Friday, February 25, 2011

Choosing to Un-See

It is said, and perhaps experienced, that when people close to us are hurtful, the betrayal cuts more deeply than it would with a stranger because of the trust established in the relationship. There is no better time, then, to learn how to "un-see" the character flaws of another. Of course, there are situations when further contact with said person is not emotionally and/or physically safe for us, and in those situations ideally our self-love and respect remove us. However, in so many cases the hurt that transpires between two people is worth moving through in order to preserve the valuable connection. But what is it to "un-see"?

Un-seeing is a graceful act of unconditional love. To un-see means to see the full reality of someone, blemishes and beauty, and to choose to relate to the beauty. It doesn't mean ignoring the blemishes. Here's a sweet bit about this from my Authentic Relationship manual:
"The more you tolerate and relate to the positive and illuminating qualities of that person, the more light there is to see clearly who they are. You begin to allow the other person to be real. You become very aware of all the shortcomings, but you choose to un-see them...You honor each gem you find in that person."

It hurts to be disappointed by someone we love. We are used to them behaving in a certain way and want to be able to trust them, and it can be very painful when they do not comply. It feels natural to withdraw for safety sake, like the body's immediate response to touching something hot. But in recoiling and closing off, we lose not only the relationship, but the chance to elevate the other person and ourselves through the practice of unconditional love- by knowing the reality of someone, yet loving them anyway. If it is something that we would desire for ourselves, we must be able to provide it for the people around us.

As I've grown in love for myself, I've been delighted to find how much easier it is to embrace every part of others. I've always hated that "you can't love someone else until you love yourself" idea, but I think that there might actually be some truth to it. It's not like I've never loved anyone before this point. This difference now is that my love is growing roots. It is not so easily swayed by circumstance and emotion. I have chanted "ang sang wahe guru" (God is vibrating in every cell, in every limb of my being) so many times now that I'm actually starting to believe it, and am just beginning to see that same vibration, to see God, in everyone else.

What I'm really getting at (I think...) is this: if you want to transform your relationships, begin by transforming the way you relate to yourself. Yogiji so wisely pointed out that "if you cannot bless yourself, then nobody can bless you." I will add that if you cannot embrace every part of who you are, how can you expect to relate authentically to others? If there are parts of yourself that you hide away out of fear and shame, you will not be able to be as honest and open as authenticity requires. We have to un-see our own flaws and begin to relate to the light, divine aspects of ourselves...and we are all imbued with the Divine. This does not mean that we stop working on ourselves- we are simply opening to the ways in which we are already so very excellent.

It is painful to be betrayed by someone close to us, and all the more painful when that person is ourselves. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself the things you need to be happy and healthy. See how good it feels to be able to trust and rely on yourself. Forgive yourself for all the disappointments, big and small. Choose to un-see. When you have mastered this habit within, you may find that it becomes automatic when relating to others. You deserve your own unconditional love just as much as they do.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blessing the Gentle Men

Last September, Spirit Voyage, the internet hub of all things Kundalini yoga related, issued a 40 day global sadhana challenge for women: So Purkh. So Purkh is a prayer from the Sikh faith that women say for men (read more about it and listen to it!). It is a great blessing for a man to have a woman say So Purkh for him, and has the benefit for the woman's relationships of healing negativity, encouraging resolution and manifesting true love...among other things. With the support and encouragement of my dear light sister, Siri Shakti Kaur, I bought Nirinjan Kaur's recording and began slowly fumbling my way through the lengthy Gurumukhi prayer.

Because I'm an imperfect human being among other imperfect human beings, I have had a fair amount of hurt written on my heart. Many of those little wounds have been related to relationships with men, and as such, doing So Purkh seemed to be an appropriate choice for me. If I ever wanted to get married, at some point I would have to come to love and trust men who were not gay (no offense, gay men friends- you know I love and value you, but you and I both know we're not getting married). My intentions at first were simple: bless my dad and brother, and gracefully resolve any left over energy from relationships past. I dove into the practice and began dreaming of ex-boyfriends almost nightly, working out old issues and experiencing deep healing and letting go.

Although while doing the challenge I was enraptured with So Purkh, for the next month my practice became irregular. Until! I was once again inspired by the lovely Siri Shakti Kaur when she appeared, like the magic fairy goddess she is, at my family home on Thanksgiving (what a blessing to be thankful for!). That night we practiced together and a curious thing happened: I intended to dedicate the practice to my dad and brother only, but when I went to send the prayer out, the face of a man I had met during my first 40 days of So Purkh appeared and asked to be included. In the following days and weeks, more men cropped up to the point where I was praying for all the men in the world. In this time I have had the incredible opportunity to attend the Level 2 Authentic Relationships course with Dr. Yogi which has also helped me do extensive internal and external work with the men in my life, forming friendships, exposing and healing old wounds and establishing a better relationship with myself...which, it turns out, is pretty important in relating well to others.

In Kundalini yoga, we believe that it takes 40 days to change a habit, 90 days to confirm a habit, 120 days for the new habit to become who you are and 1,000 to master the new habit.

Today is my 90th consecutive day of So Purkh.
Today, as I was waiting to cross the street at Fulton and Masonic, a man came up to me, gave me flowers, told me he wanted me to have a good day and walked away. Later on, when I was trying to get off BART balancing my bags, my flowers and my Papalote leftovers, a man offered to help me, told me I was adorable and wished me a beautiful life. These acts could be attributed to many things, but I like to think that it's because, through my So Purkh practice, I am coming to love, trust and appreciate all men (not just my long adored gay boyfriends). And because I am relating to them in a more gentle manner, men are responding by being very sweet to me. Whatever the case, there is a transformation occurring.

And like all learning, this is a process. In the midst of this growing/glowing new habit, I managed to have a massive communication breakdown with a man, behaving in a totally unconscious and reactive way, falling back on old hurts and habits that I thought were long gone. While I did maintain a respectable amount of grace and composure, I was not as kind as I could've been to him. We all have these little (or major) sore spots that sometimes seem healed over but can take us by surprise when accidentally brushed by another. It was a sharp reminder about how important it is to remain fully conscious at all times while operating this human vehicle- we can do some damage to each other if we don't! And the last thing I want to do is wound men, who carry far more hurt than they let on and they don't even get to discuss it at length with their BFFs. I want to prayerfully provide nurture to all the men who are, as Thoreau put it, "lead(ing) lives of quiet desperation."

And so I chant So Purkh. Every day. For any man who asks and sometimes for men who haven't. I am cultivating a long absent adoration of the masculine, which, I'm learning, has so many excellent qualities and so much to offer. Interestingly enough, learning to love men has helped me integrate the masculine in me, making me the Lover and the Beloved- increasingly content and complete within myself. Isn't it convenient when giving the blessing also blesses the blesser?

Here's to 90 days of reverent commitment...to 120...to 1,000!

Man or woman, I remain holding you in your highest light.

((here's a beautiful So Purkh testimonial))

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Expanding My Community by 6,901,292,285.

The Catholic Community of Pleasanton's Friar Chris really came through for me today. First we got into my favorite bit from First Corinthians ("Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are."), then moved on to the turn the other cheek and love your neighbor as yourself business. The sermon was all about compassion, unconditional love, and seeing the Spirit within ourselves and the people around us. I was practically giddy. Yes! After years of searching for spiritual guidance that I could resonate with, I found it in my yogic practice and then found it again in my original spiritual foundation. What a beautiful journey home! But then...oh no!

Then the lines were drawn. According to Catholic teachings, the Spirit is only bestowed to those who are baptized and we share our compassion exclusively with other Christians. Noooo! You were so close to Divine Love, Catholic Church!

Of course, the Catholic Church is not alone in divisiveness. It seems a natural human tendency to want to feel special and included, which for some reason often means being able to exclude other people. This happens in religion, government, society and even in the yogic community. I read an interview with Rusty Wells recently in which he was asked about his biggest pet peeve. He said that nothing really bothers him except seeing divisiveness within the yogic community. He said that it's embarrassing to see teachers talk poorly about another style or teacher. What happened to namaste, ya'll? Why can't all our practices be valid and respected? Can't we all just get along?

So I'm sitting in church, slightly disheartened because where I come from "If you can't see God in ALL, you can't see God at all." (-Yogiji) I've become less interested in duality lately (within myself or my relationships) and far more into the idea of connecting with the One that lives in each of us...and in everything! I guess this is a hard idea to sell to the world because there are so many different ideas about what this One is and what this One wants from us and who gets to be close to this One...and debate about the very existence of this One. And everyone seems to think they are "right." We live in this polarized world where you are either right or wrong. But we're missing out on some seriously rich stuff by not allowing ourselves to exist in the gray area, where both parties could be right. Maybe my grandma's nun-like activities in the church and my almost constant chanting are more similar than different. Maybe we're climbing different ladders to the top of the same house, each reaching out to God...and when we get up to the top of the house we will have arrived at the same place with two different but still effective approaches. All rivers lead to the sea, right?

Here is my radical idea for the day: let's make everyone in the whole world a member of our community. Imagine how sweet and lovely it would feel to be welcomed home everywhere you go. Do you really have to be able to exclude someone else to feel special and included? Maybe, just for a little while, we can let go of our earthly differences and see each other as we actually are: spiritual beings having a human experience, each of us little manifested light beams of God in the world. That's the real meaning of "namaste"- the Divine in me honors the Divine in you.

Differences are interesting and important, but will only divide and conquer in the ways which you allow. With curiosity and a measure of humility it is possible to move past perceived difference and get at the real, juicy stuff that makes us who we are...beyond skin color, income bracket or yoga style. Make space in yourself to hold both you and the heart/mind/ideas of The Other. Allow both to be true and valid. We have so much to teach one another that we can never hope to learn if we don't make that space and open ever deeper.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sleepwalking.

Have you ever woken up, looked around and wondered, "How did I get here?!" I am speaking not of alcohol and/or blunt force trauma-induced amnesia but the still startling and equally bewildering phenomenon of suddenly coming to from a long stupor. I woke up the other day and experienced the heart sinking realization that, despite my best intentions to have an ultra-conscious 2011, I had been asleep for weeks. Embarrassed, I had to admit that I had been living in a finely crafted alternate reality where the important things didn't affect me, although they did so very deeply. Unable/unwilling to engage with my actual reality, I fled...as far as I could get, with no intention or plans, so far outside my natural flow that I completely lost myself. What really bothered me was that, unlike similar times in the past where everything was hazy, I knew clearly in my mind and heart that I was not behaving consciously but stubbornly barreled ahead. "It'll all work out. It always does," I told myself. But that only works when you're working with dharma, destiny. And wandering desperate arms flailing into the dark is fate- what happens when we don't learn from our own histories. We are doomed to repeat the past, to wake up wondering, "What happened?!"

This is starting to feel a little heavy and dramatic. Really, what transpired was a beautiful, highly valuable learning experience for which I am grateful. It's a pretty incredible gift to be woken up and it takes a special (and brave) person to be able to do that for me. Thank you for waking me up, Friend. It's also exciting to note that although I slipped back into an old, defensive habit, I was conscious of my unconsciousness. Not conscious enough to make choices better in line with my best interests, but still...we have to celebrate all our victories, however small, especially when they're victories over our own monstrous egos. Rawwrrr! Oh dear, ego, please be quiet.

Wahe Guru is my favorite mantra in Kundalini yoga- "Consciousness is Ecstasy." I fell in love with Wahe Guru when I heard that translation. How lovely! I want to live and breathe Wahe Guru, to be able to joyfully celebrate every moment, no matter how uncomfortable, because every moment is God- and the realization of God in everything in every moment is the Joy. There has been one moment in my life thus far when I really GOT Wahe Guru- my heart was split, bleeding all over the place, tears streaming and I was able to thank God because I FELT so ALIVE!

I am ALIVE! I FEEL it! Thank YOU!

It's easy to Wahe Guru when we're stoked on life and so much harder when we're not. Who wants to say thank you after being punched in the face? But here's what I'm learning: Sometimes the face punching will be sustained over a long period of time and we have a choice. We can either embrace our life exactly as it is and live it completely in every moment (even when being punched in the face) or we can (attempt to) run away from it and end up sleepwalking. The problem with sleepwalking is that we're not really living and it's hard to wake up again when things turn around. Our whole experience of life becomes dulled and who wants that? It's like my dear friend Dave has said so many times, "I'll take a pint of pain for a shot of pleasure."

All I know is that I don't want to wake up ever again wondering where I am and what's happened. I want the full experience of my life, even the dark, heavy stuff. It's hard to say how things will ultimately turn out, so I might as well start celebrating because it's just as likely that being punched in the face now is going to make for some kind of beautiful miracle later. Call me a hopeless optimist but I'd like to be engaged in, or perhaps even be married to, my reality- staying alive and awake for every moment and finding the hope, value and God in everything and everyone.

"have hope, take heart
nothing is written
we're not yet forgotten
anything could happen"