteous, defeated, or insulted. Then we react again, saying things we don’t mean, shutting down, or acting in ways that we might later regret.
Yet, if I accept that triggers happen all the time – rather than acting from the place of “Why is this happening to me?” like I’ve been singled out by Life to be hurt – I begin to create enough space in my life to see that not every trigger requires a reaction. Not every situation need become a battle that needs to be fought (and won). …
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a firm believer that how we think about a situation, issue or circumstance shapes how we approach and react to it. If you are optimistic about something, then you are more likely to see the silver lining. If you are pessimistic about something, then you might be more prone to experience doubt about things working out.
Lately, I have been confronting higher levels of stress. I am starting to really understanding how a lot of this comes from my perfectionism. Listen to the thoughts of the perfectionist: “This has to be right, or I’ve failed”; “Nothing’s ever good enough”; “Everything has to be in place if this is going to work out”; and my personal favorite, “I trust that it will only work out perfectly if I do it.” Dwelling in this world, I make no room for mistakes. I set the bar too high. I am constantly chasing after a horizon that keeps pulling back from me. As a result, I create for myself unnecessary stress, which I could release simply by letting go of my lofty expectations.
I am starting to see that perfection isn’t about “getting it right.” Rather, to know perfection is to see the uniqueness of every moment. It is to dwell fully in each moment, knowing that there is no other way that moment could be because everything added up to that moment being what it is.
This morning, I woke up uber-cranky, if not slightly resentful. My immediate reaction, as tends to be the case with many difficult emotions, was to want to step over the feeling and start thinking happy thoughts. Yet, because I am doing more work around being more mindful, I decided to just be with the feeling.
I realized that, even if I could somehow generate a semblance of happiness, it wouldn’t last very long, because it wouldn’t be authentic.
What came to me in being with the emotion was the following question:
For what can I be happy in my life today?
Even though the residue of this morning’s funk hasn’t completely dispelled, my mind is now trained on finding happiness throughout the day. And in that search, I am actually creating authentic happiness.
Yet, at this stage of the journey – the beginnings of what the “dark night of the soul” most closely associated with St. John of the Cross – there is a tendency to want to wipe the slate clean. Either, we seek to invalidate the past, beating ourselves up for things long done: “If I had only done this, …” or “I should have done that. …” Or, we think the only way to evolve the Self is to rid ourselves of any and everything that has the appearance of not working in the present moment: We begin to cut out relationships, purge our homes of photographs and old letters, erase contacts from our smartphones and Facebook.
Neither of these approaches is wrong per se, so long as we remember that it is all in the name of creating space. Forgiveness isn’t about rewriting the past or the present; rather, it is about letting go in the present so that there is space for a new future to be birthed.
One of my favorite Vedic stories is that of the creation of the goddess, Durga. Unlike other Hindu goddesses who came into being as descendants of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, or are the female counterparts of these three and their avatars, Durga was specially created from the three. When the buffalo-demon, Mahishasura, terrorized the three realms (i.e. Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld), the gods could not kill him, because he had been granted boons that protected him. It occurred to the gods that, if they could not kill him, they would need to create a being to do so. They called forth the shakti (i.e. dynamic, creative, feminine force) from within each of them, pooled their shakti energy together, creating Ma Durga. Ma Durga vanquished the arrogant buffalo-demon, thereby restoring order to the Universe.
There are many things I enjoy about this story. First, there is the notion that it was the strength of the Divine Feminine that eventually brought peace back to the three realms.
The one thing I most appreciate about this story is that the three gods called forth this force from within themselves to defeat the demon. For me, this is a reminder that, for us to confront our own personal demons, we must call forth power from within ourselves, rather than looking to some external source.
This morning, I had an interesting experience in yoga. Prior to the start of Jessica‘s Hatha flow class at Yoga Mandala, I have the opportunity to sit in meditation. This time, though, I really had the experience of spaciousness being created, and observing the phenomenon around me, e.g. sounds, arising from the space. As I moved through my yoga today, I was able to pay greater attention to each movement, because I had the space to do so.