Empty places are opportunities open doors like invitations leaving space for smiling faces to walk toward you Clenched fists cannot cradle delicate offerings of new joy bravely bare your blistered palms and they will be filled Growing old can be a clever exchange instead of a cumbersome, slow decline a youth being traded across decades for wisdom and warm memories Unthinkable to sacrifice this life of mine for a brand new body, fresh with dew despite the pain, it is a privilege to keep pace with the progression of time So many others have never gotten the chance to stand of the precipice of their twenty-ninth year even my regrets cannot rip from me the swelling gratitude shining light on that empty expanse still before me
You Don’t Have to Earn It
There was a brief time as a teen when I recoiled from all the love I thought came to me too easily Some troubled part of me was disgusted by the fact that I didn't earn it The unconditional love of my mother, of my family, my pets seemed cheap and unsettling I couldn't help but stew in sour thoughts questioning what I had ever done to deserve it Sometimes it seemed like a consolation prize like accepting this love would confirm I was incapable of winning it for myself Now I've learned that, in fact, the sweetest, most sincere love is love we haven't earned Unconditional positive regard is a precious rarity to be grateful for Some people are not so lucky to have that unflinching affection selflessly bestowed for no reason A love that not even collision with disinterest or hatred will deter or destroy Few things are more meaningful or moving than being granted a love you feel unworthy of And there is no greater honor than to spend my life learning to pay that same love forward, indiscriminately into the open, imperfect hearts of others
My True Nature
I truly believe I can choose to be happy my younger self was always so there was innocence and joy in each breath I loved everyone and the world at once my heart was full of gratitude But somewhere along the way my soul got bogged down with disillusion bitterness encroached upon my heart like blight creeping through late fall crops all of life turned sour for awhile Now I struggle with these separate shades of self I know deep down that pure love and light remain still it feels like a denial to turn toward it and away from who I've known myself to be as I've grown into the person I am today This anger and violence I've harbored for so long grip me so much tighter than childhood pleasures to let it go feels like a refusal to acknowledge my own pain to surrender to a delusion that it never existed to favor a false sense of all pervading peace My precious passion has turned to poison through years of focusing on the wrong things an all-mighty wave of indignation rises up to consume the small voice inside that pleads for the path towards gentle gratitude and humble happiness Can I really learn to reconcile these two opposing forces? Can the soft thread of unconditional love truly overcome the violent force of white knuckled hatred? I'm afraid of who I will become if I am unable to turn from my current path, led by self-righteous ego Still there is a quiet hope that stirs within that there is still time to reclaim my one life and use my precious gifts to create light instead of adding to the choking darkness that tempts me and ties my hands When I succumb to the swirling torment that tells me happiness is not my nature I will strive to remember my soul's complexity and call out for the small child that once embodied the brave wisdom of a wide open heart
Open Heart, No Fear
Raincloud of relief the sky opening like my heart to soak in the cool, tranquil feeling of overwhelming gratitude I am exactly where I need to be I don't need to change my surroundings to bloom into my highest self the fertile soil of love surrounds me Utter bliss, staring out past the rolling fields and softly drifting cloud formations of home there is no future to fear, there is only right now and I am so happy and filled with peace and purpose Nothing can strip me of this joy the essence of my soul revealed no longer burdened by the looming pressure to sacrifice what I hold so dear Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for this perfect, though impermanent gift all fear has fled from the recesses of my heart I've made the right decision
I used to think it was a sign of weakness to be tender and loving in such a cruel world I saw my own innocent moments of vulnerability taken advantage of and wielded like weapons to be strong, I thought, must mean to harden to shut away my heart for safe keeping I spent years closing myself off, savoring cynicism scoffing at anyone who allowed themselves to be seen Now I see they are far stronger than me they were never ignorant of my pain, they knew it well but chose to lay their souls bare despite it to allow themselves to feel fully even in the face of fear A powerhouse of patience and persistence to love each moment freely and completely is the ultimate act of courage in this world when it's so much easier to hide behind hate
Downpour (Haiku Practice)
The sky opens up and so does my aching heart letting peace pour in
The Rush to React
Nothing is ever as pressing as the one who’s pressing would like you to believe. And I am content to walk a little slower, because there’s nowhere that I really need to be.The Difference in the Shades – Bright Eyes
The sensation of being rushed or in a hurry has been chasing me around for years now. I don’t remember how or when it began, but that fluttering, panicked sensation in my chest seems to always be with me. I start jerking myself violent forward through my day from the moment I wake up. The last few days I’ve been lingering for just a few minutes in bed after my alarm sounds to caress and snuggle my sweet animal children, and it’s been amazing to see just how much my mind tries to resist that and tell me I don’t have time for something so precious and worthwhile. My consciousness leaps straight from the peaceful oblivion of sleep to a three-alarm fire of strict routines and to-do lists in an instant.
While I particularly struggle with giving myself the time to just live and experience the life around me without frantically lining everything up for the next moment, I think a lot of other people have this same problem. Sometimes waiting feels as frightening as death itself. If someone makes a comment, if I get an email, if I’m invited to do something, or even have an idea I feel compelled to focus my entire attention toward responding or taking immediate action. It feels strange just to remind myself that I don’t have to react. Certainly not immediately, but often times, not at all.
It’s easier to see the error in this way of living when I watch those closest to me. It’s painful to watch someone continue to leap into awful decisions just because they feel they have to pick from the ones in front of them in each moment, that waiting is not an option. When you find yourself in a situation where both paths laid out before you are unappealing, it’s okay to decide not to choose either one and wait for other opportunities to present themselves. There is so much value in waiting, in stillness, in just observing, in watching patiently, mindfully. In a world where only bold, immediate action is given any acknowledgment, we are quickly losing sight of the quiet talent of simply being.
Even when the external world isn’t keeping us busy with stimuli to force a fast response, our inner world is. I make my emotional experiences so much more painful by feeling the need to do something about them. When I’m sad, I intensify that despair by trying to claw my way out of that feeling in any way that I can. When I’m anxious, I compound that frenzied energy by running from it, wondering about it, and trying to “fix” it. Even happiness sets me off on a quest to somehow bottle it and ensure that it stays with me, rather than just giving myself permission to enjoy it while it lasts.
Our emotions are often helpful, valuable cues. Even so that doesn’t mean they always require intervention or conscious direction. Emotions and internal experiences or mental states are there to be noticed and observed. Sometimes it helps me to pretend I am just a passive observer watching the external and internal events in this life. Then I don’t feel so much pressure to get involved with every little thing. I become aware of the benefit of simply watching everything unfold with openness and curiosity.
There is nothing wrong with slowing down and giving yourself space to experience whatever comes in the moment. This moment, no matter what it holds, is the only place we’re meant to be. Don’t miss the beauty of it, the uniqueness of it, by trying to get to the next moment faster. This moment is where your whole life is happening, take the time to notice it, savor it, enjoy it with playfulness and curiosity. There is nowhere else that you need to be.
An Open Heart Absorbs, A Closed Heart Rejects
The littlest inconveniences or imperfections that come before me in the evening hours are enough to bring me to my knees. I feel broken down, defeated, and exhausted. I have no emotional or mental strength left with which to help me cope with the most miniscule, commonplace hurdles in life. Last night, for instance, I was nearly brought to tears at the frustration of a home that cannot seem to remain clean for even an hour despite my seemingly constant maintenance. In my despair, the only thought that brought me any comfort was the idea of just burning the whole structure to the ground. If my home cannot be perfect, it cannot be.
Even though I realize in the moment how unreasonable I am being, even though I know the next morning all will seem manageable again, I can’t keep my heart above the swirling current of my despair. My saving grace these last few months has been my evening reading. As I’ve mentioned I’ve been quickly and hungrily devouring all the works of Charles Dickens. Currently I am near the end of David Copperfield. This one is definitely my favorite so far after A Tale of Two Cities. I don’t quite understand it, but the way this man writes is a balm for my soul.
With elegant simplicity he seems to reflect back to me my own suffering and at the same time help me find peace in it. Even more than that, his words help me pull my heart back into a state of openness and gratitude. There is such beauty and dignity in even the most unfortunate and wretched characters. Last night I came upon the phrase: “the fear of not being worthy to do what my torn and bleeding heart so longed to do, was the most frightening thing of all.” This touched me so deeply in exactly the most tender spot within my contorted heart that I burst into tears that did not stop flowing for the next several pages.
Somehow Dickens is able to cut to the quick of all my inner struggles and show me the beauty that resides even inside the most bitter of suffering. He reminds me that I am not alone in my feelings, that there are so many others throughout time that have felt what I feel. Not only that, but that these individuals have lived despite it all and found their place, their gratitude, and their peace.
But I am not only writing about my deep love of Dickens’ works, I am writing about the energetic shift that they are able to illicit in me. Nothing externally changes in the first few moments of quiet reading and self-reflection. My problems remain. Yet in an instant, the weight of the world is lifted and loving kindness towards myself and all of existence bursts forth and spills from my overflowing, open heart.
It’s a physical sensation, a true energetic metamorphosis. I literally feel my heart space grow warm and emanate good will, understanding, and true love. I’ve learned through this reoccurring, mesmerizing experience that the power to heal and persevere are mine to wield whenever I choose. It’s not always easy to make that choice, but the more often I am able to unclench my twisted heartstrings and let all the goodness I’ve been disregarding flow in, the more possible the choice seems to me.
Often I try to “logic” my way out of emotional states. But logic means nothing to emotion. We delude ourselves into thinking we must “fix” the problems we are despairing about before we can return to a sense of ease and wellbeing. The bad news is we will never be able to fix it. The external world’s problems are not what hold us down, it is our inclination to focus and obsess about those problems. Fix one, and surely we will find another. No, the true remedy is redirecting ourselves away from these ruminations and dissatisfactions. The good news is we don’t need to find a “reason” to do so. We just need to remember the feeling of our hearts opening. That’s enough to change everything.
Can I Love Myself Even Though…
My new favorite mantra is, “can I love myself even though…” I fill in the blank with whatever I’m struggling with or judging myself for at the time. It has been a huge shift in perspective for me. It gives me that perspective which allows me to refocus and consider what the goal of this life truly is. Even though it’s extremely hard for me, my main goal in life is to love myself and others and be a positive force in the world. Love is the greatest gift that we have been given, and there is no greater way to express our gratitude for this miraculous capacity for love than to let that love light shine bright enough to encompass our whole being and those around us. It’s more fun to imagine life as a game than a test. It’s not a game of aggression and struggle against forces trying to destroy us either. It’s a casual game like the ones I enjoy most of all. It’s simply about exploring, being curious, and having fun, seeing what wonderous things we can create along the way.
It’s easy to become distracted by all the negatives we’ve been conditioned, and to a certain extent, designed to focus our attention on. We are constantly trying to find happiness and self-acceptance by changing external circumstances. If only I was skinnier. If only I was smarter. If only I was less anxious. If only, if only, if only. Now when I notice myself getting upset about these rather trivial imperfections, I’ll say to myself, “can I love myself even though I’m imperfect?” Then I listen to that opening feeling in my heart answering back with a resounding, emphatic, “YES!” If my initial reaction is a stubborn “no”, (as it sometimes is) then I’ll ask myself to give it a try anyway. I’ll look at it as a challenge to work with and overcome. It doesn’t have to be so serious. It’s all a part of the game. Looking at it this way keeps me from judging myself for judging myself, which is obviously counterproductive. Instead I become curious and excited to tackle this new challenge.
We are all born full of love and acceptance. I see the truth of this in the faces of the children I work with every day. It’s only as we grow older that we begin to close our hearts to the world and to ourselves out of fear. And when you stop and think about it, this fear or anxiety we feel is an instinctual act of self love. We have these feelings so that we are able to recognize danger and protect ourselves. You aren’t broken. You mind and body are just doing their best to keep you safe. It’s up to us to use our higher consciousness to teach our minds and bodies that it’s okay to relax. The more we practice opening again, the easier it becomes. Sometimes when I’m having a particularly difficult time, I’ll remind myself of that. Even though it seems impossible to practice self love and self care right now, I know that it will only get easier and easier if I keep trying anyway, if I forgive myself for all the hiccups and hard days along the way.
This mantra doesn’t always have to be directed at self-criticism either. For example, sometimes I get overwhelmed with how much I want to do around my house. In that scenario, I’ll ask myself, “can I love myself even though my house is a bit messy or not exactly the way I’d like it to be?” Then rather than ruminating on all I’ve got to do, I’ll instead focus my energy on the fact that I can love myself anyway. It really takes a lot of the pressure off and reminds me of what’s truly important.
As you go through your day today, I encourage you to try this mantra out for yourself. Notice how different our “problems” feel after reaffirming our love for ourselves. When we give ourselves the love we seek, everything else starts to feel a little less important, less scary, less urgent. There is nothing for us to fear, no suffering that can touch us, when we truly practice self love and self compassion each and every day, when we love ourselves even though…
Meeting Someone New
Living with crippling social anxiety for most of my life, it is such a strange feeling to not be nervous about meeting someone new. I have a date with a vegan guy I met online this Saturday. It will be the first time we’ve seen one another in person. I think this is an example of a scenario where most people would feel at least a little nervous. But surprisingly even these types of encounters don’t phase me anymore. However, now there are other mental obstacles I face when meeting someone new.
For the longest time, I had basically given up on everyone. It seemed like it had been ages since I met anyone that was even remotely interesting, let alone funny. I began to think that I had just been lucky early on to meet so many wonderful people that have since slowly trickled out of my life. I had little to no hope of finding more people that were able to live up to my expectations. But now I’m starting to challenge that way of thinking. This last year and a half at my new job working with so many hilarious, fascinating, and intelligent people has reawakened my hope in humanity. Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, our minds subconsciously confirm what we already believe, even when it’s something we would really rather not be true. I wonder if perhaps at least some of the people I’ve written off in the past few years could have actually been perfectly nice if I’d given them more of a chance.
As I try to mentally prepare for meeting this person a few days from now, I have a very narrow line to walk. I am learning how to keep myself from expecting too much from someone while also not assuming they have nothing to offer me. Normally I have a tendency to do one or the other. When I expect too much from someone, I begin to get irritated when they don’t meet those expectations. Not only am I disappointed, but I actually feel bitter and resentful towards them at times. On the other hand, when I decide that someone will probably just be another boring waste of time, my mind tends to notice only the details of our encounters that support that predetermined idea.
It is hard for me to allow a new person enough time and space to show me who they really are. It can be hard for me to stick around long enough to get to know someone fully before making my ultimate judgement. That is partly because I feel like I am leading them on or wasting their time if I’m not feeling all in right away. I’m worried I am giving them a false impression of how invested I am in the relationship. It’s also difficult for me to stick around because sometimes it just feels like I am trying to force something that isn’t right. I guess I just feel pressured to make up my mind about people after only a few dates. Sometimes I even keep seeing someone because I feel like by doing so I’m giving them a chance, even when deep down my heart and mind have already been made up.
My intuition is something that I question a lot. It seems like I am usually able to tell right away when someone is a really good personality match for me whether it be a friendly or romantic relationship. But there have been times that unexpected people have become essential parts of my life. I never know when I should trust my intuition or when I should challenge it. Or even whether or not it matters. Maybe my intuition and initial impressions are going to influence me either way.
I’ve noticed that it is often easier for me to get a feel for who someone is when I am able to spend time with them in a relaxed, group setting rather than one on one. This way I am able to observe them. I can see the way they interact and react to other people instead of just me. I’ve always felt it was easier to get to know someone when they are around their friends. This is one of the many reasons that online dating is especially hard for me. It doesn’t seem to work well for me to try to get to know someone in a vacuum. But I don’t know what I can do about that. As an adult I’ve found it exceptionally hard to meet new people, especially people that have the same interests and values that I do. I was hoping once I found a partner that was vegan everything else would come easily. Sadly, however, that hasn’t been the case. To my surprise, a lot of vegans still manage to be terrible people.
So as Saturday draws near, I am trying not to worry about what will come of it in the end. I am trying to stay curious, to stay open-minded. I want to allow myself to just have fun with whatever happens. I want to go into it with a light-hearted, playful mindset. With only the intention of discovering what this new person is all about. Perhaps it will be my soulmate, perhaps we’ll become good friends, or maybe it will just be a one time adventure exploring the local trails on a warm sunny day in spring. I am keeping my heart open to whatever the day may hold.