Friday, February 6, 2015

Breathing Life's Breath

I've found that there is a very big difference between knowing something to be true in my head, and living it as truth.

I've known for a long time that I am God in expression, and I'm grateful for that awareness because it took quite awhile for me to be able to accept that gift.  Although my intellect had been able to wrap itself around the idea, it took my body much longer to grasp it as truth.

Awareness of the truth that I am God in expression came from a lifetime of seeking to know who I am.  That God lives in me and as me is a deeply certain and heartfelt belief that is central to how I perceive existence.

In looking back I can see that the yearning to recognize the divine within myself was fueled in large part by an intense amount of resistance to who I thought I was, but didn't want to be.  I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I was deeply terrified to be me.  I didn't want to be my body with its imperfections, or the painful void that was left when my grandmother died.  I didn't want to be the pain that I carried for my birth family so that it wouldn't fall apart, or the shame that I felt at being so vulnerable.  I felt that if I kept seeking, I could find out how to be content and brave, articulate and powerful.  I could finally stop being so afraid.

So I lived and learned, as we all do.  I continued seeking because I had to, and came to a place finally where I knew that God lived in me and in all things.  I was very grateful for that, and still am.  I felt that nothing could happen that could rattle me too badly because I knew that God was in all of it.

But divine wisdom, in her infinite ability to set us toward our true north, shook my perspective.  She led me to the hermit's path so that I could slow down to listen more carefully to what I'd been unconscious to.  Questions came up for me that I'd never faced before.  I still believed with all of my being that everything that happened is God, but I found that I hadn't really been living that belief.  In my head I believed that I was an expression of God, but realized that I had become very adept at ignoring where my experience in my body didn't feel like that at all.  I realized how much I was burying feelings that didn't fit into my previously held belief system.  I'd tried to create a good life and succeeded, but hadn't even realized that in trying to put my experience into a box and tie it up neatly into a bow, I had been causing my own deepest emotions and motivations to be hidden from myself.

It was an unsettling time, to say the least, because I had spent so many years seeking what was uplifting and hopeful that the angry, shameful, scared person who lived in me whose voice had been silenced for so long was a very unknown and unwelcome presence.

Meditation in particular brought me face to face with these conflicting sides of myself, and so meditation went from being something that had been very positive for me for many years to an often uncomfortable experience.  I sometimes felt in meditation as if I were dying, and I guess in a way I was, to the need to see myself in a particularly one-sided way.  I truthfully hadn't been sure that I'd be able to shift enough within myself to be able to recognize God in all of those angry, scared and shameful parts of myself that I'd been afraid to see.

And so this brings me to breathing life's breath, and the point that I began with, which is that there's been a lot I've known in my head that my body didn't know at all.

I was sitting in meditation a few weeks ago, noticing how stirred up my emotions were, and how familiar it felt being niggled by anxious thoughts about something that I should have done differently or better.  I sat and noticed the turmoil, and didn't deny or distract myself from my feelings, because I try really hard not to do that anymore.

I noticed how fragile and sensitive I felt, and at the same time also noticed the truth I've held in my head about being an embodiment of God, and I sat with the immense contradiction of that.  I became aware then of my breath, and that the Life that God breathed into existence is the very same breath that was moving in and out of my own body.  I breathed deeply into all parts of myself, knowing that the Life I Am is wise, perfect and never ending in a way that my mind could never comprehend in all of its seeking.  My body was able to come home then, to know herself as an expression of an absolute and joyful perfection that transcends death.  I recognized myself breathing life's breath along with every other expression of miraculous creation.  Just as the Sierra pines that I love so much have their time in the sun, expressing life in their unique way, being nourished and experiencing hardship, expressing their own beauty, and then moving into another cycle of eternal creation, so do I.

And so now, just beneath my thinking mind's awareness of the too-early alarm clock and freeway traffic, calendars and to do lists, aspirations and disappointments and all of life's details, is my body's awareness of the constant hum of life's breath breathing in me.  I Am, and my body dances!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Honoring the Hermit

I am happy to be back to blogging after a rather long hiatus.  I spent a couple of years honoring the hermit within me, and in upcoming blog posts I look forward to sharing how the process affected my perspective.

I was surprised when I began to recognize the strong need that was growing within me to pull back from many of the relationships and activities that had defined me for a long time.  It wasn't that I wanted to permanently step away from all of these things, but rather that I felt an increasing lack of energy and drive for them.

At the time I had been active and busy, feeling successful enough, enjoying my work and relationships and all of the trappings of the life and identity I had crafted.  I began to have very little desire to socialize or work on hobbies and activities that I had enjoyed, and felt very unmotivated.  I went to work every day and took part in a minimum of activities, and even those were a chore. I didn't even want to write.  Thank goodness that my husband and I have had almost thirty years of witnessing each others' processes and learning to trust them, or I think he would have been wondering who this new person was and where his wife had gone. 

I started hearing the word "hermit" in my head because that is what I was beginning to feel like, and it felt foreign and negative, mostly because I thought a hermit was someone who couldn't deal with people and was forced to isolate himself from life.  I didn't want to be a hermit; I wanted to be me in my familiar life with its typical interactions and responses, anxieties and validations.  I wanted to be comfortable in "my place," secure in where I fit in to the big picture.

In looking back I can see the wisdom in pulling back from what I thought I knew about who I am, but at the time it was very disconcerting because I had no idea where it would take me.  I was afraid to stop interacting in the world as I was, and getting the responses that I was used to getting, because those responses from others proved to me that I exist, and that who I have become would be allowed to stay.

I got to a point where I recognized the wisdom of this urging to slow down and pull back into myself as the same quiet but insistent voice that has guided me many times in my life in a direction that I had no conscious awareness of wanting or needing to go.  I only know that it speaks to my heart and I must follow, and it is not always comfortable.

And so I sat with the discomfort of feeling like what I thought was important maybe wasn't, that the characteristics that made me me probably didn't, uncertain about my own deepest needs and priorities and fears beyond the persona that I had thought was all of me.

I allowed the hermit within me to express as fully as possible and spent a lot of time alone.  I tried to listen carefully to my feelings and what my body needed.  I tried to give myself as much compassion and space as I possibly could through the process.  I tried to find a way to just be with myself in the middle of all of it, and not try to escape into busyness or distraction.  I realized just how loud the doubts and fears were when I stopped being so busy.  And I managed to mostly stay with it, not gently and peacefully, but with an ever growing amount of awareness.

I recognize the gifts that this time has brought.  In tarot the hermit card means introspection and looking for answers within, a solitary quest in which answers do not lie in the material world but within us. 

It allowed me to explore the question of who I am, if I'm not my personal tendencies and habits, my relationships, my trappings, the way I look, my job, my particular abilities and handicaps, my loves and prejudices, my fears and hates and hopes.  It allowed me to find that place where I am all of these things and none of them, and where I can hold that dichotomy as the truth of myself.

Honoring the hermit within me helped me increase my ability to honor myself in all of my parts and shifting shades; a spectrum of color living in me and as me, the full range of darkness to light.