Living from the Heart

Our hearts are certainly complex and capable of opening and embracing the most unexpected dualities and differences. The heart will feel what it feels even when it is not convenient and doesn’t look good on paper.  It can inspire us to become better human beings when we dig deep and have the capacity to forgive what is seen as unforgivable. It has the capacity to heal us by opening up even after it has been broken or start over when it seems that all has been lost.  It can find a path through adversity where our thinking mind would be rendered useless.  Love, compassion and empathy can flow freely through the heart where the mind would be calculating and planning to see what makes the most sense.  

The best way is to make use of both the mind and the heart.    Most of us are skewed and rely heavily on our rational, logical thinking and don’t balance it with the wisdom  and perspective that is available to us from our hearts. Bowing the head to the heart in a symbolic act of surrender to love and openness can feel like a leap of faith. It might even  feel scary and foreign in certain situations.  What do you have to loose?  You can put your boundary back in place if need be but how often do you consciously take the walls down and open up?  Try approaching something with kindness instead of judgement or criticism and see how it works.  I have witnessed kindness, openness and love completely disarm and transform the most difficult and complex situations.   

Without being open and loving to ourselves first it is not possible to offer this to others. We can only be open and loving to others to the extent that we have offered this to ourselves.

Collectively we are being called to go deeper into our hearts and learn how to live from its center.  It is our only hope if we are to overcome the division that is currently so common place in the world.  Meeting life with the mind connected to the heart begins as an inner journey and extends beyond our personal lives touching all who we come into contact with.  

Teachings from Nature Continue…

I often walk in the morning and am stunned by the consciousness that abounds in nature and the lessons that can be gleaned by one who is paying attention. Natures communication is subtle and usually speaks to me through my intuition. I know this because often strong feelings are inspired and when I take the time to be with these feelings often they speak volumes to me. Recently I wrote about my sunflowers in a blog called A Sunflower Taught me about Overcoming Adversity. You can read it here.

For my whole life nature has spoken to me although I didn’t always know it.  I’ve always known that nothing that comes into my awareness is wasted and that the universe uses every opportunity to teach and inspire me.  

Trees are awesome teachers that possess great strength, stillness, resiliency, connection, goundedness, beauty and resolve.  These are just a few of the adjectives that come to me off the top of my head but I’m sure you can add your own to describe your favorite tree.  

After hurricane Isaias the messages from nature were coming to me loudly and I would pass many downed trees during my daily walk.  When I stopped to pay homage to these giants that had given way and were broken or pulled up from their roots I was stunned to feel great resolve and strength.  When I stood with the tree to sense more deeply I felt none of the emotions of sadness or loss that I felt but a knowing that its life was not over because its visible form was gone.  It’s as if the tree was trying to convey to me that it knew what was coming and that the wind sent a warning through its system but being a tree it knew there was nothing to “do.”  The tree had no choice but to continue standing in its lifelong spot and weather the storm taking whatever mother nature threw her way.  The tree had to “be.” There was no fear for its future or memories from the past.  There was only the present moment 

When the wind gust pulled on the tree and the deep roots snapped there was no stopping it from going down.  Down she fell taking the soil and power lines with her and darkening all the homes on her grid.   It only seems right that such a magnificent being should have such an impact on us when her outer physical form comes crashing down.  

The tree knew there was nothing to do and simply had to take what was coming.  She did this with power and grace knowing that her outer form would be no more.  Her deep, deep roots carry on with her connection to all the other tree beings and they still share information, nourishment and more wisdom than we can possibly know.  You see the trees were here before us and they will surely out live us.  They have seen a lot and weathered many storms and will carry on even when its outer form is severely damaged or compromised.  And when the tree is completely uprooted and no longer visible to us still its life will continue. 

Unlike humans, nature uses its interconnectedness to benefit all of life.  The form of the tree has changed but still it continues in its vital role to all its neighbors.  

A sunflower taught me about overcoming adversity

I know this title may raise some eyebrows but it’s really true.  As an amateur gardener I have had the pleasure of learning many lessons from my vegetable and flower garden most  recently as a result of hurricane Isaias. (I still can’t pronounce this name!!)

In Early May our town was giving out free packets of sunflower seeds.  They encouraged us to plant them as a way of uplifting our town during the Covid pandemic and seeing them would make us smile and brighten our day.  I happily picked up my packet of 12 seeds and followed the planting directions carefully.

After a few weeks of caring for the spouts the day came to plant them outdoors.  It felt like I was sending my children off to the first day of kindergarten.  I placed them all carefully into their spots and then constructed a make-shift mini fence around each one.  Can you tell what kind of parent I would have been?  I watched them like a hawk everyday.  Some faired better than others and 4 in particular shot up and had very strong thick stems and had the promise of turning into big flowers.

It took quite some time for them to grow to the point that they were ready to flower.  Then comes hurricane Isaias.  The wind was blowing so strong I could see them getting pummeled  and I was very worried.  I quickly threw on my shoes and raincoat and ran outside in an attempt to give them support with some tall bamboo rods.  The wind was dangerously strong  making it unsafe for me and I had no choice but to leave them on their own for the duration of the storm.  

The next day I looked out my window and to my amazement all of the sunflowers  in the front made it through the storm!  Then I looked out my back window and two out of three had fallen on the ground; one was completely severed and the other was bent with a large gash in it’s stem.  Naturally I assumed only one would survive. 

Three days later I looked out the window again and the sunflower that was severely hurt and lying on the ground was still alive.  To my joy and amazement its bud was still attempting to follow the sun.  I ran outside to see if I could save it.  The stem had a bad 8 inch split but I was able to support it with bamboo rods and a bandage.   She stood again injured but proud!

I watched as the other sunflower next to her bloomed into a large bud attracting all the pollinators.  I examined the bud up close and was stunned the the beauty of how mathematically perfect it was.  The injured plant carried on but was developing more slowly and gradually.  The familiar green bud appeared and then to my amazement I noticed not only was there one bud but there were 5 buds in total!!  My injured plant was going to bloom more than any of the others! Wow!! 

Not only is it true for plants that overcoming adversity and suffering helps them to open, strengthen and develop resiliency but it’s true for all living things.  It was so beautiful, simple and powerful to watch the sunflower flourish despite having endured such a test.  

I learned a lot from watching my sunflower.  It wasn’t thinking about its struggle it was just engaged in a natural process called life.  Life threw it a curve ball and it had no resistance and there was no need to process feelings or overcome past conditioning.  It was tremendously reassuring for me  to watch its progress and see that adversity and suffering is just a part of the natural unfolding of life for all living things.    It’s not only natural but an essential part of life that helps us all to thrive and grow even stronger than we thought possible.  Next time you have to weather a storm of your own be on the look out for the gifts you unexpectedly receive.


Resist or let go?

Resistance, tensing up, saying “no” to what is or “no” to what is unfolding in the present moment.  We do it all the time when we don’t like, can’t deal or don’t want to face what is happening now.   I’m sure you know what I mean.

Sometimes we don’t know we are resisting but checking in with the body can reveal that tension is building. I guarantee it is playing out somewhere in your body.   Is the jaw or shoulders tight or painful?    How about your abdominal muscles or low back?   These are some very popular places where the body holds or braces itself against something undesirable.

We are taught that feeling good is more desirable than feeling bad but lets face it that isn’t how life works.  Everything will come at you; the good, the bad and the ugly and our job is to stay as clear as we can in the midst of it all.  

It’s good to keep in mind that resistance doesn’t actually do anything in the world. It doesn’t actually stop anything from happening.  What it does do is cause suffering.  The present moment will persist whether or not we resist it or flow with it. 

I love the spiritual teacher Michael Singer who wrote the book The Untethered Soul.  In it he says that you can become adept at noticing when the process of resistance kicks in.  He says, when you feel the body tense up make a conscious attempt to relax it.  Take a breath and let go and allow all the feelings to move through you.  When you do this the energy doesn’t build up in the body and cause physical or emotional suffering.  When you allow it you express it and feel it fully.  Then when it’s done it’s done instead of adding to the accumulated energy you are releasing it.  

Here is a quote from the The Untethered Soul:

“The Stuff that holds you down periodically rears its head.  When it does, let it go.  You simply permit the pain to come up into your heart and pass through.   If you do that, it will pass.  If you are sincerely seeing truth, you’ll let go every time.  This is the beginning and the end of the entire path – you surrender yourself to the process of emptying yourself.   When you work with this, you start to learn the subtler laws of the process of letting go.”

The part that takes some practice is noticing when you are beginning to resist because often we are caught in habitual behavior and initially it’s easy to miss.    Gradually you begin the process of freeing yourself and after a while you’ll notice that the body isn’t holding in the same old ways. 

What isn’t talked about a lot is that our accumulated baggage can weigh us down so much that we can’t see the world as it is, rather, we see the world as we are.  This can be a problem when life throws you a curve ball or tests come your way.   When you are consciously letting go you will just feel better in every way.   Just a small bonus for all your time and attention!  

The old saying what you resists persists should really say what you resist causes suffering in your body and mind…but it doesn’t have to!


Facing the Void

Facing the void is similar to what is referred to as a dark night of the soul. Don’t worry its not as ominous as it sounds. A dark night is generally regarded as a time of great personal challenge when everything seems to be lost.  It’s as if there is a cloud hovering over head making it feel like the sun will never shine again.    It is a time of struggle and challenge where we can feel  tested repeatedly and as soon as one lesson is learned another one arrives on its heels. It is experienced alone and often no one else can relate to what you are going through and you must continue with your usual responsibilities and daily activities.   Some people can spend much of their lives in a dark night and it is believed that these souls have incarnated to learn, grow and evolve very quickly.

“…it is believed that these souls have incarnated to learn, grow and evolve very quickly.”

I have never been alive for a time where collectively we are experiencing what I am calling facing the void.     I’m calling it this because there are certain things about this time that are very different than the afore mentioned dark  night.  Right now there is an emptiness  and uncertainty that is looming and everything has stopped.  This is a collective and personal experience and we don’t know when it will end or what our world will look like when it’s over.  Our everyday routines and jobs have evaporated or changed drastically.  The streets and highways are empty and stores and businesses are shuttered and we all know what PPE is and we are wearing it!!!

“the very nature of life is uncertain.”

I’m wondering about the benefits of facing the void.  To not know for a while.   After all when we get right down to it the very nature of life is uncertain.  We can make plans but they can be wiped away in an instant.  We don’t like to think about the fact that we are not really in control.  When we really think it through life itself is impermanent and fleeting and especially as we get older the days, weeks and months seem to fly by.  

“Sometimes I thought I would be overwhelmed by the feelings.”

Oddly, part of my spiritual path has been about contemplating death.  I know how this sounds to most people.  All I can say is that I didn’t choose it.  For  some reason having to contemplate the certainty of death was something that chose me.  Initially it was a real bummer and very scary especially as a fairly young woman but going through this has been one of my most valuable life lessons.   Some times I thought I would be overwhelmed by the feelings.  Just when I thought I couldn’t take it I would have a powerful realization or learning that would make it all worthwhile.  For me it was my long dark night and a void that I couldn’t avoid but had to go through.

“we learn how to fly.”

During this time I met a spiritual teacher, Andrew Harvey, he wrote the book and coined the phrase “Spiritual Activism”, and I asked him what to do and how to deal with the knowing that our time is limited;  that we will all come to the same demise and this is the inevitable truth.   He said to me, “you can either get lost in the sadness and depression or you can dance.”   I’ll never forget it and he pointed me to something very important.   Am I going to wallow in depression or am I going to laugh, sing and dance with whatever time I am alive?  Trusting that life is an adventure that we can not predict.  It will twist and turn and surprise us over and over again.  

 When faced with the inevitability of the unknown and we don’t have solid  ground under our feet this is when we learn how to fly.  We learn essential skills for living a truly fulfilling and happy life when we face and go through what feels like the unfaceable.  We don’t learn this when we are living out our everyday lives unchallenged and comfortable.   It’s the extraordinary challenges to our very sense of self, our security, our routines that expand our knowing of who and what we really are.   It’s true what they say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  It really does and we won’t go there unless we are forced to.

We are so much more than we consciously know and life offers us a profound opportunity for this learning.  

This crisis is our once in a lifetime opportunity and I am hoping we can embrace it as the powerful teacher that it is.