Sunday, October 27, 2013

Our Heart's Desire

Albert Einstein riding his bicycle in Santa Barbara in 1933
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” - Albert Einstein
When I was in college, I had two career treks: a solid foundation in liberal arts to build on for law school, and my secret pleasures--creative writing and world religion.  I would gift myself with one creative writing class and one religion class each semester that I thought of as my guilty pleasures.  What I now know is the classes that gave me so much joy and I felt pulled towards were the guidance of my soul.  I let my intellectlaw school will provide a good livingtrump my deepest desires.

My intuitive mind, which I believe is our soul that resides in the heart, was quietly guiding me, while my rational mind firmly controlled my path.  Albert Einstein knew we had those two roles mixed up.  French philosopher and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said it so beautifully, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  Thus, as we can understand that part of us is physical, we also must acknowledge that another part of us is spiritual. The gift of spirit in our daily living is sometimes ignored or dominated by our rational mind.  Yes, we need our rational mind to get us to the market, to remind us to feed ourselves, etc., but the role it should play is that of supporter.  The star is our intuitive mind, which is the gift of our divine knowing. 

How Do We Recognize the Intuitive Mind?
Have you ever made a decision you regretted and then said to yourself "Something told me to go the other way?"  That "something" is the quiet voice of our intuition.  The intuitive voice is usually soft and non-intrusive and does not cause fear.  We can tap into that quiet voice through meditation and prayer and by placing our hand over our heart at any time and in any place and call forth our soul to answer.  Calling forth our intuition is like a muscle.  The more we do it, the clearer and stronger that intuitive voice will be.

The Limitations of the Rational Mind
Our rational mind is protective of our survival−the creator of our flight or fight response−and can cause us to have fear and doubt. Our rational mind also mirrors the voices we heard growing up, which causes limited thinking (our Monkey Minds).  If we were told we were stupid as a child, the rational mind will remind us of this for on our protection until we tell it otherwise.  Gay Hendricks, research psychologist and author of The Big Leap, calls this an Upper Limit Problem. (More about our Upper Limit in the next blog). We can program our rational mind to be in line with our spiritual selves as we grow.  We can tell our rational mind that we are no longer the child who was scared, self-doubting, and alone.  Remember, our rational mind is, after all, our faithful servant. The key is to learn how to use our intuition by recognizing our soul's quiet guidance and then reprogram our rational brain to obey the direction of our heart, which is where our soul resides.

30- Day Mirror Affirmation
If you are suffering from the the demands of the rational mind, our survival mind that can indeed keep us up at night with anxiety, try the following affirmation for 30 days:

I surrender to the guidance of my heart, and trust that all my needs and desires have already been given to me.  I accept this gift right now in this moment and affirm that it is so.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dare to be Whole

"It is our very fear of the future that distorts the now that could lead to a different future if we dared to be whole in the present.” Marion Woodman

As a coach, I hear the pain in a client's voice as they tell me they don't know why they can't get this job, get this promotion, hit a certain tier of success, stop negative behavior, make the relationships in their life work, etc.  They tell me they try to project what they want in the future, but their past keeps them stuck. I understand the trap of the past, and how it can keep us just far enough out of reach from our goals to cause frustration. When my 19 year old marriage ended, I interpreted that loss as a personal failure. I told myself, If I had been better, I would have had a fuller, more honest marriage. I defined myself as less than because my ideal marriage had not been achieved. We all have ideals, which either keep us tethered to the past, constantly going over and over why we are not achieving the results we want, or focused on the future.  This cycle can feel impenetrable, but it absolutely can be resolved.  
 The first step is to surrender to the moment. When we shift our gaze from our past and future and accept the present, our perceptions are allowed the freedom to become fluid.  We can consider the possibility that our current circumstances may hold lessons that will instruct us.  We may miss these important clues without this important shift in perspective. Asking, "What is the lesson that I need to learn," can yield the promise of our dreams if we keep our attention on the present. I began to understand the lessons of my past, and I began to let go of my ideal future when I let the gifts of the present unfold.  For the first time in my life, I knew from somewhere deep inside of me that I was perfect just as I was because the circumstances that I had once deemed a hardship were really a loving, instructive gift.  Every piece of my life's path was exactly as intended.  My inner compass, that soft, gentle voice, was enough.

The second step is to go inward.  When we go inward, we begin to see the beauty in each step in life's dance. We understand why we didn't get that promotion because something else was forming that was better. Meditation gave me the space to go inward. It also gave me the eyes to see the dew on the petals of a flower, the myriad colors of a setting sun, and the beauty in each human being that has come into my life. When I adjusted my gaze from what went wrong (the past) and how I am going to fix it (the future), I could see the beauty in my ex-husband, my children, and even in the death of a loved one. 

I helped to care for my mother-in-law in the last years of her life. I took her swimming twice a week, and when she could no longer swim, I took her to some of her favorite places−the library, the bookstore, and The Dollar Store. When I first began this journey with her, I was not present as a thousand things I could be doing instead flooded my mind. My ideal of relationship looked differently, and I almost missed the gift in front of me.  It didn't take long, however, to see that gift. My mother-in-law shared her dreams, her hurts, her regrets, her secrets, her wisdom, and gratitude. I was connected to this beautiful soul, and she was connected to me. Connecting is the beauty of life and what really makes us whole. While we want the job, the promotion, the right dollar amount in our retirement fund, being loving and being loved is the ultimate gift.

I have come to know that the only way to truly confront the world is with open eyes and an open heart. When we give up expectations, we can see the gifts and lessons that in the present moment, demonstrates that we are whole and on the right path. Thich Nhat Hanh's book The Miracle of Mindfulness states, “Many people are alive but don't touch the miracle of being alive.”  When I surrender to what is happening in any given moment without a preconceived notion, I am present for the gifts of life even in the face of tragedy or death.  When I give up what I think my life should look like, then the dreams can be unveiled, and the money, jobs, and relationships can come into view.  When we are whole, we are connected.  When we are whole, we achieve.  When we are whole and we experience the miracle of of being alive. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

God's Gym

In graduate school I had the space to write, read, and to fall in love.  Love came fast and furiously with Junot Diaz's Drown, his debut offering of short stories that gave me permission to write the rhythms of my neighborhoods in Los Angeles that were not all lush, honey-colored beaches and swaying in the breeze palm trees.  I rekindled an affair with Toni Morrison,  J.D. Salinger, and AndreDubus, Jr.  It was a time of quiet reflection and a shifting into something unknown until I met John Edgar Wideman's ducking and jabbing Mama from his collection of short stories, God's Gym.  In Wideman's story titled Weight, this Mama rocked my quiet world of contemplation and continues to do so.  The family Wideman's Mama inherited needs prayer, love, and understanding, but most of all, they need the woman at the helm to be in fighting-ready condition to deal with the life she has been given. Wideman writes:

 "My mother is a weightlifter.... Not barbells or dumbbells ... The weights she lifts are burdens−her children's, her neighbors, yours." 

Before I found Wideman's fierce and ready to deal mother, I tended to only don my spiritual armor in times of trouble but mostly came up short because my spiritual body was weak and out of shape.  No matter how much thoughtful contemplation I give my trials, no matter how many pleas I made to the Universe, I still felt defeated and unsure.  

The practice of love, forgiveness, faith, and patience is just that− a practice.  The day-to-day stretching and pumping of spiritual iron makes it easier to step into the ring with our wounds, doubts, feelings of unworthiness, victimhood, and fear.  The practice of hitting God's gym daily, hourly, and especially when times are good and the going is easy, builds the muscles needed to look uncertainty square in the face.

On my bathroom mirror is a bright, yellow post-it with the words "Choose Love" written with a thick, black Sharpie.  I wanted it to stand out because I need to be reminded that love is a practice.  Each in-the-moment decision to choose love strengthens my love muscles.  Prayer and time spent on my meditation pillow is time well spent in my spiritual gym, but it is not enough.  I then have to build on that practice by offering up a parking space in the Wawa parking lot when I see a hurried somebody eager to cut me off, and practice patience when my beautiful eleven year old boy rolls his eyes because I tell him to brush his teeth. 

The minute-by-minute practice of consciously choosing within the thousands of choices presented to me each day strengthens my ability to choose love, faith, forgiveness, and patience in both times of trouble and when the going is as easy as the palm trees of my childhood swaying softly in the warmth of a California breeze.