Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 and beyond

2015 felt like such a big year for me, and looking around it seems I’m not the only one to feel that way. 2015 made many of us change course. So many of us are looking back at it thinking it was a hard year but when we look at our own little chronicles we’ve documented bright and hopeful things, and we’re surprised. It seems we’re better at counting our blessings and being grateful than we think we are.

2015 was a year of contrast there’s no doubt about that. One the one hand we saw more compassion but on the other there was an increase in hateful talk.

And then there was Donald Trump. If you had told me a few years ago that he would be out there campaigning as a presidential candidate I would probably have peed my pants laughing. Literally. And this when Hillary is out there campaigning to become the first female president of the USA. If you don’t believe when I say there’s great contrast in 2015 sit with that one for a while, please.

Don't stop reading now we're just getting to the good bits, I promise.

On Compassion and Acceptance
For those of us who were in some sort of recovery or healing, and who have grasped at things spiritual to get somewhere with it, we’ve been on a steady diet of compassion and acceptance. My Facebook feed is a slow drip feed of shared post in that genre. The only ones I really like are the occasional Pema Chodron quotes because she advocates acceptance of everything that is us. It’s in stark contrast to that thing that New Agers do when they decide that the so called negative feelings are unacceptable and that they should be suppressed and weeded out, and that we must transcend them. Transcend or drown in your own dysfunctional crap!

I my humble opinion (based on decades of varied experience with life and work with emotions, feelings and thoughts in therapy), contrary to a lot of the New (c)Age teachings, practicing compassion and acceptance doesn’t mean we have to pretend to love or accept something we don’t. It doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of judgment. It doesn’t mean we don’t get to discern.

Practicing compassion and acceptance means that when something happens we accept it the way it happened and we allow ourselves to feel whatever it is we feel.

Practicing compassion and acceptance means we are true to ourselves and respect ourselves enough to allow that to happen. We don’t bypass to bliss or jump to mindful witnessing to avoid the pain and discomfort; we allow ourselves to experience emotions, feelings and thoughts, and we allow ourselves to move through them. We accept whatever shit comes up for us and we remain compassionate with ourselves.

Practicing compassion and acceptance means that there are no fake and uncomfortable smiles, and no disassociation or detachment, and most of all no lying to ourselves or thinking that what we feel isn’t good enough. I’ve said it before; it’s self-abuse to do that. If we want to feel good we can’t put a band-aid on what we feel anymore. We have to let that shit bleed even if it gets a bit messy.

We have to get real with ourselves.

Practicing compassion and acceptance means I’ve had to break down the becoming real, or authentic, to something more tangible or it would be too hard to obtain.

On Enlightenment
I’ve never been big on chasing enlightenment but it was there in my peripheral vision more than I realized. The whole meditation thing (I’m an accredited meditation teacher and I’ve taught mindfulness meditation) seems to have enlightenment automatically implied and attached to it as some sort of appendix. It seems we think of enlightenment as a sort of side effect of meditation, and if you’re not getting enlightened meditating you’re just not doing it right.

It’s easy to make enlightenment a quest even if it’s just so you can have the quietest mind in the neighborhood. That quest bores me and it’s enormously pretentious.

The quest for enlightenment is the mind version of being a gym junkie, and it’s just about as useful and healthy. It’s so misaligned with what our real challenges in life are that it’s simply not useful for us. It’s like trying to run before you can even crawl and for us Westerners I just don’t think it’s natural.

Before we can even think about getting to enlightenment we have to get out of our heads and into our hearts, and begin to accept our own so called imperfections. We have to transform through our own daily experiences, in our own dull and rushed lives, and we can’t do that if we detach. Just striving to be real, or to use the more fashionable term authentic, is enough work for most of us especially if we’re “mainstreaming”.

Leave enlightenment to the monks and gurus. It’s their chosen task to take it that far so they can teach the rest of us. For the rest of us just striving to become whole is enough and more healthy.

On Meditation
Nowadays I basically meditate to see what’s up with me. I’ve come to realize that peace of mind isn’t stilling my thoughts or quieting my “monkey mind”. That shit’s never going to happen! I used to tell my meditation students that if that happens in class let me know because you’ve died and we’ll need to call for help and start CPR. Your mind just doesn’t still. You may cease to be so involved and attached to the thoughts you have but that doesn’t mean they stop or that they become less disturbing.

Through meditation I’ve learned that if I want peace and calm it’s not my thoughts that I need to tend to, it’s my emotions. I’ve also learned that unlike thoughts I don’t have multiple emotions at the same time but that there’s usually only one underlying emotion at the time.

Behind anger and the angry thoughts is fear, for example, and when I allow myself to sit with it it’s uncomfortable as hell, even brutal at times, but it can’t hurt me. If I allow myself to move through it my body relaxes, my physical responses change (usually for the better, i.e. less tension) and my thoughts redirect to being more supportive and positive.

That practice promotes mental well being and health like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I love the work I do with monitoring my own thoughts and learning to redirect them but the real and fast progress happens when I allow my emotions to come up and to have their way with me. That’s when I feel heard and accepted. That’s when I grow and heal.

On Love
It’s been a while for me. I see a lot of ineligible candidates out there. I know myself well enough to know it doesn’t guard me against making awful mistakes but my therapist has assured me that I’m wiser now. He reckons I can’t go down that path again (and I wish I had his faith in me because it would help me sleep better).

I feel like love is always a brave path, even platonic love, and that when you set out on its path you never quite now where it will lead. It’s not for the faint-hearted and it’s not something you should do lightly.

Real love is pretty hardcore on an emotional and soul level. You have to be willing to be brought to your knees and surrender to it, and you have figure out how to get there yourself because almost no one who’s been there before can describe the way it’s actually done. Most people who try quit the journey soon after the buzz of the romantic phase has ended. Few persevere and keep working on what has to be the most spiritual practice there is even if it’s seldom imagined or spoken of as such.

On Awakening
Awakening to anything isn’t transcendence of your own shit. You don’t leave your body and you don’t pretend your shadows don’t exist. It’s not killing off the ego. It’s not pretending everything is honky dory or accepting even the biggest arseholes in our lives.

(It’s not pretending it’s OK to vote for Donald Trump because you’ve bought into the scare campaigning.)

It’s not trying to pretend that your story or your emotions, feelings and thoughts don’t exist. It’s not New Age mysticism brought to you by Deepak Chopra.

It’s merging every great and positive part of you with every shitty and shadowy part of you, and calling it you. It’s bringing it together as a whole and accepting, wholly and fully, that it’s who you are and loving it because it’s perfection.

It’s connecting it and becoming wholehearted. It doesn’t happen if you pretend or avoid. You have to show up for it all and you have to be present, and you have to have the guts to stand there in the messy glory of it. Just fucking stand there as yourself and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it.

On You
I’m all for admiring remarkable people but I’m learning to discern. Sometimes bad people do remarkable things and vice versa. We’re not always work in the black or white zone. We don’t always fit in neatly with the labels we’ve been given.

We change and we react, and we do it best when we allow it to happen naturally.

It’s OK to be critical of your greatest hero and influence when they do something you don’t like (but you don’t have to dwell on it).

It’s more important to look inside ourselves anyway to find the things we admire. Make a point out of doing that in 2016! Be delighted when you see something you like in you and with you. Celebrate that shit! Look inside yourself for what you want to be and admire, and quit that shit where you find a person to model yourself on. You’ve got everything you need right there in your heart and soul, you just have to get out of your own damned head.

Surprise yourself with your own awesomeness and quit trying to copy others. In fact, take this ramble here and reject it. Find your own truth in yourself and map 2016 out from that!

On 2016
There's that thing we do when we feel pressure to set resolutions for the new year but we know, and we've been told, that we're going to break them anyway. I'm going to do what I did last year and that was to set an intention because it worked. To recap, I started my year with being told that I measured as no longer anxious and depressed but I had already set my intention to transform so that's what I did. It was a hell of a year but the pay off was huge.

With only 17 hours to go until the new years bounces into my life I've not quite decided what the intention for 2016 is yet, I will get back to you on that one, but an intention there will be! I intend to make the best out of 2016 and there will be no slacking off.

I'm just saying.

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