Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Grey Zones

This year is all about integrity for me. All throughout the last year and continuing into the new year, I keep seeing structures and systems crumble due to a lack of integrity within their very foundations. I think our integrity, how we handle ourselves one moment at a time, will be key to our evolution this year. In my head, I have the words of a senior dharma teacher who says: “karma means you don’t get away with nothing!”

I cannot help but notice a lack of integrity in so many places and relationships, and further, how often we keep quiet about it. We fail to address a problem because we lack the trust in ourselves, or the courage to face it. Or, despite an unhealthy dynamic in a particular relationship, we are afraid to upset the status quo.

The solution cannot be found in stating beautiful spiritual ideals alone – painting over what we do not wish to see with a big brush. We have to tackle our challenges one step at the time, one relationship at a time, one problem at a time.

We have to excavate into the grey zones, with the full knowledge that there is no quick fix. We have to sit with our situations, intimately, and sometimes painfully, until we can finally see the right path through to the other side of where we are going. My personal tactic is to approach any and all situations with a win/win strategy; fully aware that what needs to be done may be hard at times, for me and/or the other person. But, ultimately, the outcome will benefit all sides.

What else is there to do? We are not going to heal the world with our good intentions alone, they provide us with a moral compass, but the work still has to be done in the grey zones of our lives, one moment at a time.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The New Dawn of Humanity

Here we are, in 2013. I have been reflecting on why it is that there is so much anxiety and fear present in all of us at this time. While there are certainly many reasons for anxiety and fear in our modern hectic world, one reason stands out to me — we have become a throwaway society; everything is and can be replaced.

Only 50 years ago in Switzerland, any object was built to last for a very long time. Today, things are built, purposefully, NOT to last, so they will need to be replaced in a few years. More profit to be made that way. Unfortunately, this same attitude has spread to how we treat people and other beings as well.

Doesn’t work out with your partner? No problem, there are many more lovers out there in the metaphoric green pasture. How about when you encounter difficulty in your chosen spiritual practice or with your teacher? Easy, there are many paths and other teachers right around the corner. And on it goes. Animals are, of course, ever expendable, as seen in the way we treat them before they end up on our dinner plate.

The thought of being replaced so easily is what gnaws on our insides and creates all this anxiety. Fear that we might be replaced, cast out, or exposed as insignificant causes us to overwork, become overly greedy, lash out, get stressed out, and experience a host of other stressful symptoms.

Maybe one of the reasons the tragedy in Connecticut hit us so hard is the reminder that our children are not replaceable. It was a reminder of a deep truth — none of us is replaceable. We are all like snowflakes, unique and one-time expressions of life’s beauty and mystery. We are, in fact, irreplaceable. Some place we know this is true, even though we do not have access to that truth anymore.

By placing detachment so highly on the list of spiritual values, spirituality has not offered much on this conundrum either.

I say — be more attached! You are lucky if you love your partner or a teacher so much that when things get difficult you do not simply replace them. If you love them so deeply then replacement shouldn’t present itself as an option. Of course, it is necessary to be aware of abusive relationships. These are absolutely necessary to sever, and the ability to do so will foster another facet of spiritual growth. But that’s another story for another time.

Otherwise, only because of this love and, yes, attachment, will we get through the discomfort of confronting our own deepest issues and, maybe, finally move through and heal them.

Sometimes that deep love and attachment to a teacher, lover or mentor helps us to realize that I, too, am an absolute unique expression of the divine and that I can learn to love myself for the precious One that I am.

From there we expand and recognize all the incredibly precious and irreplaceable beings and even inanimate objects around us. We realize that every bit of life around us is sacred, and we do everything in our power to protect it.

In acknowledging the preciousness around me, I have taken on a stewardship of a section of the Santa Fe River, just below my house. Every time I go for a walk in the riverbed, I pick up trash and make the immediate environment to my house a more beautiful place. It gives me so much pleasure to restore the riverbed to its natural beauty. Why? Because it is precious and unique, and it is mine to do since I live here now. I love finding projects that remind me to be attached to where I live and work.

The best part of healthy attachments is the beautiful reward. At some point there is a natural letting go. Healthy attachment and love, in my opinion, will lead to unconditional love, which is another manifestation of letting go. The release is akin to the mature fruit that simply lets go of its connection to the stem when it is ready. It’s not prematurely ripped away, causing wounds and scars. Similarly, we can trust that when our attachment and love has fully matured, there will be spacious, luminous, unconditional love and equanimity.

Some fun things to do to decrease anxiety and foster healthy attachments:

  • If you get a present that is not the right one for you, instead of going back to the store and replacing it, think of who would be the perfect recipient for this gift and then have fun giving it to the right person.
  • Tell your lovers, teachers, children and other loved ones that you are attached to them and that they matter to you. My relationship with my husband took a big turn when I stopped saying things during fights like: I don’t think this will work out, maybe I should leave (incidentally my worst fear is to be abandoned myself).
  • Be particular about details, even objects like to be treated with respect.
  • Making a gift, something that has your sweat (and maybe tears) in it. Give it away, knowing how unique it is because you put yourself into it.
  • Think about other ways to express and celebrate healthy attachments.

By Poet Deena Metzger:

"Give me everything mangled and bruised and I will make a light of it to make you weep. And we will have rain, and we will begin again."