embracing the journey

The Journey

Lately I find myself yet again being consumed by responsibilities. My day job. Writing blogs. Trying to write a second book. Supporting my husband’s business. Rental property issues. Supporting others. My checklist has grown, and my happiness has diminished. I am not complaining. I have chosen to be involved with everything on my plate and, for the most part, I enjoy the things to which I have committed.  My challenge is that when the “doing” is first, foremost and only, the rest of my life begins to fade away. It is not the work that is the issue. It is making the work a priority over living which is the cause of my unhappiness.

I wake up early in the morning, not because I excited for a new day, but because a litany of problems to solve and things to do replay in my mind. I am not truly connecting with those I love, because I am distracted by trying to solve an issue. I am not in the moment because I am planning what I need to do next. I am not stopping to smell the flowers because I feel compelled to complete the next task. I am not enjoying connection with others because I am focused on the project, not their feelings. And I am unhappy.

As usual, the things I am concerned about have not happened yet, may not need to be resolved, or may not need to be resolved by me. Yet I am taking myself out of my life and concentrating on issues that are either not really issues or are not really important in the scheme of things. Somewhere, somehow I learned and believe that life is about responsibilities, accomplishments, making things happen. Over the years, I have been trying to accept and embrace a new belief.

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

I am coming to believe and fully embrace that life is just about experiencing. Learning to accept life on life’s terms. Releasing any meaning, judgment and expectations I have. To just truly be. To release my desires and simply experience what comes to me. To see an experience for what it is, not what I interpret it to mean or what I would have preferred it to be.

Alan Watts shares this as the Chinese concept of purposelessness. Purposelessness is not a negative. Purposelessness is just being. Purposeless removes the meaning. Purposelessness removes the focus on the outcome. Purposeless is simply being. It is The Power of Now that Eckhardt Tolle talks about. It is the enlightenment Michael A. Singer writes about in The Untethered Soul. My friend Dave Werhane sums it up well, “When I accept that my life is truly a journey, then there is no reason to do anything solely as a means to an end.” Let’s stop looking for the meaning, for the result, for the conclusion. Let’s stop worrying about results, fixing things, trying to accomplish things. Let’s stop labeling things, judging them, trying to uncover their meaning.

Instead let’s be, truly – deeply – solely be, in each and every moment. Let’s experience. Let’s let colors and sounds and tastes and touch wash over us. Let’s do what we are driven to do, not what we think we have to or should do. Let’s create to create. Let’s get out of our minds and be fully in the moment experiencing with all our senses. The deepest sense of peace, well-being, and love have always been experienced when I let go of my mental monkey chatter and allow my full consciousness to be in the moment.  

When do you feel most trapped? When do you experience unhappiness? If you are like me, it is when you are trapped in your mind replaying the past or worrying about the future. Try to find time each day to be in the moment without your thoughts. Remove your regret or anger of what happened. Stop playing mental scenarios of what could be. Be. Here. Now. Enjoy the journey!

Perfecting Imperfection

One of my biggest character defects, my biggest struggles is the dishonest belief that I am/can/should be absolutely perfect. A lot is wrong with this belief. First, it assumes there is one absolute correct way to be, i.e., perfect. Yet with the variety of people, professions, beliefs, abilities, etc. out there, how could someone presume to define a singular explanation of perfection. Second, my belief is tied to the assumption that if I am not perfect, I am not worthy of love. Anyone who has had a child who acted imperfectly (crayons on the wall or meltdown at Wal-Mart) can easily express how the child’s imperfection did not take away from how much the parent loved them (unconditional love). Third, the idea that we should be perfect is inherently wrong because we are, well, human. The Oxford Living Dictionaries defines “human” as “of or characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially in being susceptible to weaknesses.”

broken glass
Photo by Jachan DeVol on Unsplash

Most of my life I thought I could and should be God or at the very least, an infallible machine. But alas, I am not. I am human. The perfectionist in me longs to be perfect and always act perfectly. The realist in me knows this will never happen – for me or anyone else. I am learning to accept my imperfection and see how my struggles and challenges, how my imperfection serves me – and hopefully serves you, my reader, as well. I recently received an email from one of my subscribers, Jill May, who wrote, “By the way, I love your newsletter.  I don’t always take the time to read every one of them, but when I do read it, I always get something from it.  Sometimes it’s a small tidbit, other times it’s a ‘Wow!’ moment.  I appreciated reading about your yoga headstand challenges.  It really does help the rest of us to know you have struggles just like we do.” (my underline)

It is not my perfection which resonates with my readers. It is my struggle with life; it is my imperfection which helps others through the ups and downs of their life. In an interview last year, I was asked what my purpose was. Out of my mouth without my conscious awareness came, “My purpose is to mess up and learn from it, so you don’t have to.” Funny, for decades I had the belief that my purpose was to achieve perfection so I could show others the way. What I am coming to accept is that I’m on this planet to roll around in the muck of life. I am here to choose poorly, learn from it, and find the courage to move on. I am here to realize the obstacles I put in my way through my dishonest beliefs, to find the tools to release these beliefs, and to find a new way to live. I am here to find deep and absolute acceptance of myself – warts and all – and to help others feel and embrace their own self-acceptance. Through self-acceptance, we can all learn how to have unconditional empathy and love for those around us as well.

Do you have a life purpose or mission? What is it? Do you struggle with the desire for perfection? What would your life be like without the struggle for the unachievable?

hiding true self

Letting Go of ME, to be me

As I mentioned recently, surrendering my ego is one of the current challenges, goals, liberations I am working on. The ego is who I think I am. The ego is the persona I have created based on where I was born, how I was raised, and what I look like. The ego is how I choose to see life, the purpose of life, and how life should be lived. But the ego isn’t really me. A few months ago, I defined what ego is and is not. At this point, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what ego is, how it can negatively affect me, and why I should let it go. My ego, however, has different plans.

The ego has its own survival mechanism. It does not want to be easily discarded. If we don’t believe in and protect our ego it goes away, and like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction our ego will not be ignored. Like any change, releasing the ego is scary. For half a century I have believed myself to be one thing, defining myself as an intelligent driven compassionate woman who has scored some victories and made some mistakes. My ego is how I describe myself, it is how most people see me, it is what gives my life meaning. It is my boundaries and my framework. And the ego is also a trap. When we hold on to a rigid definition of who we are, we limit what we can experience. When we protect our ego, we distance ourselves from others. In protecting this persona, this role we have taken on, we can become confrontational toward anyone and any circumstance that pokes holes in what we believe we are.

hiding true self
Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

To be truly me, truly deeply Type-Me me, I need to release what I think defines me – family, nation, body, job title, ambition, accomplishments, beliefs, perspective – and instead embrace my true inner self. I had a glimpse of being me without my ego when I returned from Peru. I had shed the beliefs. I had shed the labels. I had shed the judgments. I was just present. I was unaffected by the world and the people around me. Don Miguel Ruiz talked about being without ego when he said, “I don’t take anything personally. I am a secondary character in other people’s stories. I know that whatever people say about me is just a projection of their image of me. It has nothing to do with me.” When are without ego, we can not be defined, we can not be hurt. Whether others are projecting their image on me or I am projecting an image on myself or others, it is all make-believe. It is not reality. The ego is “the idea or opinion that you have of yourself,” it is not a fact. Like the old saying goes, “sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Words can only hurt my ego; they can never hurt my true self.

Being without ego is pure peace, very empowering, and a bit terrifying. It is frightening because it is not how many of us commonly live. We believe that the life we have crafted is hard fast truth, when it is really perception and interpretation. To let go of this perception leaves us floating without a tether. We are ungrounded. It is pure bliss and yet our ego sees it as alarming because everything has changed; the reality we knew no longer exists. The ego wants to feel loved. To feel loved it needs to define something to love. The ego wants to be recognized. To be recognized it needs to define what is good and what is bad. The ego wants to endure. To endure the ego needs to exist and be defended. Being without ego is living without definition, good/bad, and individual existence.

When I have those moments of releasing the ego, I do not disappear. Yes, the persona I wear fades away, but my truth, my true being shines strongly. Without my self-created ego, I am the a free powerful being beyond restriction. I am tapped into the powerful oneness of the universe which is and will be eternal.

Hopefully in some of my existential babbling you received the message you need to hear today.

a delicate dance

The Delicate Dance

It has come to my awareness recently how much of my anger, sadness, resentment, and victimization all stem from focusing on my ego. It is important to differentiation what the ego is and is not.  Lately every time I am triggered by something it is because I assume someone is doing something to me or not thinking of me, therefore bruising my ego. The truth is, I’m not that important. Others are taking care of themselves. They are thinking about themselves. They are doing what they are choosing to do. All with zero or minimal thought of me. And rightly so. I do the same. We are all the lead character of our play, while everyone else is but a small bit part. My ego takes over when I assume I am the leading character in everyone’s play therefore making everything being done because of or to me. Not true.

Our ego gets us in trouble. The ego is constantly wanting to be seen, protected and focused on. The truth though is we are not our ego. We are not our career; we are not our role as mother/sister/daughter; we are not the labels we have adopted (conservative, liberal, feminist, gun rights advocate). We are not the star of anyone’s play, even our own. What we truly are is what I choose to call our soul. Our soul is our being without any title or label. It is that ephemeral drive which makes some of us love horses and others love Shakespeare. It is what has created our theme and challenges in this life. It is what exists no matter where we live, what we do, and who we interact with.

Our ego is of this world. Our soul is beyond it.

What is fun – and challenging – about this lifetime is we need to be in this world, but much of our happiness steps from being beyond this world. When I returned from Peru, I did not feel or act of this world. I stopped playing the game of wanting a certain job, being consumed by the latest television show or fad, and being worried about anything this transitory world produced. I had never known peace like that before. Think about it. Write down the top five things you are focused on or concerned about right now. Would they matter to someone on the other side of the world? Will they matter in five years? Is your belief about its importance based solely on your chosen societal values? Did you value the same things ten years ago? Will you still value them ten years from now?

a delicate dance
Photo by 7 SeTh on Unsplash

All of the anger, sadness, and resentment I experience is based on and in the transitory world. Remember being devastated at not receiving an A on your college thesis or not being asked to the dance by the person you were smitten by? How important is that class now? Can you remember your crush’s name? Remember the 5×5 rule and release any pain being created by the transitory. Releasing the focus on our ego world is what gives us peace.

And yet, we have to focus on the world around us. Unless you are a monk cloistered away for the rest of your life, you need to be in and deal with the world around you. That is the dance of life. Meditate in the morning to touch the great beyond. Deal with traffic going to work. Open your heart to a friend who needs love and support. Spend five hours on hold with your cable provider. Use music, movement or creativity to release your passionate soul. Spend an hour making a meal that will be consumed in five minutes.

As the saying goes, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” It is amazing and wonderful to touch on the enlightenment of seeing beyond this world. While we are simultaneously loving and dealing with living in this world. That is our delicate dance.

Días del Muerte

Life Goes On

After three years in Mexico, this was the first year my husband and participated in Días de Muertos. I wanted to create an altar and I wanted to do it correctly. My Spanish teacher sent me this link explaining the tradition. The first thing I learned was that it was not a single day but a series of days – hence días not día del muerte. Each day is designed to remember a different category of those we have lost. One day is for lost and helpless. Another day is for children who left too early. On each day a different item is added to the altar to symbolize a different type of departed. For instance, bread is added for those who left suddenly without their last meal and fruit is added for our ancestors – they are the fruit, we are the seeds. Días de Muertos is a terrific tradition for remembrance, gratitude, and surprisingly, joy.

Días del MuerteThousands of years old, Días de Muertos originated with ancient Central American cultures who thought it was disrespectful to mourn the dead. Death is part of life and this celebration is designed to keep the memory and spirit of those we love alive. For my husband and me, it was exactly that. Having an altar of those we love and have lost, kept them top of mind for us this past week. We thought about them and shared stories – happy and sad. For us, it did seem that they took the flower petal road to come visit us again for just a little bit. If you haven’t seen Coco, you can watch this short animation about the tradition.

Ironically (or as I say, Spectacularly Perfect), I had planned to write today’s post about a very different video I saw about Paul McCartney. I was surprised when that video fit perfectly into the concept of Días de Muertos. About five minutes into the video (4:55-7:35), Sir Paul shares a beautiful story about a visit he had from his departed mother through a dream.  He had been worrying about the band and their future. She told him, “It’s going to be ok. Just let it be.” As he wrote afterwards in the famous song, “In my hour of darkness, she is standing right in from of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” Through this dream he felt a connection to his mother and the reassurance he needed at the time. Have you ever had messages from the beyond? Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, have you received a message in a dream or just a pop of insight that helped you through a difficult patch? Many times in my life I have felt those I loved around me, supporting me, providing me with guidance, just letting me know I am not taking this journey alone.

The whole James Corden Late Late Show video of Sir Paul is worth the watch. One of the other things that is interesting is to see all the different lives Sir Paul has had, from his humble beginnings to the fame he has now. Life is every changing. No moment stays forever. No one is always with us. It is important to be in each and every moment, to be fully present for all that life offers us.

Take a bit today to remember those you have known and all the support they have given you before and after they were physically around you. Take a trip down memory lane and review the highs and the lows. Look at the miracle of the amazing journey of your life.

blue sky

Why is the Sky Blue?

If you have been around small children, you may have been asked a question like “why is the sky blue?” Science readily gives us answers. Like this one from NASA which talks about how blue light travels in shorter and smaller waves so it is easier for us to see. But NASA did not really answer the question. They answered how the sky appears blue, but they didn’t really answer why. The “hows” of life are very important. They help us function. They explain nature and how the world works. The hows lead us to inventions like refrigerators, cars and air conditioners. Understanding how things work helps us to relate to the world around us. What has always intrigued me are the “whys” of life. Why are blue light waves smaller? Why are there different colors in the light waves? Why do the light waves act differently? Why are their light waves at all?

blue sky
Photo by Breno Freitas on Unsplash

I don’t remember where I heard the why/how debate or if it just came to me, but the difference between why and how made me stop. In our lives there are many times we don’t have answers to why things happen like they do. Why does gravity exist? Why do opposites attract? Why does the body only have a finite number of years of use? Why is there so much pain and hate? Why can’t we all just get along? Why do we exist as we exist and why do we exist at all? The whys delve into the meaning of life.

Spending time contemplating the whys distances us from our every day life. The daily questions we ask ourselves are usually banal.  Why is the Starbucks line so long? Why can the Jones’ get a new car and why can’t I? Why does a size 8 dress no longer seem to be my size 8? Even important questions like, does this look cancerous to you or why is our relationship not like it used to be, keeps us focused on our earthly life. This day to day life can be the source of a lot of pain, anger and frustration. Taking some time to look beyond the commonplace can put things in perspective for us. Going beyond the here and now, beyond what our five senses tell us, can transport us to a thinking and a peace that can provide us with a much-needed respite. If you can’t lift yourself beyond the earthly realm, try to distance yourself using time and space. For whatever is troubling you, explore how important it will be in five years or maybe twenty.  Giving ourselves perspective by looking beyond our current viewpoint, can be a source of great serenity.

If it is hard to find perspective and peace by moving beyond, move within. Explore the whys in your own personal life. I’m not talking about intriguing but unimportant questions like, why do I like pizza more than celery? But exploring deeper whys that affect how we experience our lives. Why do I react this way to certain people? Why do I hold myself back? Why do I keep making the same mistakes again and again? Exploring these whys can help us change how we experience life. An analysis of one’s whys helps us gain understanding of our actions and with that understanding we are able to make different choices. For example, why do I react negatively to narcissists? The answer is I have been hurt by them in the past and it is safer for me to not be around them. This piece of information can help me make choices toward a better life. Knowing why you act and react a certain way can help you make better choices for a better life.

As you go about your day, notice how you are perceiving the world. Is stopping to ask why on a global or personal level a potential source of calm for you?