Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Work to Return

My new friend !
Originally uploaded by digitaldirectphotos.com

Let me suffer with kindness
Oh Great Mother !
Curving toward you with my aches and pains
Offering their release into the Universal container
So that I may be free to engage with life as it is

Let me stay with these restless, racing thoughts
Wanting to distract from what is here
May I lean against your tender heart
So that I may feel my own when I cannot tolerate
Occupying my own skin

I cry out to the heavens
With my guttural sounds
Vibrating deep
From within the belly of the world
Ahhhhhh. Ohhhhhh. Ahhhhhh.

A relentless ego pummels me with its urgency
An arsenal of threads inside and outside
I stand firmly rooted, placing them in front of me
So that I may feel my own true nature
In the quiet, she whispers : “I am all I got.”

Ecstatic breaths engage this revelation
In, Out-In, Out-In, Out
Heart opens into spacious skies
There is no judgment or irritation
Just God-cleaving truth.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Will the REAL self please stand up?

Originally uploaded by Terra Kate

"The ego is always creating a self."
~ Jason Shulman, Work of Return

There was a game show in the late 50's/early 60's called: "To Tell the Truth". There would be the actual person and then 2 imposters. The key line before the correct person was revealed was always: "Will the real ________, please stand up?" There would be a "fake out" by one or both of the imposters ( I can remember tensing up as I watched) and then the real person would step forward (and I would relax again). I loved this show and guessing who was pretending and who had the best poker face, covering up their true identity.

This game, in many ways, is not so terribly different than the one our ego plays in our minds or out in public or in a stressful interaction. We make up ourselves in our own image or in the image of others when we don't have a sense of our own true nature.

I participated in a workshop this past weekend re-learning a non-dual practice called Work of Return. I actually did this work a year and a half ago and wanted a refresher. It was like seeing with a totally different set of lenses. It was an incredible eye opener about how asleep I was when I took it the first time. The fact that the concept of "suffering" is infused in the entire practice and hearing about it this past weekend was as if it was brand new information. Is it possible to have been in the world while living part-time in a coma? This is what this experience felt like to me.

One of the key statements in the workshop about suffering was that: "It [suffering] is a disconnect between ourselves and who we really are." Our ego would like to convince us that IT is all we are. And when we listen only to our ego, it is quite convincing ! Example conversation between me and my ego:
Ego: "Who do you think you're fooling? _______ is never gonna happen for you ! Quit while you're ahead."
Me: "Really ? You think so? I guess you're right. I didn't want ____ anyway ! Fuck _____ ! "

Before I know it, I not only believe what my ego has told me is the "truth" about myself, but I am persuaded to dismiss my original desire/truth over this newly created one ! Cunning, baffling, powerful -- as we say about alcohol in AA ! So too can be the unhealed ego, which clings to a lesser view and drags us down to its level when we're not grounded and solid in the truth of ourselves.

What hit home for me in the workshop was the fact that the ego throws up symptoms in defense of not wanting to experience suffering of any kind: change, the unknown. no-thingness. One such "symptom" that I was able to "catch" in the moment during the workshop was a habit of mine that I'll call: "picking". At the height of this behavior, I was with my former partner in the last couple years of our relationship. I scratched open sores on my head constantly, til they bled. I watched a video of myself conducting a training during this period and was mortified to see how often (and seemingly unconscious) I scratched at my head while facilitating a group ! This behavior settled down over the past 2 years, as I became more mindful about the fact I didn't want to engage in it. Over the past few weeks, it re-surfaced big-time. I became aware over the weekend that this is indeed a symptom of my unhealed ego -- trying to distract me from being fully present to current suffering: fear of unknown, changing forms, uncertainty of many kinds.

I worked with this symptom as part of the practice. The urge to scratch lessened by the next day. And the usual "picky spots" nearly dissipated by today ! I allowed myself to be fully in relationship with the symptom, which in turn, allowed me to be fully in relationship with life and with myself. And then it really bowled me over: this is why AA works ! Because the unhealed ego before we come into the rooms tells us that we're: ______ [fill in the blank] funnier, prettier, sexier, more interesting ... when we have alcohol in us. We "buy into" the "drinking self" when the ego is in charge during our alcoholism. When we hit our bottom and get sober and enter AA, we're encouraged to engage with the symptoms of our ego that used alcohol as a deterrent to not experience suffering. These symptoms can include: fearfulness; anxiety; not having a sense of belonging; not wanting to feel; not wanting to be in reality. The list goes on and on. Bill W mentions the ego countless times in all of the AA literature -- it's for a darn good reason !

And we revert back to old behaviors, like with my picking or like when someone relapses in their substance use, when the tug or the urgency to disconnect from the true self who wants to be "married to life" is fueled by the ego in its desperate attempt to falsely "protect" the self from having to suffer. This feels like what is at the root of "craving" -- the seduction of the ego in creating a "wanting self" ... "C'mon... just one sip won't hurt. You can have a bite of _____, you deserve it."

I'm awake in this moment to the imposters that my ego would like to coerce me into thinking I am. The REAL self is standing up to claim her rightful place.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Limited and Limitless

Every morning this week I have been working with the same passage from my teacher Jason's book "The Instruction Manual for Receiving God".    It is about being limitless and connected to the world.   The closing statement in the passage is the one that packs the punch:   "All day long, whenever you have a decision to make, say to yourself:  What would I do if I were completely openhearted and in love with God ?  

I struggled first with embodying the words above in an authentic way.  I kept feeling all the ways in which I am limited -- like how I contract and hold back and tighten.   How sometimes I get really, really small.   And want to quit.  Or run away.  Or disappear.  If I'm really honest,  once in a blue moon,  I fantasize about exiting here for good when the going feels just too much and too tough and too tiring.   It feels really good to give voice to these pieces of me. 

And then,  in the past 24 hours or so,  an opening began to bubble around my heart and it kept widening,  especially this afternoon and evening.   In the middle of a healing session I had with a client,  I was so enamored with her growth and insights that I felt like I was going to explode with heart-bursting joy and scatter into confetti pieces all over her livingroom.   In this moment,  I was indeed  "openhearted and completely in love with God!"

Jason speaks in this passage about how we heal as we accept ALL that we are.  I realize that I had to first sit and be uncomfortable with my limitedness.   That I had to be tender toward the way I can shut the world out or find faults or cast blame or judge shamelessly.   Because the truth is:  I am only limited by my own limiting of my limitlessness !   Just yesterday,  in a very honest conversation,  I was able to honor a small voice that expressed disappointment AND,  because there was total acceptance for that aspect of me (by myself and the other person),  I could then feel myself expand and see the long view -- the perspective and position of this sweet human that I was engaged with.   The limited, self-centered, personal-only view shifted far into the background.  

And then,  to cap this week of exploration,  I receive this incredible gift quite unexpectedly -- a video that is limitless in its expression of love.   It is both impersonal and deeply personal.  Complete strangers become intimate friends.  Their open hearts, in love with God,  caress us all. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

La Cucaracha

Originally uploaded by Rundstedt B. Rovillos

Earlier today, I spent 2 hours at a family’s home doing an assessment on their teenage son who has autism. This was, in fact, the exact location of the first group home I worked in when I arrived to this city. There is one thing about this home that has never changed in the 2 plus decades …


Yup. Lots of creepy crawlers all over the cupboards and counters in the kitchen. It hadn’t hit me that I too had encountered them way back when simply because I was so sickened leaving there tonight that I nearly blocked that memory out ! Not to mention that when I worked in this home I was still drinking alcoholically. A 7-11 Big Gulp with 1/3 Sprite and 2/3 vodka. And chain-smoking Marlboros. Every single day. Which is why my head was a bit foggy about the roaches. Interestingly enough … I have a favorite t-shirt that has cockroaches silk screened on the front. When asked curiously about why I have such a shirt, I have replied that it was to remind me about my humble beginnings working in a group home that was infested with the critters. And here I am today in this very place !!!! God sometimes has a really twisted sense of humor. Keeps things interesting in the Heavens I suppose.

I just spent 45 minutes in the shower nearly scrubbing the skin off of my bones. When I left this house tonight, I literally felt like I wanted to puke all over the sidewalk. I felt itchy and skeeved out for hours afterward.

As I drove back home, I thought about the nature of cockroaches. They are touted as being able to survive nearly any natural or manmade disaster, including nuclear radiation. There is something very holographic about understanding this in relation to the young man I assessed and those who occupied that space previously, myself included, and perhaps generations of other “survivors”. This autistic 17 year old is doing the very best he can given that he has no spoken language and is trying to communicate his distress through physical behaviors because there are many over-stimulating sensory triggers in this environment. The women who were mentally retarded who lived there prior were survivors of an institution that was shut down due to horrific living conditions and abuses of all kinds. When I worked in this home, I was at the height of my alcoholism. I barely had my head above water on any given day, shaking with DT’s, and salivating over the beer chilling in the cooler in my car. And yet I could hold down this job and help people figure out goals for themselves. I was just like one of those pesky cockroaches, scrounging for nourishment and getting through another day.

La cucaracha. A famous Spanish song dedicated to the cockroach. It’s also about the dancers’ stamping feet and how some lyrics may be associated with stomping on these vile insects. This is what makes a survivor, survive. The threat of being wiped out and somehow finding a way to persist and endure. Now moving past my earlier repulsion, I soften toward this symbolic representation of survival. I found a way to stop sipping the poison … in the bottles of booze and in the messages of my parents. The cockroaches have also gone a similar route -- to not drink the toxic stuff spread in the cracks and crevices by the exterminator.

We have all found our way.
We have all survived.

The click-click of their miniscule feet dancing on the tabletops is the celebration of being in life that exists in us all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Intimacy of War

Originally uploaded by Charles_Agnew

Historically, for my unhealed ego, the following were held as truths:
Same = good; change = bad.

My distorted thinking was that if I can control it (a person, a situation, a state of being) then it will not change. My healer in a session today went on to say that my resistance is a fear of change to a particular form. This fear is driven by a perception entrenched in my wounded-ness that “the world is not dependable”. Some of the questions my small, unhealed ego has echoed repeatedly in my ear are: “Is it safe?” and “Can I trust this?”

Quite recently, I have taken a cannonball leap into the pool of changing forms. I have not wanted to see them as something outside of me that are dangerous or need to be controlled or manipulated. I want to be in the heartbeat of life, even if mine is pounding way too fast from anxiety, so that I can feel the fluidity (versus rigidity) of my own form and not react in the presence of other changing forms.

What has been essential in this shift is that in order for there to be true healing, this work has to be done in relationship. So why not do this with the person I love most -- who also happens to be the one who presents me with the greatest challenges to my small unhealed ego. Our histories trigger one another in a HUGE way. They are opposing forces of the most activating kind.

This work has required being grounded and well-connected to my interior. To not react impulsively but rather to see the Reality of what is happening on the outside, with her, and to try my darndest to not take it personally. The way that this played out just a week ago was in a heated conversation about each of our individual perspectives on what being in integrity means in terms of our relationship. We each shared viewpoints which were polar opposite and could have potentially meant killing the other off. We did not stoop to that level. Instead, we each took a stance from our individual places of integrity. There was dissonance and conflict felt intensely, even after the conversation ended. We were 2 forces pushing up against the other. In my not-so-distant past, the notion of such an interaction would have been terrifying and I would have re-coiled, avoiding anything that had a whiff of disagreement and would’ve went so far as to smooth things over, create harmony. This was me trying to have things be the same and not change, to have the illusion of safety.

In sharing this with my healer during our session today, she noted how we were truly valuing war. And that in this kind of “war” – holding positions, bone-on-bone, honest realness - there was a place for true intimacy to arise from the battlefield. She also highlighted that there was a wisdom in each of our stances – a line from our conflict resolution practice (MAGI) was so fitting: “To stand for good is to bear standing for change.” We each stood for what was good and important to us (our individual integrities) and by doing so, it opened up space for softening and an opportunity to see the “big picture” of our relationship. I was actually able to see this after being with my initial feelings of anger and frustration and then stepping back and gaining clarity about where she was in relationship to where I was in our individual places of integrity. And, here’s the really cool part: she & I could actually talk openly about this today ! My favorite quote of all time from my healer is: “True intimacy is freedom”. It has taken on a new level of meaning for me after today. The intimacy of being able to be at war with someone I love deeply offers a freedom beyond my wildest imagination. Kinda like naked Jello wrestling !

There is glistening in truth and not from “false pretty” – a phrase coined by my healer. My beloved and I concurred in our conversation today that we tried hard our first half or more of the relationship to be pleasing and to please one another. To disclose honestly of ourselves was way too risky, especially based on the associations made from the consequences of our histories. The intimacy of war offers consistency and even safety in the trustworthiness of speaking and standing by one's truth. This, to me, is fighting the good fight. I am aware in this moment that this is the exact path where we will learn to bear and meet life and each other. I believe this is all my Future Self has ever wanted for me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I am Here ... Here I am

Pencil Vs Camera - 23
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

I have continued to work with my relationship between my Big self and my Little self. Specifically, I have dropped to more of an understanding of why all the question marks in relationship to another have been so unsettling and how my staying with my Little self and not abandoning her is bringing me deeper into what can be known, while being more settled with the greater landscape of unknowns.

An example of this is the state of things in my current relationship. There are more unknowns than ever before and initially, this found my Little self in particular very activated. After a few healings over the past 2 weeks and working hard to give voice and presence to this small soul who is the bearer of the bulk of my entire being's woundedness, there is an awareness that is getting clearer and clearer: The only "known" that exists in relationship to another is "I am here" in this moment of time and this is what is true for me. When I know where I am, then in relationship to another, I show up in a place of "Here I am" and it is safe to be with all of the other unknowns. This includes things like: "Will I be displeasing or be left or have a consequence if I share this?" or "What is going to happen in our relationship a week/a month/6 months from now?"

It feels like a revelation. I must say it again outloud: The only known is where I am ! I am here ... Here I am ! Holy Shit and Hallelujah!
Where you are is not for me to figure out or obsess or ponder about. It is, however, up to the other person to communicate and bring themselves into relationship by sharing their own "I am here". When each of us can do this, it is kindness -- to ourselves and to the person we're in relationship with.

I spent the weekend with a dear friend. On her bookshelf was a gem that had sat collecting dust: "Perfect Love/Imperfect Relationships: Healing the wound of the heart" by John Welwood. I began to read it yesterday afternoon during some downtime when a storm was passing through. Divine timing at its best. He speaks about the terrain on which I am presently trodding. What stands out thus far is his discussion about the oneness and twoness of intimate relationships. It is parallel to the non-duality I've been studying. Separation is necessary for coming together and vice-versa. Fresh moments of discovery are born out of working through old associations and memories. There will be peaks and valleys, understanding that is preceded by lack of understanding. What has really resonated about my current relationship based on what he writes about early on in this book is that -- the most significant of all these polarities -- there has to be an "I" that stands on her own and is willing to join a "You" that is able to do the same -- each with our humanness, our wounds, our idiosynchrocies and imperfections.

I am here... there is a sense of freedom in knowing where I stand, what is being in integrity for me, what is important, what are my non-negotiables. In this way, I have a mission to not abandon myself. To really stay and honor the voice of my interior. To meet my partner full and whole from this place in me... Here I am.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Flapping Forward, 1 wing at a time ...

Flying in Paradise
Originally uploaded by Shudipto

In my 20's, I spent a lot of time in my head reminiscing in deep melancholy about the past. Re-living it, wanting certain moments to never end, being in my life from history-only. I was riddled with anxiety, depression, alcoholism, and fear. I was self-deprecating and unsure, trying to anchor back to the past for security.

In my 30's, I obsessed about the future. Planning, worrying, experiencing insomnia. In this anxious state, I tried to manage and control everything and everyone. I wanted things to be predictable. I did not trust the Universe or any God. And, I thought I was really "together".

In my current decade, the 40's, I have experienced tremendous transformation -- particularly in the past few years. The concept of "The Present Moment" was introduced to me and it was foreign and uncomfortable and took some time to accept as a way of being in the world. Re-entry into AA coupled with my non-dual healing program has enabled me to both grasp being "here and now" as well as how to let go of lingering too long in the past and obsessing about the future. Instead, I am learning how to be informed by my past and guided by my future.

What I still have difficulty in grasping is how to collapse a past/present/future moment so that my way of being in the world is not relying on the linear view of time -- this is what can send me in either direction away from the present. I feel myself taking baby steps and stumbling a lot. When I am steeped in my practices, I can feel this as being really possible and tangible. I feel myself as a seated, rooted person in the present moment - aware and able to gaze back on her past and listen to the call of her Future self. When I am more lax in practice or even in my recovery work, I can readily daydream and long for "what was" as well as propel myself so far ahead that I am masterminding future outcomes.

In my life, in this very moment, I am both certain and uncertain. What I know is that I am preparing to teach a number of classes and that I am writing and praying and going to meetings and attending to the daily routines of earthplane living. What I don't know is ... because I just don't know. And there are hundreds of things behind the dot, dot, dot. In just typing that, I could feel the unease, a wave of nausea, tears at the back of my eyes.

In the place of being in the present while aware of my history and uncertain of my future, I can feel myself wanting to stall and stop at times. This is when I get afraid to move because I don't even want my own form to change. Other times, most of the time in fact, I am aware of my motion which follows a direction which is responding to a call. This is very subtle and can also be dramatic. For now, I am naming it: flapping forward, 1 wing at a time. I really have no idea where I am going, but I am being guided to go ahead. And to not veer off when I'm scared. And to absolutely, under no circumstances, abandon myself. I am okay with this uncharted map, for now, because I trust the compass.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Getting Whole ...

piling on the symmetry
Originally uploaded by Seattle Miles (shooting more than flickring)

When the ego is healed and not discarded; when it is held closely to the heart even in its misconceptions and troubles; when its every pain is no longer believed to be the only and ultimate truth does the ego reveal itself to be the Real Self, the connected self."
~ Jason Shulman (www.en-on.com)

In his talk on Enlightenment Online, Jason is responding to a question from a member of the community who is inquiring about de-activating the ego. Jason speaks about the significance of the healed ego, akin to the relationship of waves to the ocean, brightness to light. He goes on to comment about the healed ego: "The self that can be intimate with all things."

My AA sponsee and I met over coffee this morning. She feels herself struggling severely because she is flooded with feeling. As she shares about noticing her inner critic and the running commentary about being "fat" and about imperfection coupled with feelings of great sadness, I cannot stop the smile from forming on my face. She looks at me quizzically and says: "What can you possibly be happy about in hearing this?" I respond: "Because you're in touch with everything that lives in you. This is REALLY good." She still doesn't understand. I don't try to explain too much, but reassure her and ask that she be willing to trust that it is.

What I am aware of in this moment is that we alcoholics (and other numb-ers and soothers and destroyers of All-Things-Hard-To-Feel) did/do not give permission to ourselves to experience and allow for the troubles and pains of the ego to exist. So we stumbled around in our drunken stupors with very small, unhealed egos that desperately wanted to come up from the bottom of the glass for some fresh air ! And, once we can put down the bottle, it becomes startling and disarming, as my sponsee is now experiencing, to be conscious and present to feelings that are uncomfortable, that are painful, that feel dangerous or too hard to bear.

As Jason alludes to in his talk, the ocean is brimming with activity: rocks and shells and prickly coral and schools of fish and sharks gnashing their teeth amid the constant turbulence of waves. I really relate to this metaphor in being aware of my ego. I am an alive not stagnant being because of my ego. The ocean that is me has: voices that are disparaging; a little girl that gets scared and afraid she will be left; the prideful one who loves teaching and writing; a passionate romantic; closets and junk drawers of historical crap; a dormant drunk; one who is sometimes in touch with Reality and other times is delusional; sensitivities of all kinds; venomous substances that sting and leave marks; feelings of deep love and longing. No ONE aspect is the whole truth of me at any given time.

Jason's suggested "remedy" for our ego malady is to practice kindness toward it, to be connected moment by moment by moment. This is what brought about the smile on my face in my sponsee's tender sharing ... I felt my affinity for the presence of her ego and, simultaneously, my own.

I also understand why my healer Brenda has suggested I bring my Big Self and my Little One into relationship. To cut one out in spite of the other is to deny the presence of the ENTIRE ego. I'll end here with her exquisite statement to me: "When, our kavannah, our commitment is to Wholeness – then Wholeness is in charge – not our small unintegrated egos that want things to go only a CERTAIN way that we believe will keep us safe, make us happy."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On My Knees ...

MarĂ­a full of grace
Originally uploaded by Villi.Ingi

There is no question in my mind that the simplest and most powerful tool I have is prayer. When my knees are heavy, my heart is lighter.

In my non-dual healing practice group today, this gem was shared:
"To the unhealed ego, people are hell. To the healed ego, people are heaven."

When I am not praying and in regular conversation with God, I am acting from my small, unhealed self with my historical baggage in tow. In this place, I want to judge others, I want to shun them, I want to blame and shame them. I want to ride the bumpers of slow drivers and roll my eyes at people in bank and supermarket lines.
When I pray and am in connection to my Higher Power, I can be behind those same pokey drivers and waiting in those long lines with irritating people and am better able to make room for everything and to recognize that, if my transference shows up in the presence of others, "I am this, too." What it comes down to is that the very things that irk me in other people, irk me about me.

Prayer helps me get right-sized and in Reality. It enables me to trust my inside in response to the outside. In non-dual healing terms, it is utilizing the wisdom of Tiferet (wise sage, God-voice) to inform Yesod (desire to connect). In AA speak, it is Step 3, through and through.

I used to think that prayer had to be eloquent and positively focused. I am coming to understand that it is whatever I am meeting at the time I begin to speak to God. Some of my latest prayers have included statements such as:

"Help me -- I don't like what is here and I am struggling"

"I want to be with each unknowable moment"

"This fucking sucks. Can you take this please ?"

"I don't trust right now and I want to trust again."

In conjunction with alcoholism or any other addiction or affliction, prayer helps to lift the obsession. To be able to ride out one challenging or painful moment and make it into the next moment - which is occasionally worse, but mostly improved.

Life, in general, is always better when I've been on my knees.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Keepers of Light ...

Refiner’s Fire
Originally uploaded by Mike_tn

I attended my 30 year High School reunion last night. Normally, I would be very apprehensive and even skeptical about such an event, as I am not terribly nostalgic about this time of my life. I was beyond pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

In connecting with some very dear souls last night with whom I have not had any regular contact since high school, I came to learn that my all-or-nothing thinking that would have me only recollecting the darkness of this time, would be illuminated in some tender memories they shared with me.

Upon seeing one friend in particular, someone I spent an enormous amount of time with from 7th through 10th grade, my heart seemed to overflow. We saw each other across the room, shrieked, and ran into a full embrace, with me picking her up off of the floor. We spent a good hour or more talking and re-connecting. My cob-webbed memory banks got a housecleaning in this conversation ! My friend reminded me about our talks in another friend's basement (a woman, who I would find out last night, died 2 years ago after a valiant battle with breast cancer) while we listened to the Doobie Brothers and Styx and Chicago. What took me back was when she said: "Did you ever write that book?" And I gulped, tears coming to my eyes. In a flash, I was flooded with memories of how I would tell my friends that I wanted to write a book. She added: "You always said you wanted to write something that would make an impact on people, that would be unforgettable." How quickly I would dismiss this dream until about a year or so ago when my passion for writing was rekindled here on this blog. She also shared about how our talks at that time, being such young teens, were very deep, thought-provoking, even spiritual. Again, these are memories that got tossed -- perhaps as my father's drinking was progressing and the stress in our home was becoming more taxing.

There would be other conversations like this with a few others. Like having helped a friend during a troubled time. Or how I faithfully cheered on a particular group of guys at their swim meets. Or the way I brightened someone's days at school, who never communicated this to me until this reunion. My heart opened wider and wider, able to receive these unexpected gifts.

With some people, it was like time never passed and we never missed a beat, picking right back up where we left off and meeting each other exactly where we are.

These treasures, in the form of old friends, are the keepers of light. They have held the shining moments of this time period and kept the flame flickering long after I had blew the candles out on my teenage years. It did not feel like a glorification or a re-living of the past, but rather it was a reality check. My reality back then was tainted and skewed toward the gloomier aspects of life. I am also aware that I likely spent much of this time period dissociated and in a trance. What an incredible experience to be present to this and to wake up.

Lastly, the way in which I was regarded by folks at the reunion was a testament to my living more soberly and following this spiritual path. I was told countless times by both the men and women of our class how beautiful I was and radiant and that I had a certain kind of "glow" that they had not seen before. Many people made comments such as: "You REALLY look like you're enjoying your life." In high school, one thing I do remember vividly was that I was never someone that people would ever give the label: "beautiful". I was regarded as funny or a clown or a goof, but never seen from my inside-out. That, I believe, was the beauty that was being reflected back to me in my classmates' statements. Today, I can take that in fully.

I am in a place of deep gratitude today. For the experience of re-uniting with both old friends and with the old me. I am thankful for these keepers of light.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Tangled Webs We Weave ...

Spiderweb, Home is where you weave it.
Originally uploaded by moonjazz

The whole dynamic of Relationship is multi-faceted, complex, and intricate to the point that its threads are beyond the vision of the human eye. The kind of stuff only surgeons and scientists have the equipment for !

The woman I love and I are each examining our individual parts and pieces that we bring into relationships. It's become easier and more illuminating to see how the tiniest specs of each of our histories can have an impact on the other. And how quickly, if we are not awake to these dynamics, the miniscule threads can begin to overlap and merge and tangle. Even more startling: if one has been asleep in a relationship that has extended over a long time period, then the web of each others' crap that has been jumbled up over a duration is like the mother of all spider webs: frayed and broken at places, some threads barely hanging on, lots of really small ones all twisted up so you can't tell the individual pieces or where some begin and others end. We both have been guilty of weaving tangled, messy spider webs with long term partners and we're trying really hard to not repeat the same patterns.

This is not an easy feat ! I can identify something that is from my history and even know how I react when this aspect of my history is activated and she can identify the same and I can now see how when she is acting in the place of her history how it impacts mine and vice-versa. And here's where the web has to get more untangled -- it's the whole debate: which came first, the chicken or the egg?
When we're together, does my history show up in some subtle way and because she's so sensitive and picks it up, then she begins to act from her history OR does she begin pre-figuring particular actions from her history underground and in my hypervigilance, I get a whiff of what's coming down the pike and then act from my history?
Most couples would not even have a clue that this shit is going on because they never bother to look in that closet or that corner in the basement of the relationship.

A practical example to illustrate the above:
We're hanging out, having great sex, laughing, connecting - a really good time. Then, the next morning there's the "look" or the energetic pulling back in her. Sometimes, there's "my look" and it's one of longing, wanting to hang on to the good times. In her state, she may just be pre-occupied and names it and then there's more intimacy. I may recognize my own desire for connection and also identify that she appears to be getting ready to take space or pull back and I can name it. Underground, she may anticipate that my "little one" who gets fearful of being abandoned is going to surface and then she pulls out even more in a historical reaction OR I see what's about to come and say to myself: "Shit, things were just gettin good and now she's moving away" and then my historical reaction is here because there's a feeling that I'm gonna get left and it doesn't feel safe.

My head is spinning just looking at all of this !

Someone from the outside peering in may say: "Why bother? This is too much work !" Can't it just be light and easy ?

Sometimes I say that to myself too. Can't things just be simple and our histories get packed up in the attic somewhere ? Why the fuck does everything have to be processed to ad infinitum ?

The truth is that the detailed front end work makes things run that much more smoothly on the back end. Part of making a commitment, I am coming to understand, is the willingness to do the work. To be accountable for what's mine and she for what's hers. To be rigorously honest. To be clear and direct. To know what the narrative is that we each begin to recite when the historical material is presenting itself. To leave no thread untangled.

Spiderwoman and the Poison Spewer. Do they have what it takes for the long haul ? Can they get a grip on their own superheroine powers and not put each other under a spell ? Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Right in front of my nose ...

african pygmy hedgehog
Originally uploaded by Adam Foster | Codefor

For the past 48 hours, I have been agonizing, getting my ass kicked, by this concept of Poisoning Ground. It feels huge and powerful and difficult to tackle.

I sit on the toilet this morning and open my Daily Reflections. Here is the passage, titled : Removing "The Ground Glass"
"The moral inventory is a cool examination of the damages that occured to us during life and a sincere effort to look at them in a true perspective. This has the effect of taking the ground glass out of us, the emotional substance that still cuts and inhibits."
~ As Bill Sees It, p. 140

Jesus Fuckin Christ.

When I operate in personal-only and forget the Impersonal, it is also like trying to effectively work with only a few of the tools in my toolbelt while discarding the rest. I have been in non-dual healing mode-only for a week or more and have put my recovery principles off to the side. Bill W and my teachers Jason and Brenda have clearly all drank from the same well !

My resentments from my history are part of my poisoned ground. My character defects, including my alcoholism, are my poisoning ground!!! This is the ground glass that Bill is referring to in the passage - the emotional substance which still cuts and inhibits. The solution to working with this territory has been right in front of my nose. It's all here in the Steps !!!

Step One: I am powerless over the changing forms of others and my life has become unmanageable when I believe I can control these forms.

This really is a simple program for complicated people ...

Monday, August 9, 2010

The girl who spews poison ...

Green snake
Originally uploaded by khozism

WANTED: People-pleasing child of an alcoholic with fears of abandonment and the unknown seeks friend and/or intimate partner with narcisstic wounding and engulfment issues for incompatibility and toxic interactions.

My father, all 3 of the intimate relationships I've had with women (including my current one) and 3 of my local friends all qualify as potential matches for this classified.

I am just now understanding, particularly after the healing session I had today, about why I have co-created a specific interpersonal dynamic in my life that repeatedly activates and perpetuates the injustices of my childhood.

It is called "Poisoning Ground". It differs yet is connected to another concept in our non-dual healing school called "Poisoned Ground". The first is active while the latter is passive. Poisoning Ground refers to the ways in which we continue to carry out and spread the historically toxic potion we were raised on as children (Poisoned Ground). Hence, the title of this post: The girl who spews poison. (also a playful spin on the titles of the Stieg Larsson trilogy I am in the midst of, the 2nd book being: "The Girl who Played with Fire").

Ever since my session today, the venom in me has risen to the surface and is practically oozing out of every pore. I feel its sting and its ugliness and its lethal potential. It makes me sick inside and I want it out of me and the problem is that, when in this place of really feeling it, I want to spit it on everyone that crosses me or who I think deserves it. My healer emphasized the importance of me writing and exploring this territory, so I am unleashing it here with reckless abandon and an "I don't give a flying fuck" attitude. I want it out and spilled and emptied.

The key statement that arose today which fuels my Poisoning Ground is: "I wasn't considered". It is directly associated with the Poisoned Ground of my chaotic, alcoholic family which was organized around managing and responding to my father's drunken states and therefore could not offer attention or consideration for the children in the home. It's connected to abandonment and rejection and it is projected onto others, especially those with narcisstic qualities, because of the ways in which they are self-absorbed and do not have much to give to folks like me who are seeking companionship and connection in order to not feel abandoned. People with narcisstic wounds, as my healer explained, are looking to move away from people with my history for fear of being "sucked in" and so instead, they respond by cutting us out and killing us off. It is a deadly combination when the dynamic is not understood for what it is. And, for someone like me when I am in a small, contracted place, it completely sets off fire bells and warning signals that danger lies ahead. And that I need to defend myself. Herein is an additional explanation for my boxing glove theory that I posted a few days back.

My hypervigilance can be so sensitive and acute that as soon as I get a whiff of potential changing of form (as in my dad or former partner's inebriated emotional states), my defenses find me starting to shape-shift in relation to the other's metamorphosis. This is most likely to happen when I am feeling small and am operating in the "personal-only" and this is when Poisoning Ground mode kicks in. When I am big and can hold the personal and impersonal, I am much less apt to go into this operating mode. This is what I learned today from my healer. It is both illuminating and exasperating. She shared that I may always experience an aspect of this at some level because of the fact that I am a child of an alcoholic. The anti-dote comes in the form of acceptance and being able to hold the smaller self within my bigger self.

My continued work in this territory is to let myself know the stories I tell myself when I enter this Poisoning Ground state. To name what happens for me. To give the smaller, toxic self a voice and a place. My healer also suggested working with this question: "What would it be like to be big and small at the same time?" My all-or-nothing thinking finds me being one or the other most often.

I am calmer and clearer having released this from my system. I would much rather have it be held in the safety of this writing space than to be inflicted upon innocent beings.

I am the girl who spews poison. Not all the time and not with every person or in every interaction. But it is a truth and a statement of reality about one part of me that exists. For now, she has the right to be here and be heard.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Soaring with Imagination ...

Pencil Vs Camera - 20
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

A classmate in my non-dual healing program made a guided audio meditation using questions that were posed in a talk given by my healer/teacher, Brenda, at our retreat last weekend.

The opening question is: "Who is the WHO that perceives the future with imagination?"

I have been meditating with this and numerous other questions every night before going to sleep and, for the first time, this morning shortly after rising. There is tremendous power in allowing statements such as these to work through oneself, as is instructed by my classmate on the audio.

As I have begun to feel into my "who is" that perceives the future with imagination, an invitation from a friend and fellow traveler in the rooms of AA co-arose. It involves a dream of mine that I never actively pursued and have always said I'd do for my 50th birthday yet never really believed I would follow through.


Yes, from 14,500 ft, with a 75 second free-fall, riding tandem with an experienced diver. Both my friend and I would consider doing this in September in honor of our recovery anniversaries (it is my 20th on 9/4).

My hair stylist (a Laotian woman and wise sage in disguise) said to me yesterday, out of the seemingly blue sky - no pun intended - that "happiness was a window that I needed to reach through and grab before it shut." She was making, in her own quirky way, a reference to seizing the moment and that life was indeed too short.

There is a "WHO" that lives burrowed in me that wants to "let go" in a profound way. I have always been a calculated risk-taker. Control has been a character defect and a way of trying to hold onto as many "knowns" out of sheer terror of the unknown. I have only made big changes in my life because I have been basically "pushed out of the plane" . This time around, I want to take the leap -- from a place of my own volition-desire.

The "Who is" that perceives the future with imagination is the one in me who trusts fully. Who is not concerned about managing the outcome. Who is willing and daring enough to take the literal and figurative leap of faith.

I am going to chat with the Big G before confirming the jump just in case this is not the direction I'm supposed to be going !

Geronimo !!!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Soap, sweat and tears ...

Originally uploaded by giuseppedr

"The ego likes to think it can achieve a state called 'enlightenment', and then its work will be finished. But 'awakened' just means you'd better roll up your sleeves and pay attention, because life continues to happen."
~ Jason Shulman

My teacher goes on to speak in this passage about being in love with enlightenment, singing while he did the dishes at a monastery. This stage feels much like the "pink cloud" or "honeymoon" period that not only occurs with spirituality but in the beginning of intimate relationships or new jobs or even addiction recovery. When we're in this dreamy state, we think we've "arrived" and then the bottom drops out from underneath and if we're not paying attention, we fall hard. When we are more awake, we recognize that this is the call of reality.

What goes up, must come down. Newton's law of gravity has relevance here.

A good friend and I had a conversation about relationships over dinner last evening. She's recently had a bumpy free fall from the pink cloud she's been riding on in the form of a new girlfriend. Now that she's felt the turbulence, she's questioning why relationships have to be so hard. If it were up to her, she would always experience a state of bliss and feel loved constantly. Anything short of this is a disappointment and a rejection.

I understand this territory all too well. It's how I lived in relationship to others for a very long time. As a dear one has stated: "We have to experience the fall from grace" -- otherwise, we idealize and keep our partner on a pedastool. These false and unrealistic expectations of others is a complete set-up for failure -- for them and for us.

Being awakened -- be it in life or in a relationship -- is hard work. It does, as Jason points out, require rolling up our sleeves and paying attention. His "enlightenment" gained through dish washing does not just involve singing, but soap, sweat and tears. This is the stuff good relationships are made of. And patience. And trust. And timing. There is understanding the nature of pride and ego and transference and projection. There is action and non-action. It is about responding from one's interior and not moving too quickly based on the other's exterior. It's give and take and asking the other to give a little or being okay to take some. One of my favorite lines of a Maroon 5 song is: "It's not only rainbows and butterflies but compromise that moves us along."

And life continues to happen. We can work hard and make plans and believe we're making headway toward the most ideal outcome and life still unfolds as it will. And this may not be anywhere close to the destination we stuck the push pin at on the roadmap of our life. This makes the ego stand up and get its feathers ruffled. What d'ya mean we're not going north ? Who put this detour here ???? Time to get back into the car or on our bike or with another set of hiking boots and follow the path that's now here.

And here's the cool part: we still can sing in the middle of trepidation because we're awake to it. After my head-over-heels phases of my current relationship, there have been periods of minimal contact or sets of challenging conversations or tough processing through the individual aspects that clash between us. Some of the best love-making I have ever experienced has been right after a down and dirty, raw honest discussion. The egos have been wrestled to the ground and the nakedness of that moment is shimmery, sweaty enlightenment.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Taking off the gloves ...

Originally uploaded by kk+

In my continued quest to understand the nature of my defenses, I came to some awakenings this morning after praying and yoga, as I quietly sipped coffee at my kitchen table.

Before, during and after my drinking period (especially when I was not spiritually aware or working a recovery program), I was deceptive and dishonest - with myself and with others. Born out of this deceitful behavior was a pair of boxing gloves. So I could deflect away any attempts to get the real truth out of me. I built up a set of punches in the form of elaborate explanations, excuses, along with a defensive stance in order to not be caught in my web of lies. As soon as the questions began to take on an interrogative tone, I was ready to jump in the ring. And, while I have become more and more honest over time, I can recognize how the bell to signal the next round goes off inside when I am in an interaction with another and there is some form of "grilling" or excessive questioning that places an emphasis on my behavior. It transports me directly back to when that kind of interrogation was warranted. Today, it is the imbalance of the interaction that catches me off guard and the gloves are on before I'm even conscious of it. Underneath all of this, particularly because I have worked so hard to be honest, is the idea that "someone doesn't believe me". It's an old scab re-opened, revealing such shameful past coping mechanisms: pretending; exaggerating; lying.

I also know this to be true of my defense system: if I feel misunderstood in a way that has a flavor of judgment or disbelief, my frustration with the other in the interaction brings about my defendedness. I get this feeling inside of wanting to shake them, to say: "Why don't you get me?" or "How many ways do I have to communicate this?" I take on their inability to understand in that moment personally rather than to try to understand where THEY are getting stuck. Simple questions of curiosity would alleviate the need for me to position myself awaiting the 1-2 punch. "What is it about what I am saying seems confusing or hard to understand?" OR I can just name, honestly, what I am experiencing: "I am feeling frustrated in this interaction. I am feeling misunderstood."

There is a direct link to these uncoverings and a statement of kavanah that I created for myself at a workshop this past weekend at my non-dual healing retreat. It was to be a visionary statement of intention for the next 6 months. My statement is: "To know my truth is enough." I feel the connection to really being in the world, living this statement -- without defendedness. If my truth is indeed enough, then there is nothing to defend. I don't have to retreat into the past narrative about how I am not believed or am mistrusted by others.

The real healing in all of this is forgiveness. To forgive the ways in which these old behaviors and associated defenses served a purpose at a particular time in my life. To forgive myself for doing the best I could at that time and acknowledging that I have moved on. To forgive others for simply being human and innocent in the ways their actions may trigger my transference. To forgive my own imperfect humanness and the fact that my small self/ego may still get activated.

It's okay sweetie. Take off the gloves.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On the track laid down for me ...

Stazione abbandonata di S.Bernardino - Long train running
Originally uploaded by Funky64 (www.lucarossato.com)

In this past weekend's non-dual healing retreat, our teacher Jason spoke at great length about the concept of vision. A piece of his talk that has struck me since returning home is about moving out of our trance and following instead the track laid down for us, as we continue to travel forward. On this "pure subjective" train, I have a car that carries feelings, another transporting thoughts, one for transference, another that holds dreams and so on. And the train is not something outside of me that I am viewing; I am the moving vehicle, gliding along each unfolding track that is the path of my life. God is both the track layer and the conductor. It is with deep faith that I chug along, sometimes slowly and sometimes swiftly. I understand that if I jump the tracks, it is because I didn't trust God's plan for me and took my will back and have to literally get "back on track".

Over the past couple of years, I have viewed varied terrain from the windows of my train. I am always most comfortable when the landscape is predictable and familiar and in broad daylight. Sometimes, however, it is so dark that I am scared I will become a literal train wreck. This brings me back to a place of trusting my conductor and knowing that in the willingness to keep moving forward, I am traveling toward my truth and more wholeness.

Returning from this retreat, my train has entered a long tunnel. It is dark yet I have an awareness of light peeking in just ahead. I am anxious and cautious and yet I cannot NOT proceed. This leg of my journey is connected to the next phase of the relationship I am in with a woman I love deeply. She is forging ahead in her own truth-train, in another tunnel, most likely pitch-black and perhaps with a sense of light too. She is taking the next step toward the ending of her marriage. It is a time of great courage and bravery and riding the rails of complete unknown. And yet, she too trusts the track laid down for her. She has asked for the souls in our community to hold her train on this path, perhaps to even be cemented into the concrete of the tunnel which is guiding her in the darkness.

This is a literal leap of faith. Each of our trains are following a particular set of tracks, with the hope that we will eventually ride toward the same station. There are no guarantees even in this. Her train may continue on a set of tracks that move far far away from mine and vice-versa. Either one of us may de-rail. We may actually collide. My only mission in this moment is to continue on the track laid down for me and she, on the one laid down for her.

This is about trusting God's unfolding for each of us. To not question or expect a particular outcome but to be engaged in and ride fully into the life of what is now. This moment is all there is.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sword and Shield

Master Sword & Hylian Shield
Originally uploaded by msondo

First time sitting at the computer after a week's writing hiatus amid a 4 day retreat with my non-dual healing community. My fingers have been beyond itchy and my thoughts bubbling over so much so that my head almost spontaneously combusted !

The theme of this retreat: vision and the "pure subjective". What would life look like if we didn't follow a known narrative ? Can we live our life moment-to-moment, following a path that's been laid out for us rather than one we've created a story about ? As my healer described: "Being wrestlers with God".

It is emphasized in our school of non-duality that our real work is done in relationship. An incredible healing discussion that unfolded over the course of a couple of days with the woman I love was steeped in the essence of the retreat. It can be described succinctly using this simple metaphor: sword and shield. My historical narrative is about defending against chaos and all things unknown and unpredictable. I am the one behind the shield in our relationship. Her story is about having the sharp edge against those defensive ones who always placed her at blame. Destroy before being destroyed. She wields the sword in our dyad.

One more layer is also here: my core wounding is abandonment so I hypervigilantly am on guard for any sign of change. Her core wounding is related to being engulfed and invaded, so she changes form constantly -- perhaps as a way to protect herself and be hidden from being pinned down and fully seen.

We recognized in an illuminating discussion yesterday before parting that it is quite probable we chose one another to truly heal those aspects of ourselves that get activated by the other's opposing wound and subsequent defense/attack strategies.

My future work -- for myself and in relationship with her -- is to understand the subtleties and nuances of my defending coupled with learning more about the nature of her changing form and how to be in contact even when the edges of her blade are poised to jab without having to break out the heavy armour. More importantly, I need to be able to practice meeting her as she morphs without creating a storyline about having to defend or to be anxious about making something known out of fear of the unknown. I pray for the willingness to be surprised.

There is something tingly and exciting about having blank pages rather than a tight script, realizing it can actually be a rivoting mystery rather than a tale of suspenseful terror ! One sentence at a time.

I am feeling myself surrender as I imagine the lightness of putting the shield down.

To be continued ...