Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Crippling Narcissism

People, especially in spiritual circles, talk a lot of shit about the ego...it's bad, it should be killed, etc. However, the ego is necessary. It's what motivates us to care for ourselves, to make sure that we get what we need in life to survive. Sure, when left unchecked it's a monster, but it doesn't need to be destroyed- just harnessed and closely watched.

It's this sense of self-importance that inspires me to post these blogs and expect people to read them (you are reading, right??). On bad days this same sense of self-importance becomes grossly inflated and causes me to think that I'm important enough for people to think about me all the time. I've never been aggressively pursued by paparazzi, and yet I still manage to maintain these delusions of celebrity import. You don't care what brand of toothpaste I buy? What's wrong with you?

For some reason I always think these thoughts other people are having are negative...someone doesn't call me back right away or respond to an email and suddenly they are mad at me. And no one ever is. Okay, maybe .005% of those people are, but it's so rare it's not even worth considering. Why do you automatically go there, Mind? Why so quick to assume people are upset with us when they hardly ever are? It's speaks volumes about how I must subconsciously feel about myself- as if I am inherently bad and that I never do the right thing, which is weird because that doesn't really feel like me. I have noticed that it's important to me to be liked, but I don't think that's entirely uncommon and I don't make major compromises anymore looking for approval. Yet this fear surfaces daily that I am somehow not okay and someone somewhere is thinking just that. Am I crazy, or what?

The biggest question I have for myself, though, is why the opinions of others seem to matter so much. Do I have so little faith in my own obvious awesomeness that I can be so easily swayed by how other people feel about me? Considering these opinions are usually products of my nutty imagination, it makes it extra strange. Maybe I'm just coming to grips with my own insignificance and acting out by trying to make myself feel important...by spending all my time thinking about how you're thinking about me during all of your time.

First answer: I have too much time to think.

Second answer: Realize that as important as I may be to certain people sometimes, I am certainly not important to anyone all the time and I can probably relax. I am grateful that people don't read about me in trashy magazines and know all my business. There are a lot of things to appreciate about invisibility.

The world is a safe place and my life is filled abundantly with lovers, not haters. Since we create our reality with our thoughts and words, I'll just keep telling myself this until it becomes true in my pretty, crazy little head. "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and gosh darn it, people like me!"

((the blog that inspired these musings: The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck ..great for those of us who care too much))

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kiss today good bye and point me toward tomorrow.

Back in the day my friends called me The Make Out Queen. I love kissing and used to do it all the time with just about everyone...at concerts, on buses, on the street, even at The Make Out Room one time. If you knew me somewhere between my 19th and 22nd birthdays, there's a good chance we've made out...and because this also coincided with the heaviest drinking period of my life, I might not remember. Sorry! I'm sure it meant something to me at the time.

This week two very different things happened. I came home from White Tantric Yoga in LA flush with a sweet post-yoga vacation buzz and ready to embrace full time greatness by integrating my Siri Sevak self more fully into my life. Later in the week, I relived my early 20's by going out dancing late into the night and making out with a stranger while doing so. It was fun but the rush of kissing someone new gave way to boredom fairly quickly, and in my early 20's tradition I rode the owl bus back to the Sunset by myself. I used to get so high off of kissing on the dance floor, but as it was I got a better buzz doing my bed time meditation while waiting at the bus stop at the end of the night. I think this yoga drug might be...better. Woah! That's new.

It's fitting and interesting to try on these old habits at the end of this particularly long Mercury retrograde and find that they don't fit like they used to. I could certainly still reign supreme as Make Out Queen, but it just wasn't nearly as fun as it used to be. Perhaps, as inner stillness and neutrality take root, the attractiveness of cheap shots of oxytocin wanes. I want life-giving relationships that are just as real, unabashed and radiant as me...and I have a feeling I'm not going to find them in low lit clubs.

Today was Easter. I still can't connect with the hubbub over the resurrection, so I prefer to take a more practical approach to the story. In theory, we spend the Lenten season purifying our whole selves so that when Easter arrives we experience a "springtime of the heart." The resurrection isn't just about Jesus destroying death, it's an offering for rebirth in our daily lives. Thanks to Jesus, master of self-sacrifice and compassion, we are able to move beyond our sometimes dirty human existence into something infinitely purer and higher than we thought possible...in Life! Right now! I'm not talking about "getting saved" or being "born again" (although there is nothing wrong with that). I'm talking about very simply making a new choice and doing it enough times that it becomes who you are. You don't need a priest or a pastor or a rabbi or a minister to save you. You have to save yourself by changing your own life, and you can do that at any time.

Most people don't transform over night. We slip and fall, maybe get real mad at ourselves and slip farther, wallowing in self-pity. Well, get over it. You're fine. Everyone fucks up, it's just a part of the beautiful, weird, funny mosaic that is your life. If you are making major life changes, there will be an awkward transition time where you might live in two different worlds...say, beginning to identify full time with your Highest self and calling while still participating in major PDA with a possibly gay and/or coked out Anthro professor from State (as a totally random example). The only requirement is that you just keep coming back...to the mat, to your practice, to your center...reaching ever higher, getting ever brighter and laughing at yourself as much as possible. It really helps.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Git yer light from out under that bushel.

My Kundalini Yoga spiritual name is Siri Sevak Kaur. It means "Princess/Lioness of God who does great devotional service, and who loves and lives to serve God." No pressure, right? When I received my name it didn't come as too much of a surprise. I have always loved to help others, doing community service in high school and college although it wasn't required. I just get a kick out of giving back. What was surprising about getting this name was that I didn't mention this in my application. In fact, the little information I did give was about fear, not service. When asked to tell Nirinjan Kaur (the 3HO Chief of Staff and Chief Namer) a bit about myself, I talked about how I had always been filled with a subtle, underlying anxiety and a general mistrust of life.

Today, on a long walk along the ocean between Venice and Santa Monica, I recalled what I wrote almost two years ago and was pleased to find that my heart felt very free. I walked along smiling at everyone, exchanging bits of conversation with strangers, laughing, taking pictures of beautiful things, dashing in and out of the tide. I was in the LA area because I had been divinely shepherded to assist at a special Kundalini meditation course called White Tantric Yoga. The day featured several 31 minute meditations and I was grateful to sit in for almost all of them in part, and the last three in their entirety. Where my White Tantric experience last year was immediately, dramatically altering, this year it is slipping in sweet and subtle, quietly peeling away layers of gunk to reveal...me. No substitutions, no gimmicks, no faking.

Last spring I met a psychic lawyer on a flight to DC who told me that I was hiding my true self, that I wouldn't let anyone around me really see me. I was defensive and incredulous at first- I'm so open, what does this guy know? But like all of his other uncomfortable insights, this is proving to be true. I have been hiding, shying away from my power and the responsibility that comes from having the ability, the desire and the destiny to do profound service in the world. And part of this has nothing to do with avoiding it, but sometimes, like the Monkey King Hanuman, we are totally unaware of how powerful we truly are until someone else points it out for us. Sitting in meditation on Saturday, chanting "I am bountiful, blissful and beautiful. Bountiful, blissful and beautful I am", eyes glittering, smiling wide, beginning to really believe, I got another glimpse of my purest, highest self and boy is she pretty. I have more light in me than I could've imagined and I'd like to let that light shine into the world.

The fear is understandable, though. The brighter you shine, the more noticeable you become and what then? Will the expectations become high? What if I cannot meet them? Will I let people down? Will they still love me? Will I become a target for intense negativity in response to my intense optimism? It feels safer to stay armored, never hoping too much, trying too hard, loving too freely, lest we open ourselves up to hurt, criticism or failure. But I am not content to live that way anymore. It's the half life of those without the courage to stand naked and vulnerable, totally authentic and uncompromising. We only get our light so we can give it away, illuminate truth and mitigate the dark.

Be brave, dear radiant ones. Now is the perfect time to take the bushel off and shine your brightest.

((for more information about spiritual names...http://www.3ho.org/spiritual-names/))

Monday, April 11, 2011

Drunk, young n' numb

In the six months before I turned 21 I blacked out three times. Gratefully there were never any terrible consequences, but I started cutting back on my drinking when I realized how much I liked it. I figured I should cool the relationship down before we got any more serious. I'm just not that ready to commit.

Since then I've danced back and forth between sober and sloppy, sometimes giving my liver long vacations, other times making it work real hard (sorry, buddy). Being a passionate, intense woman tending towards extremes, I am capable of being very conscious, doing two hours of yoga a day...and then going out later and drinking too many martinis. For a while now I've enjoyed the stark contrast, and figured that it gave me balance and relatability. If I was to stop drinking entirely, would it alienate me from certain relationships? Is that really a reason to continue?

If it were only my concern about losing touch with people that I care about, I could understand my motivations. However, the fact is that, to a certain degree, I like being drunk. I feel a lot very deeply and numbing things down a bit sometimes seems necessary. Plus, being a little fuzzy feels pretty cool. The rush of reckless abandon can be harder to usher in without liquid encouragement...and I am already great at abandoning recklessly, not a drop of drink necessary.

As I age, day by day and hour by hour, I wonder if I am not getting too old to be retreating from reality in this way. My spiritual practice is meant to wake me up and keep me vital. It's not a race with some tangible end goal, but I can't help but wonder how much more progress I could have made by now if I wasn't consistently walking in the opposite direction. Sometimes after a glass or two of wine I'll have some great epiphany about life, but most of the time I am just that much further from myself and the people around me. Alcohol seems to loosen knots of fear in my heart and allow me access to a range of feelings and creativity that I am otherwise too scared to allow. But how much more authentic would it be for me to work towards reaching that while fully awake and sober?

Sometime soon I'll probably have a beer or something and that'll be okay. Eventually I have to consider if I really want to keep sacrificing sensitivity to subtlety for the chance to disconnect. In the meantime, I'll balance bar time with beets. It's the least I can do for you, Liver.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

XXX

A couple of weeks ago I read an op-ed piece in the New York Times discussing recent research which concluded that it is mentally/emotionally healthier for people to be in stable, committed relationships (women in particular, but men, too). The author didn't take a moralistic, wait-until-marriage stand point- he just reported the information and suggested that perhaps we would be better off if we stopped being, well, slutty (my word, not his). It got me thinking about and reframing the way I view my own sexual history.

You know how guys sometimes inaccurately inflate their number of sexual partners? I used to do the same thing. Having gone through my later adolescence watching Sex in The City, I was embarrassed by how little experience I had. I felt like I was missing some key component of adulthood by not having a lot of partners, so I counted higher than was true. Over the handful of years between losing my virginity and my first adult relationship, I did a fair amount of fooling around, but I had neither the confidence nor the wherewithal to get laid. For some women, faltering self-esteem is the ticket to promiscuity but it didn't work that way for me. I just didn't...get it. And for a long time I was really bothered by that, so I lied about it.

Then something shifted. I gained actual sexual experience and was able to let go of all the pretend conquests. When I got into my Kundalini Yoga teacher training, I got a whole new perspective on the decision that I had inadvertently made to take few partners. The tradition teaches that every sexual partner we have leaves an imprint on our aura, and that this imprint lasts for a woman's whole lifetime unless she does specific meditations to clear it. I really resented the auric imprint thing for a while- it felt like some repressive, patriarchal, control bullshit. And then I went through the painstaking process of clearing my aura and I became aware of what happens energetically in a relationship. There is an exchange, esoterically and very literally, and it can come with consequences from the mildly irritating to the very (baby!) serious (HIV!). We should probably use some discernment when picking bed mates. I like to quote Clueless' Cher in moments like these: "You see how picky I am about my shoes, and they only go on my feet."

Which brings me to the present. Now, with some good practice under my belt and much more self-confidence, I'm poised to get out there and rack up my numbers. In the last year I had a sort of sexy awakening, finally figuring out how to get laid after years of pretending. It's been fun and part of me would like to be able to carry on this way, however this comes into direct conflict with my spiritual self. It's a special thing to connect with someone through having sex with them, but, for me, even incredible sex is lacking without love and actual intimacy. And even if the encounter felt intimate, not being honored or taken care of later by the person you've chosen to let so close kind of sours the experience.

Now comes the embarrassing moment where I reference an episode of Glee! Kurt's dad has one of the best sex talks with him that I've ever heard in which he tells him not to throw himself around like he doesn't matter, because he does. He doesn't tell him not to have sex, he just advises him to be thoughtful. Yes! I wish my parents had approached the conversation that way. When I think about it in these terms, it means a lot more to me than auric imprints and possible accidental pregnancies. Beyond the fear, I have a growing self-love that makes it hard to feel good about being fucked. It may feel great in the moment and it certainly serves a purpose, but in my heart of hearts I want to be respected and adored. And, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't know any loving, respectful couples whose relationships grew and flourished out of fucking. In my (albeit, still limited) experience, men don't respect or maintain interest in women who give it up easily...which could make for a whole other discussion.

This is a tricky thing: needing to be respected and adored, but being unwilling to be in a relationship and still wanting to be having sex. Unlike the me of years ago who felt as if I had something to prove, I would now prefer to keep my number low and avoid the heartache and effort of getting partners out of my energetic system. The last time I took a new partner, I actually stopped for a moment and thought, "Do I really want to add this person to my list?" I stand by my choice, but I'm afraid to say, gentlemen, that it's going to be that much harder now to convince me that you're worth it.

Having felt less than adored within a relationship, though, I am open to the idea that a non-boyfriend could be respectful and adoring...I just haven't experienced this as possible, so I'm not sure how willing I am to try. I think I might be too sensitive/not cool enough to gracefully pull off the whole casual sex thing. Perhaps, as the research indicates, we're not really meant to live that way. I would hate to risk losing my sensitivity by making a habit of keeping my partners at an emotional distance, trying not to get too close. The trade off seems too big. Talk to me after a couple more months of celibacy and we'll see if I still feel the same way.