Well, a looottt has happened since my last post. I have teetered on the edge of change and release into authenticity for approximately 3 years now. In 2011 I experienced a kind of metamorphosis then promptly crept back into the cocoon – it wasn’t quite the same in there any more. What used to seem cosy and secure became tight and uncomfortable. I describe it like getting back in an old leather shoe that has experienced one too many puddles, has shrunk, is stiff and unforgiving. How do you maintain status quo when you know a little better?
So 2014, Leh, Ladakh. The Dalai Lama and 150,000 of my closest friends – what a scene! Surrounded by snowy peaks, the ice rapidly melting in the summer sun. Dust. The Indus. A new culture. 11 days of wonder, mystery and joy. My heart and mind reopened. This time I was prepared. I had rented my house and even removed my personal items from the office, just in case. In case of what? Another opportunity at personal transformation, contentment and a certain sense of freedom – freedom from the pervasive dissatisfaction that has occupied the background of my day to day existence.
I wasn’t prepared for how much I was about to let go of or how much I would find. I sat like a blank, open canvas and did my best to follow what His Holiness instructed us to do and prayed that I would receive the benefits. I certainly did. His extraordinary kindness pervaded everything – all were effected. How can you not be in the presence of a Buddha. The kindness of the Ladakhi people and all the other great beings who contributed to this truly amazing event can never be repaid.
So I changed. I changed everything. I left go of my house, my job and even my husband. The latter being totally unexpected. A fresh start and a leap into the void. I have found myself sitting in the stillness and unknown. What’s next? I don’t know exactly but what a place to be. The fear of letting go and stepping out of the norm has all but disappeared and with it, a large part of my identity.
I also discovered a magic mirror amongst the crowds. Something secret and unexpected. On the outside it’s not too dissimilar to many others but when our gazes meet there is an extraordinary magic that can’t really be explained. Something timeless and ancient, passed down through the years and the lives. A wondrous reminder of a pledge taken long ago, unbroken and deeply spiritual – something sacred. A rare jewel when reflected grants wishes and hastens growth. I am captivated. My heart is open and I am ready for change and learning. I am ready to let go.
So I look forward to sharing from the heart what comes because I don’t know what that will be. Planning has lost it’s charm. I’m free to evolve and grow naturally. I will make the most of this precious opportunity that I have been blessed with. I will nurture the flame that has been lit and shield it from the winds of fear and grasping. This has been my best experiment with happiness to date. If you’re teetering on the edge (and you will know what I mean if you are there), then take that step and soar. With the winds of wisdom and compassion beneath your wings you will surely fly.
All my love. May you be happy.
I heard a story the other day that totally transformed my mind and did something inexplicable to my heart. It was a story of the tragic death of a teenage girl killed in a car accident and the lady who found her and held her hand while she died. It was the girl’s mother who retold the story and I don’t think she was aware of how this image of her daughter and her own bravery for retelling this story publicly had such an enormous impact. I was transported there to that moment and experienced the complete surrender of the woman in that moment as she nursed the dying girl. I could (and do now when I retell this) feel the vast stillness of ungrasping love that pervaded. Time stood still and she just witnessed with deep presence and tenderness her last moments. Being able to hold her in that stillness, in that moment, was all that counted and the greatest gift that could be offered. Through that story my heart learnt how to be: to simply rest and give my full attention to someone in their greatest time of need. No words are required, there is no need to alter or change but simply be there witnessing and experiencing (to some degree) in stillness that absolutely sacred, completely vulnerable and pivotal moment.
The beauty present in that image is the naked reality of being completely helpless and unable to change the situation through resolving, fixing, trying or striving and the seeing that the only option is to stop, be still and allow oneself to be there fully for another in their time of need. Allow yourself to visualise that moment, be that woman, you are there and your mind transforms. The struggle stops, the sense of desperation and helplessness abates and all that is left is that vast, still, timeless moment of gentle strength, stability, knowing and something that goes beyond the word ‘love’.
This morning while I meditated I was able to bring a little of that atmosphere and presence to my practice. I sensed the pain and struggle of hope and fear in my body, the stress and dis-ease that I bring unto myself by constantly striving towards some place in the future where everything will be ok. I touched that pain and allowed myself to feel that vulnerability – that same vulnerability that was so starkly obvious as the young girl slipped away from this life. I stayed with that vulnerability and guided it towards all the tension, fear, struggle and expectation that I was holding in my body (especially around my chest). Compassion for my pain and aversion to life’s hardship softened and eased the tension and the perpetual ‘no’ to what is. Stillness prevailed, albeit only a little, but it was enough. I feel a little kinder to myself and a little softer, a little more at ease and able to face what the day presents.
I would like to thank that lady for the gift that she shared. She suffered for a long time before seeing the gentle ray of light amongst the ferocious, dark clouds of grief. May she find peace in that moment and solace in what she, her daughter and the lady inspired in others. Their story will stay in my heart and remind me of that vast stillness and presence that hides behind the appearances of this world and all its stories.
DP writing challenge: ‘Expectations’ http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/great-expectations/
Expectation is a story comprised of layered thoughts set one on top another like paper mache, glued with emotions such as fear, attachment and pride. Expectation forms like a scab on the surface of our experience. Once scratched it’s flimsy surface tears away, leaving a glimpse of the raw and gory truth inside. This scab is inflexible and tight and leaves a scar. While expectations met bring a measured dose of excitement (enough to feed the addiction), this quickly fades into boredom and apathy. Rapidly the mind, once again, conceives of and re-builds a new set of expectations and associated story lines, unless we should fall for that same old story again – you remember the time I expected chocolate to make me feel better; it made me feel better for awhile; and then it made me sick? I’ve done that more than once!
Expectations come at us from all directions (including from within). Some we make our own. Some we disregard. Where did they all begin? I can only guess not long after birth… ‘I expect to be fed…mwah!’ Who knows, maybe even before?
Other people’s expectations, as heavy as lead, can weigh on us like compound interest. If they support the story of ‘me’ and who I think ‘I’ ought to be (even if that is a negative self-image) then we accept them, believe them and even worship them, infusing them with power, submitting to them like we have no choice.
Expectation can sometimes be ‘hope’. Not aspirational hope that warmly guides us towards a more positive state of being but the hope that eats your stomach lining; gives you insomnia; the one you want to believe in but aren’t quite convinced; and whose close ally is fear.
Expectation can also be stubborn ignorance. ‘How could that have possibly happened? This cant’ happen to me!’ It hides in the shadows, structures our thinking and shapes our experience. Ironically, you may know, through reason, something to be the truth (such as that I will die) but subtly expect some other outcome.
Life can become one great series of misguided expectations, toppling down one after another like a stack of dominoes. The odd one might escape but, largely, they surmount to not much more than a pile of fallen pieces waiting to be rebuilt, lost or put in a box and returned to the cupboard.
What is the best strategy for dealing with expectations? See them, acknowledge how they have shaped your life and dismiss them like you would a stuffed lion that you formerly took for real. They are but transient ideas that we have held onto or feared, put on a pedestal and made offerings to. They are only as powerful as we let them be. Dropping them can be scary at first (especially for the first time) but once we taste the ensuing freedom, that sweet liberation, it is clear what choice to make.
I wasn’t quite happy with ‘anna’s pursuit of happiness’, which is kind of ironic. ‘Pursuing happiness’ places happiness out there somewhere in the future, which doesn’t really work, Why? Because happiness can only exist in the present.If felt too much like a donkey chasing a carrot suspended over it’s nose attached via a rod to it’s own back – hopefully you know the image I’m referring too – always just a bit out of reach! Reading it left me with a subtle sense of insatiability and unease, like I was hankering after something that may not be possible. So, I changed it!
Now I’m ‘experimenting with happiness’ and exploring means for transforming my mind in everyday life. I’m not sure if this title will stick but it is a work in progress.
So, I’ve just spent the last week at Chenrezig Institute (www.chenrezig.com.au) on the Sunshine Coast, QLD, amongst the trees receiving teachings and catching up with family. There was, as always, plenty of opportunity to transform my mind. It’s always a personal favourite working with my reaction to doing what others would like to do if it’s something I feel is pretty dull or time-wasting. It is an excellent opportunity for practicing patience and rejoicing in the happiness of others when going shopping for example! Don’t expect it to be easy at first but keep persisting, reminding yourself of their kindness, seeing this as a wonderful opportunity to stretch your patience muscles and rejoice and be happy that they are happy.
You can just simply observe your thoughts without judgement or following them up with another thought nor pushing them away. Just watch, observe and smile. Of course, you also need to give yourself a pat on the back for giving this a go and affirm your intention to practice regularly. For further information you can check out www.whatmeditationreallyis.com for other useful tips on meditation, which is what this latter technique effectively is.
I also have to remind myself that to many, including family members, my lifestyle is a bit odd and dull. I no longer go out partying, I like to be in bed pretty early and I spend a lot of time sitting still or reciting texts in a language I don’t actually speak! I hang around with other weirdo-meditators obsessing about up-coming retreats (on which I use all my annual leave) and I take pleasure in counting the number of times I bring awareness to the moment throughout the day! However, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Today did not start well. I woke up and remembered I was stressed out. I couldn’t find my passport and 2 months of packing, cleaning, making arrangements has started to pay it’s price. The day got worse. I intervened with my neighbours dog mauling a pademelon that died a painful death in the back of my car. Not a good start. However, a part of me was still determined that I wasn’t going to let this get the better of me.
I got to work, head spinning a little. In urgent need of a sit down and hot beverage. The boss arrives at my desk with a heap of left of field tasks requiring attention before I go on leave in two days – boo. Still determined not to have a nervous break down, I take some quiet work to the cafe to ease the pressure off a notch or two. This helps but my glands are sore and my brain hurts a bit.
How does this day get better? Helping others whose needs are greater. There’s always a few and they are usually not far away. Again, there is a magic in discovering that, while obsessing over one’s own difficulty, if you can just redirect your attention and presence to another and be there for them, then things begin to shift. I listened to my friend who described her situation with her husband and their break-up – it is tough for her. Then I was off to do my volunteer bereavement support group co-facilitator role in the afternoon. Hearing people struggle with their loss is very levelling and it’s a privilege to be able to hold a safe space for them to express their pain in all it’s various forms. To help someone see that the thoughts they have chastised themselves for are completely normal and part of the course is so powerful. You can literally see the weight being lifted.
As my mood transformed and I stopped ruminating on all the ‘problems’ I was facing, not only did the environment of my mind begin to transform but so did my circumstances and my outer environment. I stopped to smell the roses (literally, there is a beautiful rose garden in Hobart!) and the colours were vivid, the trees were green, I saw the most fantastic sunset painting the west face of the mist-shrouded mountain in pink while the rest of the sky was grey and moody – a bit like the light of joy piercing the darkness of my mind. I got home and my husband called – some welcome support. Then, the biggest relief of the day – I found my passport! I pledge, from this day forth, to set aside a special place for my important documents – one that I won’t forget!
The interesting pattern that I am beginning to see is how our outer circumstances are shaped by our mental states. This is not the first time that my circumstances have completely shifted after working with my mind and generating a positive mental state or attitude. In fact, I would go (tentatively) as far to say that things work out in my life and a lot of things I want come my way when I can let go of my bad moods, transform my attitude and be more present and responsive to others. It is almost like magic. I’m not sure that I can give you a logical explanation of how this works but challenge you to try it for yourself. I would LOVE to hear your results. I suspect the magic recipe involves a good dash of giving things space, a conscious choice to let go of whatever the thought is that is repeating itself ad nauseam in your mind (asking for help internally can be helpful at this point), something more positive to place your mind on (such as deeply listening to another person) and not expecting results – in fact, if you can forget your mind altogether, all the better!
How wonderful it would be if we could learn to control how our life unfolds by letting go of control and allowing. No more striving. No more struggle. Just peace, harmony and joy. May well all enjoy this. May we all master our own minds.