From Loneliness to Unity

From Loneliness to Unity

I am feeling a ton of appreciation and gratitude for the profoundly touching, thoughtful, and insightful comments and responses to my last post. My heart vibrates with the knowledge of our deep connectivity, with a feeling of sacredness for our impact on others, no matter how well we know each other, due to the similarity of this human experience.

I find it interesting how different people resonated with various aspects – for some, the broken heart. For others, the alcohol, loneliness, or illness. The inspiration to write what came from a conversation with a friend who expressed that this sense of loneliness and isolation was something she was feeling strongly in the past months and aware of it in many individuals who she would have never imagined in such a way position. We are all human, and we are certainly amidst a strong collective process. As a result, I am inspired to write more. I have been guided and fully believe that my heart expresses itself strongly through the written word.

Returning to last week – As I stewed in what I was calling my story of isolation and aloneness, I noticed some cracks in the foundation. I was in rich connection with so many incredible souls throughout the holidays. I had developed new relationships here at Lake Atitlan and nurtured many long distant connections that have evolved with time. I even connected with an ex-partner, and we spent time reviewing, healing, forgiving, and getting to know the current human on the other side, not the fixed image of a person from ten years ago. And despite all of this, I was clinging to some idea that I was alone and separate. When I took an honest account of this contradiction, a few things emerged. First, not being in contact with my mother over the holidays seemed to impact me significantly. And second, lacking an intimate relationship shortly after a breakup seemingly cast a large shadow over my entire relational field. I am happy to report that my mother and I have spoken and started healing a recent would between us. As for the shadow of no intimate relationship, this has been a deeper and more subtle dive into me, asking myself why such a relationship (or lack thereof) carries such an inordinate amount of weight on my well-being.

I wrote about this recently in a post called the Eden Project. Despite articulating this process and even understanding the source, it’s much harder to shift the habit. In the days after writing this, I made a conscious decision to be utterly sovereign in my sexuality and approach to relationships for a while. And how fleeting that was! Probably within a day or two, I had found myself in some situation where the inner self was asking, what about this one, it’s different, she’s different? Is this the one that may complete the Eden project for me? What a comedy of errors and contradictions I am!

 And what does completion even mean? I was joking with a group of men recently that this desire is like wanting to rest my head on a woman’s chest, have her put her arms around me, tell me I’m perfect, and never have to do anything strenuous for the rest of my life. A return to infancy! Obviously, that is not going to work as a full-time strategy (even though on occasion and at the right moment, that’s one of the best feelings in the world!).

Why am I even writing about any of this? 

I’m noticing how much loneliness is a perception, an idea, a concept that is not often grounded in present moment reality. Some are genuinely isolated and alone due to choices, external conditions, or myriad factors. And they may not feel loneliness! Many do, I am sure. Yet this is not me, nor many of you who are reading this. There are probably 50 people out there, you included who I could text right now asking if we could connect and speak, and within 24 hours, you would be there for me.

As I contemplated this theme, I was also uncovering Richard Rudd’s recordings and serendipitously found and listened to a playlist where he explores how we can transform many of the shadow energies into something lighter, loneliness being one of them. Combining his and my words: When we feel loneliness, we feel cut off from everything from our life source. It doesn’t matter who we are surrounded by or what our life consists of; a part of us believes we are alone in this world. The answer to this dilemma is in the heart. In the heart is warmth. And warmth melts the ice of isolation. So the way to transform loneliness is to go within your own heart, chipping away at the ice every day. When there is enough warmth in the heart, when you are alone geographically, you don’t need to feel alone energetically.

You can go outside, under the stars, see the moon, and see them as alive. The moon is not just a dead rock but has a being-ness. This warm heart and knowing connect us into a unified field, and you can realize that when the heart is open, we can never feel alone. We can be alone but not feel lonely. We feel alone only when the seat has folded in on itself.

Loneliness is an invitation to Unity.

Comments, please:  How do you proceed along the path from Loneliness to Unity?

The Eden Project

Sometimes I go about pitying myself, and all the time I am being carried by great winds across the sky.  ~Anonymous Chippewa

I read this line yesterday as I sat on the edge of Lake Atitlan and found myself feeling somewhat heavy.  Reading this, I took a small, energetic step back, and I suddenly realized the incredible privilege, freedom, and opportunity that this life is, particularly this moment in time.  I felt the true meaning of keeping the heart open while in pain, smiling at my friend’s recent joy at my confusion and suffering.  Paradoxically, growth comes when we suffer, for suffering quickens consciousness and generally requires the enlargement of the personality to assimilate the pain. Secondly, the radical encounter with the Other (in the form of a love relationship or with God) can also pry us out of our ego-bound position. A metanoia or a transformative experience.

Today was such a beautiful, expanding day for me.  I attended three hours of Kirtan (devotional singing) in Tzununa, a small village outside of San Marcos. My friend Jenna ( I happened to be her first yoga teacher in Thailand 5 years ago!) lives in a small sustainable community called Karuna. They offer this practice every Sunday, with all proceeds and donations going to the village children in need.

There has been a tension around my heart recently – which I could feel loosening as soon as I jumped into a tuk-tuk cruising past my house with two beautiful new friends I just met on the way to the same event.  We sang for hours, and my heart ripped open the moment we began chanting the classic Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soham.  The backdrop of Lake Atitlan supported us as we poured our hearts and voices into the sacred mantras – sending them outward for the healing and benefit of All Beings. I wondered why it took me so long to find this practice since arriving here at the lake, recalling how profound this practice was for me over the years of living in Thailand.  I have found it now and have realized that its happening several times a week at different venues❤

Recognizing that a great wind across the sky is indeed carrying me, last night I reread the book “The Eden Project” by James Hollis, which I highly recommend after any painful breakup or relationship ending. Hollis explores this idea of the sacred Other and the going home project that many of us attempt while in an intimate relationship. His words to describe it:

The going home project is deeply programmed in us from our traumatic onsets. But, as we see all around us, it remains the chief saboteur of intimate relationship. Thus, we are all caught between the deeply programmed desire to fuse with the Other and the inner imperative to separate, to individuate. This tension of opposites will always be present. Holding that tension, bringing it to consciousness, is the moral task of both parties in any close relationship, a task that requires conscious effort and heroic will. When one has let go of that great hidden agenda that drives humanity and its varied histories, then one can begin to encounter the immensity of one’s own soul. If we are courageous enough to say, “Not this person, nor any other, can ultimately give me what I want; only I can,” then we are free to celebrate a relationship for what it can give.

I have repeated this pattern many times over the years. Throwing my projections onto the Magical Other and then left in confusion when these projections collapse. The fantasy is something like this: Someday, amid the humdrum of life, the fated, fabulous stranger will drive into your life, grant you transcendence, and then go off forever, leaving you to the ordinary but soul afire. No partner, no matter how worthy, can compete with that fantasy. One of Rumi’s famous poems starts with: The moment I heard my first love story, I started looking for you… Hollis again:

Only when one has suffered the collapse of projections onto the Other, or tracked the symptomatology to its lair, may one begin to recognize that the enemy is within, that the Other is not what he or she may seem, and that one is summoned to a deep personal accounting before one can begin to clear the terrain for true relationship. One does not come to such recognitions easily, without having suffered failure, shame, rage or humiliation. But in such dreary states may be found the beginning of insight into oneself, without which no lasting relationship may be achieved.

As if heeding this advice, Rumi continues: . . . not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along. All of this is to say that once again, the call to personal responsibility in my trauma, pain, and longing is here. To seek and find wholeness and worthiness within. And when this is indeed done, the possibility of a deep, transcendent relationship may be possible. Hollis again:

Using relationships as an escape from one’s personal journey is to pervert relationships and sabotage one’s calling. To care for the other as Other is to open to pain as well as joy. Both emotions can be transformative. Though we may not hold or reify either, both may engender largeness of soul.

If we genuinely love the Other as Other, we have heroically taken on the responsibility for our own individuation, our own journey. This heroism may properly be called love. St. Augustine put it this way: Love is wanting the other to be. One of the best formulations of this relational paradox is expressed by Rainer Maria Rilke: I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.

And with this, I prepare to jump again!

Looking for Your Face

From the beginning of my life
I have been looking for your face
but today I have seen it

Today I have seen
the charm, the beauty,
the unfathomable grace
of the face
that I was looking for

Today I have found you
and those who laughed
and scorned me yesterday
are sorry that they were not looking
as I did

I am bewildered by the magnificence
of your beauty
and wish to see you
with a hundred eyes

My heart has burned with passion
and has searched forever
for this wondrous beauty
that I now behold

I am ashamed
to call this love human
and afraid of God
to call it divine

Your fragrant breath
like the morning breeze
has come to the stillness of the garden
You have breathed new life into me
I have become your sunshine
and also your shadow

My soul is screaming in ecstasy
Every fiber of my being
is in love with you

Your effulgence
has lit a fire in my heart
for me
the earth and sky

My arrow of love
has arrived at the target
I am in the house of mercy
and my heart
is a place of prayer

~ The Love Poems of Rumi

Moving to the Monastery

Its early October, yet summer lingers here in Boulder. Fall is sneaking in slowly with its changing leaves and cool nights. Snow is in the forecast soon. I find myself in transition along with the seasons. After a whirlwind of travel from Thailand, Holland, Crestone and Seattle, I finally settled in Boulder in mid-September.

I traveled to Thailand with the pure intention to deepen my spiritual practice, to explore different paths and simply to get away for a while. My experiences this summer were incredible. I traveled differently than I ever had in the past. I simply went to one location and stayed put. I rented a house and integrated myself into the local community. I became active in the Agama Yoga school, taking several workshops, two months of intensive Yoga study and practice as well as two 10-day silent meditation retreats. I experimented with fasting and cleansing. I lived simply and slowly.

I set a clear intention that this would be a summer of inner work, that I would not seek social gratifications or female companionship.  Yet one cannot deny the human existence and the powers at play between certain individuals. The most extraordinary element of my summer, and possibly my life to this point was meeting Ingrid at the conclusion of a ten-day meditation retreat together. I could fill this page with all that we’ve experienced and explored together, but as a general rule, I try to keep relationships out of my writing. I must however say that our meeting has coincided with an opening of my heart, with a deep yearning to to be united with someone as inspiring, beautiful and amazing as she is. A wild set of circumstances have collided that have allowed an American man and a Dutch woman to dance on loves stage together.

I find it difficult to articulate my experience this summer, as much of what occurred for me was very subtle – shifts in my world views, my relationship to myself, others and the world. Aspects of my personal experience I once had taken for granted or simply dismissed are now accessible to me. There is a sense of surrender to the unknown ahead, a diminishing need to control the uncontrollable future. I consider much more often what is nourishing me in this very moment rather than in some projection of the future. In a practical sense I have no idea where my life is headed, yet the clarity of simply trusting my heart and intuition is very powerful.

Throughout the summer I weighed a large decision for early 2012 – would I participate in a 90-day Practice Period at my Zen Monastery in Crestone, or would I travel to Mexico to participate in a 90-day teacher training program in Yoga and Meditation? Over time the decision became very clear for me – I found myself longing for time in Crestone, to be immersed in the stream of ancient teaching passed down over the past 2600 years. A teacher’s training program might very well be in my future, but right now my path is asking me to spend more time practicing, deepening my meditation practice more so than gaining an intellectual understanding of what meditation is. Helping others bring meditation into their lives and bring their lives to meditation would bring me tremendous of joy, yet right now I feel the most nourishing way for me to move towards such a vision is to live and practice in a monastic setting.

imageIngrid will be joining me for the move to Crestone in a couple of weeks, where we will practice together at the monastery this fall.  In January, I will begin Practice Period and she will travel to Mexico to help organize and teach the Teacher’s Training I nearly decided to attend. You can see this was no easy decision for me! In all I will be at the monastery for at least 6 months, finishing the practice period in mid-April. Other then the desire to reunite with Ingrid at that time, the world is a blank slate, full of possibility.

Reflections

I had sincerely intended to write a reflection on my two and a half months in Thailand. Alas, I’m out of time on the eve of my next meditation retreat. The condensed version is that my journey has been full of light and beauty, a tremendous opening and affirmation.  I’ve gone deeper into the Self, explored new practices and techniques and have met and shared this journey with some incredible people. In all of this I find myself cultivating a great sense of peace and joy. My heart is big and my mind at ease.  Below is a photograph of my classmates and me celebrating the completion of our third month of study at Agama Yoga, receiving a red sash for recognition of 250 hours of practice and study.

Soon after this retreat I will leave Thailand, stopping over in Europe for a couple of weeks before returning to the U.S. in late August. I’m looking forward to spending my remaining time on the island in silence, contemplating and reflecting on this amazing experience, resting in that profound stillness that pervades everything.

 

IMG_4405

Gratitude

The idea, or rather the feeling of gratitude has been growing in me lately. I’ve been wondering if it is something I can write about, determined I probably could not, until reading a friend’s post literally as if it was written to me. How serendipitous!

My gratitude extends far and wide, to the myriad things that have conspired to for me to be right here, right now. And no, not exactly sweating profusely on a rickety old bus in southern Thailand – the greater part of my right now, this entire movement towards a life of Love and Wisdom, Connectedness and Compassion.

My recent retreat focused on the concept of the spiritual heart, moving one’s center of consciousness from the mind to the center of the chest, opening towards a state of nonduality and love. The meditations were partially guided (usually the first 5-10 minutes), and one of the most poetic metaphors that kept coming up was this idea of blowing upon the ember of the heart.  The ember represents the hidden power of the light of the spirit, hidden in the material world of the earth. When blown upon, it ignites into brilliant light and heat, and when many embers are close together they can also erupt into light. Beautiful.

gratitudeI find myself often in meditation giving thanks, being grateful for so much. The cushion I’m sitting on, the Zendo I’m in and the others in it practicing with me. The Buddha, the incense and all those who worked tirelessly to produce such things. The individuals who created the conditions for the Zendo to exist, their teachers and the entire lineage. My life: my parents for their unconditional love, my sister, my greater family, friends, lovers, and even the single serving friends who passed through this existence with me just for a moment or a few hours. I am grateful for all of my teachers, old and new, the many authors and poets who have inspired me. Then there is the great expanse of mother earth, her plants and light that has nourished me, her oceans and deserts and great mountains and streams that have provided countless undulations of inspiration and bliss.  The list goes on and on.

This feeling often evokes several expressions of Dogen’s:

The entire world in the ten directions is the true human body

and part of Genjo Koan:

Conveying the self to the myriad things to authenticate them is delusion; the myriad things advancing to authenticate the self is enlightenment

 

Thank you Myriad Things…

Yoga Challenge: Day 4 Update

Status Update: 3.5 days through the challenge, 5 classes complete.

In my Day 2 Update I discussed the Warrior Academy class that I took on Saturday; Apparently I’m not a warrior! I was so exhausted after that class I was basically resigned to a chair for the rest of the day. There was very little chance of me making it to the late Saturday evening class, which I didn’t… It was at this moment that my challenge was fused with a little more reality: shooting for 2 classes per day but setting the challenge requirement to 1.

Sunday will be the day I will look back on as the hardest day of the challenge. I left the cozy confines of my bed and stumbled over to the studio just before 8am for Desi Springer’s 8am Anusara Inspired Vinyasa class. The room was once again nearly full and Desi (co-founder) began the class discussing a variety of events happening at the studio and setting the intention of focusing on Love and Heart on this pre-Valentine’s day class. The practice was quite intensive as we worked through a variety of heart-openers. Desi stopped the class at one point to point out a gentleman who was recovering from an injury and therefore just lying in the room to ‘soak up the love’.  I think the word love was used about 74 times throughout the hour and a half.  I was pushed to my limit at the end of the class where we tried out a few partner-assisted poses. My partner out-weighed me by about 40 pounds and 2 days later I am still feeling the results of him assisting my cobra with knees in my back. We practiced assisted hand-stands which were cool and ultimately it was a fantastic practice.  My only complaint is that the wonderful heart-opening flow felt interrupted by the partner assisted gymnastics. My experience with Yoga classes is that this is a common theme – spend 45 minutes in a series, then spend 20 minutes trying out super-hard postures….  Not what I’d prefer but maybe I’m alone in this?

I spent the day doing things around the house with Autumn (We are nowhere near being settled fully), with a 4pm Vital Roots class hanging over my head like a dark cloud. At half past 3 I mustered my strength, ate a snack and skipped over to the studio singing Hindu devotional music (OK not really, it looked more like a man with a limp walking off a hang-over). As I walked into the Yoga studio and felt the 97 degree room, I suddenly wished I hadn’t downed a chai and bowl of Tabouli salad heavy on the garlic about 20 minutes earlier…. In the 10 minutes before class began, I actually managed to fall asleep on my mat, wakened by our instructor Hannah Ross Smith’s greeting. The next 90 minutes were a battle for me. I was nauseous, sore, angry and kept telling myself at some point it would shift. Hannah was a wonderful instructor, infusing the entire class with a sense of calm, peace and connection. The shift came, eventually, 85 minutes into the practice during Savasana, when I knew it was all over. Hannah closed with a beautiful devotional hymn (she has an amazing voice), and I wandered home grateful for this practice.

The rest of the evening I was pretty much just a solid mass of flesh floating between the sofa and the refrigerator. 

Namaste.