Give In

Give In

Many of us carry a prayer that our lives might be of some true use or service; that we might come to embody and extend real peace and freedom within these lifetimes. And yet, how? And with so many daily tasks and this mundane grind to keep up with; the constancy of dishes and laundry and bills; some of us with children to tend to with as much presence as we can muster.

Love asks more from us than we could have ever imagined; humbles us daily, stretches our edges, and breaks our hearts open. We are tender and raw in our aliveness, in our love, in our wants, our unmet needs, our utter willingness.

Some of us get to a place where we are truly tired. We are wearied by the immense tasks at hand—for ourselves personally, and for humanity. We are tested every day in the simple walking of our talk and the living of our truth.

 

To be so tiny in this world, and imperfect and still growing and so human—and to care so much, to have so much to share—can feel in moments like a helpless conundrum. Yes?

Here is the place where at times we feel like we might just buckle under the weight of it all, and give up. Just give up. Not (for most of us) in some dramatic or overtly tragic way. But quietly, inconspicuously. Letting the light fade just a tad from our eyes, letting our dreams dissolve, our faith wither, our shoulders fall, our mouths frown a bit, our hearts cave in.

Just giving up some true piece of our soul.

When we do this, when we collapse under the weight of our burden, we only contribute to the suffering in our world. We add our weight to the burden of our world, the very opposite of what we want.

There is only one real and lasting solution, one beautiful antidote, to the despondence of giving up—and that is giving in! Giving in to this moment, with all it includes. Giving in when we feel like giving up.

Giving in to the intensity of what’s called for. Giving in to the depth of all we feel. Giving in to the passion of our own valiant and vulnerable hearts, even if it is our passionate grief or passionate fear. Giving in to the real, primal wants of our bodies and souls. Giving in to the thrust of action that follows our genuine care; giving in to the generosity of forgiveness, the courage of honesty; giving in to our laughter, our joy, which blesses us in moments, so organically. Giving in to life, as it is, with all its challenges.

I see it like this: down on my knees, my hands to the heavens, and then to my heart, I say to life: “I give in. I give in. Take me. I’m yours. I give in.”

It’s a surrender. Moment to moment. And Life knows exactly what to do with our surrender. Life knows exactly how to make true use of our earnest hearts. Just give in.

I love you.

 

The Necessity of Learning True Self-Respect

The Necessity of Learning True Self-Respect

Today as I feel into the vitality of self-love within me, it feels most essentially composed of self-respect, self-compassion, self-trust, self-forgiveness, and a generous dose of no longer giving a fuck about anything it doesn’t serve me to!

Granted, these qualities are far easier to string together in a sentence than to truly embody. I’m inspired to try and articulate some of my thoughts on self-respect, specifically. Because I don’t know about you, but for me, self-respect has been particularly hard-won. It has come with time and grit, vigilance and resolve; an ongoing willingness to intimately face inside myself that which hasn’t been respectable in the least.

Almost two decades ago, my masterful spiritual mother Gangaji said to me: “You must learn true self-respect. You must learn to be as fierce as a mother lion in your own care!” This comment did not come out of the blue. She had been watching me caught in an unbearable cycle of suffering with a lover who was not a healthy match for me. There was a way I had become oddly addicted to the painful emotional drama this relationship entailed. Somewhat masochistically, I just kept going back for more.

Due to what I now understand must have been some degree of unresolved wounding, at that stage I still lacked the true self-respect necessary to know my own worth, to value my own deep listening about the truth of what I wanted, to speak this clarity and choose to align my life with it, come what may. As I discovered the courage to break this pattern, the toxic relationship was released once and for all, leaving in its place a wholehearted prayer to fully receive the lessons I had been given, so I wouldn’t need to attract them in that way ever again.

In retrospect I can say that from that point on, I was able to stand true to my realization and my prayer to embody deeper self-respect in relationship. I never found the need to attract another partner whose qualities might tempt me to repeat that specific masochistic pattern again. However I would say that every relationship since then has profoundly served to trigger and test my resolve for true self-respect.

What true relationship doesn’t?

It’s such a juggling act— the way relationship asks us to neither abandon nor betray ourselves to cater to another’s needs, while surrendering bravely to the humbling commands of Love.

One of the most important ways we can foster true self-respect is through active inquiry; through listening to our own heart, and then daring to honor what it is we hear. When we realize we are accountable to our own living Truth, we stand tall in the self-respect this awards.

When we realize what choices are in alignment with our evolving self, and then line our living actions up with that, this tends the garden of self-respect. If instead we choose to ignore or minimize what we know to be true, the cost of this pattern over time is a vitally diminished self-respect, and a lack of trust in our capacity to live from our holy integrity.

Have you ever noticed how we become trustworthy and respectable to others only in direct proportion to the degree we trust and respect ourselves?

When we do not respect nor trust ourselves to live in alignment with our deepest hearts, how can we expect anyone else to trust or respect us?

This cycle of self-deceit and self-betrayal feeds an insidious pattern of self-loathing, potentially causing dis-ease on all layers of our being, which then easily translates to dis-ease at all levels of our world.

What does it mean to be “as fierce as a mother lion” in our own care? To me it means that we defend our own integrity, our sacred sovereignty, own tender aliveness, the sanctity of our soul’s worth, and we treasure our deepest knowing with all the ferocity we can muster. It means that we love ourselves enough to not betray our own bodies, our health, our heart’s wisdom, our sacred attention, by behaving in ways that diminish our dignity and honor.

It means that when the temptation to follow an addicted or fixated response arises, (whether that be to a substance, a person, a behavior, or an emotional/mental tendency) we know better. We know from experience what following this temptation will lead to, and we know all too well the cost to our self-respect. It means that we finally choose the delicious sobriety of self-respect over the tempting familiarity of avoidant distraction, reactivity, or some glory of fleeting pleasure.

One of the most valuable ways we can cultivate self-respect, is by discovering firsthand our capacity to meet any discomfort and challenge that comes our way. When we discover that we can face the dreaded boredom, loss, aloneness, shame, rage, futility, despair, illness, failure, and rather than indulge a habitual reaction to this discomfort, instead choose to simply feel the array of feelings rising within us— then we discover the invaluable knowing that we are capable of bearing this life, as it is.

But of course in our still-learning, ever-humbling human ways, inadvertently we fail. We fail to be sober or mature in our response each time we get triggered. We fail to be unwaveringly vigilant. We fail to be consistently respectful of another’s perspective or psychic space. Like just yesterday morning, when I lashed out angrily at one of my Beloveds, from a place of deep internal hurt. Ouch. 🙁

And yet how important to notice the ways in which each mistake serves to hone our self-awareness, while beckoning an authentic path home towards repair— inside our own hearts and that of those we hold dear.

When we recognize how to balance this fierce sword of discerning self-respect, with true respect for others, gracious self-compassion and self-forgiveness for all the human ways we undoubtedly fall short, then we know we can trust ourselves with our life. What a thing to know: we can be trusted with our own life!

When we trust ourselves with life, this is deep self-love. From resting in this love with ourselves, absolutely anything is possible. ~*~

To Choose Kindness: A Shame-Healing Story

To Choose Kindness: A Shame-Healing Story

Recently as I considered an especially poignant chapter from my young womanhood, I stumbled into a sacred memory of a young man, a long-ago lover of mine, who made a simple choice that facilitated the powerful healing of a buried shame within me.

When I was a little girl, following severe meningitis at 18 months old, I was left with a hearty dose of trauma to work through, alongside a fair amount of “neurological damage.” The leg braces I wore for years to help me walk were awkward, ugly and embarrassing, but nothing compared to the horror of continuously losing control of my bladder and bowels.

And so as a young child I never knew when the limitations of my body might betray me; when I might trip and fall, limbs clanking to the ground, or soil my clothes without a moment’s warning. Needless to say, this provided a continuous experience of anxiety and fear of humiliation.

One of the many consequences of this neurological situation was that I wet the bed for many years~ into my early teens. As a child of 8, 9, 10~ I didn’t know if this problem would ever be resolved. Nobody knew. When I visited the doctors, they would shake their heads and offer the latest experimental medication, some of which I tried, to no avail.

The bed-wetting was an issue at home of course, but mostly stressful at sleepovers, where I invented the strategy of “spilling my water,” all over the sheets, if I happened to wet the bed at a friend’s house. This lying strategy would usually work well, saving me from the embarrassing truth about my body exposed. But it made me feel deeply lonely and somehow fraudulent, exacerbating the sense that I had to hide the ugly truth of my body’s imperfections. Discerning the degree to which this neurogenic bladder issue might cause me stress impacted every choice I made when it came to attending events, outings, camps and slumber parties.

I have one vivid memory of being a young girl, about 9 years old, having just woken at home in the middle of the night to my bed soaked with urine. I quickly took the rubber pad I slept on off the bed, but the pee had soaked through, and the sheet underneath the pad was also wet. So I grabbed a towel from the bathroom, and positioned it on the wet bed to go back to sleep on, like I had done so many countless times before.

As I lay there in the dark on top of the towel, trying to relax back into sleep, I had a horrifying little girl revelation: What man would ever want a woman who wets the bed? I tried to imagine my future husband, sleeping next to a woman who would wake in a puddle of pee… and I just couldn’t see it; it seemed impossible. And for the first time in my life I considered that my broken body might exclude me from knowing adult romantic love. This felt like such a powerful and heartbreaking reckoning to my little girl heart ~ the idea that I might never get to experience such a beautiful part of life~ that I burst into tears in my bed, turning my face and drenching my pillow with disheartened sorrow.

Years passed and by Grace healing continued to come for my body and my heart. The many neurological issues I dealt with became ever-more subtle, and bed-wetting ceased to be a common occurrence. In college, as part of my commitment to my own evolution, I embraced the rich challenge of coming fully into my body. I bravely devoted myself to the study of modern dance and yoga, which powerfully cleared and strengthened the neural pathways between my mind, pelvis and legs, while helping me to reunite, forgive, and fall in love with my body once again. Granted, the neurogenic bladder issues did not completely resolve, but I was able to confidently release any sense of myself as a “bed-wetter.”

After college, while I was attending a remote, residential healing school in the mountains of Northern California, I became romantically enraptured with a beautiful young man who lived and worked at the school. I was 22 and he was 28; he was the third man with whom I had ever explored the wilderness of raw love and intimacy. We were young, tender, and emotionally fixated, wrestling with issues of image, jealousy, and future commitment. But in the privacy of my dorm room and his forest-nestled trailer, we made love so sweetly. We laughed abundantly, welcoming in many sunrises together. We saw each other through the eyes of our most generous hearts, in moments tasting authentic love, respect, and trust.

One night, in the middle of the night, with my beautiful lover cuddled up next to me in bed, snoring softly, I suddenly awakened to the horrifying realization that for the first time in many years, I had wet the bed. Oh my God. Could it be true? My hands reached down to feel the wet spot, and it was confirmed.

I descended into a full-blown somatic shame response. My heart started pounding, my breath got short and tight, my system flooded with cortisol. I closed my eyes and prayed that it was not so, that I could somehow disappear, or fast forward into a new moment and not have to face this humiliation. Quietly, not wanting to wake him, my hand reached down to see if the wet spot was moving in my boyfriend’s direction. To my horror, I discovered that the pee had already seeped into the space he was sleeping! What could I do? I was trapped. I lay there for many moments, frozen in terror.

Sensitive to the shift in our sacred sleep cocoon, he started to stir, reaching for me. He said, sleepily: “Love? What’s wrong?” My heart raced with the dark pulse and heat of shame. This man I loved was going to find out, oh God, please no. I wondered if there was some water somewhere I could quickly spill onto the bed. The 9 year old girl who had imagined that no man could ever love a bed-wetter was looking at this situation frantically through my eyes, begging me to find a way to hide us and all our dirty, messy brokenness.

Suddenly all the shame and lying and hiding of my entire life became unbearable and I simply couldn’t contain it a moment longer. I started crying, softly, deeply. He sat up, confused in the dark, reaching for me: “What is it?” And then I wept: “I’m so sorry. I have a problem, with the nerves in my bladder, from the time I was a baby. I peed in the bed! And now it’s wet, and you’re in it. And I’m just so sorry. God! I’m so embarrassed and so sorry…” Now I was crying really hard, hopelessly exposed; it was all coming undone.

How many choices this young man had right then. He could have responded in any number of ways; just imagine. But do you know how my lover chose to respond?

He chose kindness. Without hesitation, he crawled over to me, closer into the wetness, gathering me in his arms, kissing my tear-drenched face. He said over and over again into my ear: “I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care. I love you and I don’t care.”

We lay there in the puddle of pee for what seemed an eternity, and he just held me and stroked my hair and my back as I wept, whispering pure acceptance into my ears, as I let go of all my life-long efforts to hide, all my self-disgust, all my years of tightly guarded shame, my fear that these battle scars had rendered me unworthy of intimate embrace.

In that fleeting life moment, this young man served as an incredible shame-healer, with all the power and grace of a skillful shaman. With his simple, selfless, and generous choice of compassion and kindness, he held space for long-held shame to clear, lift, and release from my body’s psyche, forever. And somehow I found the wisdom and self-love to let him.

Bless his heart! What a gift he gave me. I wonder if he knew?? I wonder if I had the presence to tell him, to let him know how this choice he made changed my life.

I’m quite certain the fruits of his choice have rippled out in infinitely un-trackable ways. Not only into my own life~ in relationship with myself and my body~ but into all my relationships with other men, into my healing work with the shame-wounds and trauma of others, and into my heartful approach as a mother.

We might not ever get to know the true impact of our choosing kindness. We might never get to see the countless ways our compassionate response alters another’s life and the many lives they will go on to touch; changing the very fabric of the universe! I only know it’s wise to assume our responses in the world matter deeply, and that it’s skillful to imagine the potential influence of our embodied kindness is immeasurable indeed!

Compassion and kindness are undeniably curative. And kindness can be chosen in as many ways as there are moments to live. It is not necessarily a grand or potent gesture. It can be as simple as a true smile tossed inwards or outwards. It can be as simple as your own hand tenderly resting upon your heart. It can show up as a deep breath, a willingness to be present. It can arise as the choice to say nothing, or as courageous transparency. It can be offered as an open hand to hold, or a truly listening ear. It can feel like painfully stretching our hearts open wider, to ourselves and one another, into the places we have resisted feeling, embracing, and loving.

We always know within ourselves, if we dare to check and see, what the choosing of compassion or kindness might look like for us, in any given moment. The kindness of patience, of boundary, of self-awareness and honesty, of acceptance, humility and forgiveness.

Today I’m bowing with gratitude to my long-ago young lover, who had the presence and wisdom to choose kindness and compassion, embracing me so fully in one of my most vulnerable places of harbored shame. And I’m bowing to the countless, unrecognized, un-witnessed moments in our world where kindness and compassion are courageously chosen.

I’m bowing to the skillful shame-healer, the compassionate one, within each of us, who has the power to change the world in more ways than we can know, one gesture of kindness at a time.

photo credit: (the endlessly talented) Ahri Golden

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