Thursday, May 1, 2014

5/2/14—Being Bigger Than We Are

This is a repeat post of mine from last July. As I read over it tonight, I realized how relevant it was to something that happened recently in my life and I thought I'd share again.

It talks about crickets. They're not out this time of year, but pretend they are.

I'd had quite a stressful and humbling and annoying and insecure and crazy-making week week. And over the weekend, I feel like I integrated a lot of what I had learned and experienced. So last night I sat on my little storage bench on my back deck to meditate, as I do many nights. And as I was going into that state, I had the lingerings of last week and the insecurities it dredged up on my mind. So just as my head was going blank, I heard a very clear voice say, "you're so much bigger than that".

This wasn't about being superior or "too wise" or "too good" to concern myself with the people and situations at the center of my stress. Rather it was about how the essence of soul...was bigger than the things that occupy my human mind here on this earth.

The thought was profound to me. I mean, obviously I know I'm a soul in a human body and all of that. And I've even got messages about how pedestrian some of our issues are from the vantage point of the soul. But this was the first time I'd considered it in THIS way....that I truly am bigger than the concerns I focus on day in and day out. I have dominion over them. So why keep letting them have dominion over me?

So as I sat listening to the crickets, it occurred to me that some things are truly important here. Some of the lessons we learn and people we connect with. But the lingerings of our angst, the pettiness of things we turn over and over in our minds, the confrontations and the soup of insignificance we steep in...we're bigger than that. We're bigger than our egos. We're bigger than anything we ever encounter on this earth.

My stresses of the past week ushered in an important lesson for me. But most of the angst and thought around it is stuff that matters not to the soul. The soul will carry the lessons you've learned throughout eternity. But all the other baggage that goes with it? The soul is bigger than that. Which means YOU are/can be/should be bigger than that. 

My friend K will read this and remember when I told her to measure her anger and worries and angst on the scale of "will this matter in my life five years from now?". You can brush off a lot of annoyances and set aside a lot of mundane worries using that scale to eyeball the importance of things and whether or not they're worth wasting your time over. 

But now here's another yardstick—is this thing that's occupying your mind...this thing you're not letting go it bigger than you? Is it, in the form you're thinking of it now, something to carry through the ages? Or are you bigger than it? Have you taken the lesson that's relevant to your soul and moved forward knowing that no amount of whining and marinating is going to add to what you've already learned? 

It's amazing how easily you can let go of something, snap back into perspective and rise above when you remember how big you truly are. 

As I said at the beginning of this blog, all of this happened last year. But this past weekend I was hit with something challenging to my ego self and I remembered I was bigger than that. And I made a different choice because of it. I made a choice that spread love and not angst. And I'm proud of that...proud of remembering I'm so much more than my fears and can greet them with grace. We choose how we respond to things. We can always make a different and better choice.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

4/30/14—Apologizing Graciously

For one reason or another, I guess I'm just not the kind of person people apologize to. 

Either that, or people just aren't very good at apologizing. It's probably the latter. And I'll admit there's plenty I've never apologized for myself, especially when I have no intention of ever seeing the person or speaking to them again. But the lack of apology still weighs on me, whether I'm the one who's failed to apologize or they are.

I confess there's a lot I've let slide in the past based on a muttered, half-assed apology from the offender. I've had fantasies of saying to offenders, "what exactly are you apologizing to me for?" in hopes of getting them to speak their crimes out loud. But in reality, I take the muttered generic/blanket apology and move forward because I know hard it can be to apologize. 

When people HAVE adequately apologized to me, though, I've immediately melted. In fact, one apology stands out and it's why I'm writing today. It stands out, in part, because like I said, it's so rare to receive a genuine apology. But it also stands out because it was voiced in such a way that it was clear my friendship to this person was more important to them than their need to be right.

What they did doesn't much matter. They thought they were doing something nice for me, but instead it was something that left me feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed and misunderstood. I was a little angry and frustrated when I asked them not to do it again, but I acknowledged that I understood they were trying to help me out. I don't even know that I expected them to apologize. All I wanted was for them to understand my side and promise not to do it again. But instead of justifying or explaining their actions, they said "I'm so sorry. You're totally right about that. I was wrong. Please forgive me."

Frankly, it stunned and disarmed me. It also made me feel bad because I knew their intentions were good. But more than anything, the fact that they didn't try to argue or justify their point, combined with the humility it takes to accept full responsibility for something, made me feel very important to this person. And it taught me a valuable lesson about the things that are more important than being right. Things like friendship, integrity, self respect and, quite honestly, the inner peace of knowing you've done the mature thing. I believe it was right to confront them and define my boundaries, but I felt bad afterward because, in the absence of their need to be right, I saw my own need to hold on to my "right" position.

The image/saying I posted today is known as the "Ho'oponopono Prayer". Hawaiians and those of the South Pacific believe that error and wrongness causes illness. So reconciliation and forgiveness are common rituals performed as part of daily life. Beyond that, they feel that taking responsibility for everything in your life is important, even if it's that someone misunderstood your intentions. Even if it involves war and starvation and other matters not directly impacting you that are "out of your control". If you feel bad about it, it's yours to heal. And healing happens through the prayer...I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

Think about some injustice in the world. Visualize it while saying those words. It will help you feel better. It will help release the burden you feel about your helplessness. Then think of something you've done to yourself and say the same words. It might move you as it moved me. Then think of how healing it would be for you to use those words with someone you know you've wronged.

I think we probably all underestimate the burden we carry at the hands of our own bad behavior, whether that bad behavior happens one to one or as part of your participation in a society or group that has hurt others, whether you've played a direct role or not. You don't even have to be in the same room with the person to recite the prayer to them. They might not even be alive. The energy will nonetheless benefit you and flow to them.

Last week we spoke of forgiveness and how it's more for you than the other person. While I think the best practice is to apologize directly to the other person, especially when it matters to you, the same could be said about asking for forgiveness. Acknowledging to the universe that you've done wrong and hope to be forgiven by someone you no longer maintain contact with can be just as powerful for you as if the apology had been timely and face-to-face. We've probably all given apologies that were less than graciously received or even, in some cases, made the other person angrier. Through a practice like this, you can learn to forgive yourself, regardless of whether the other person forgives or not. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

4/28/14—Becoming a Woman

Here I am, at the age of 51, finally coming around to a place where I feel I'm finally a woman. I guess some of us are just late bloomers. 

First, though, it's important to acknowledge that there are many different definitions of what signifies a woman becoming a woman. When we begin menstruation, we're told "you're a woman now." But none of us really are. When we have sex the first time, some will consider us a woman, but that's not necessarily so. Some might cross the line when they get married or have a baby. I don't know anything about either of those things, but my guess is they're more likely to make you a wife or mother than a woman. People will say "you're not truly grown up until both of your parents die." That turned out to be hogwash. Then there are certain ages at which society deems you most assuredly a woman...21, 30, 35, for example. 

None of those things made me FEEL like a woman, though. Many of them were, indeed,
portals into more mature and responsible versions of myself. But what it comes down to is a) how do you define being a woman (or man)? and b) do you feel like you're there?

To me, a woman is self referenced. That means that she doesn't look outside of herself—to lovers or family members or friends—to get her validation. So she doesn't care how it looks to be alone, eccentric, loud, colorful or any other adjective that makes her stick out. She takes full responsibility for her actions. She's not afraid to be brutally honest with herself. She's not afraid to show her soft side or her harder side. She confidently and compassionately walks her own path and stands in her own power. She protects and nurtures (rather than indulges) that which she loves. She moves toward greater mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. And she has her priorities straight. She is Mary Magdalene, Catherine the Great, the Statue of Liberty, Katharine Hepburn and Oprah all rolled up in one.

Throughout my 20s and 30s and much of my 40s, I did not feel like a woman. I still felt girlish in many ways. It felt more like I was young at heart, but in retrospect, I was young in soul, too. I certainly looked like a woman, paid a mortgage like a woman and conducted business like a woman. But I conducted most of my relationships like a young girl. I gave my power to men and others, then lamented the decisions they made in regard to me. I made choices that weren't aligned with my highest and best self. I could sometimes be like a bull in a china shop. I had all the earmarks of a woman, but I didn't feel like one, primarily because I wasn't ready to let go of my youthful demeanor.

But something happened in the past few years and the girlishness is gone. Not in a bad way. I still feel youthful. But the girl is a woman now. It's hard to explain. I don't feel like I've lost a thing, rather I feel like I've blossomed. Gone is the girl's self consciousness...her feelings of powerlessness...her petty ways...her need to fight against, rather than to fight for. 

Pagans have this "maiden, mother, crone" thing to show the three phases of womanhood,
attached largely to menstrual cycles. Here I sit on the front stoop of cronehood and I am only now beginning to feel like a woman. It's absolutely not the way I thought it worked, but I can't be the only one feeling this way at such an "advanced age"...haha. 

What defines womanhood to you and when did you feel like a woman? How about manhood? What makes us the fully developed example of our species? And for those of you who feel so beyond this, what IS beyond this? What do you have to say about all this?