Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Being Our Truth: Effecting Change from a State of Authentic Compassion

While I was in San Francisco this summer, I spent an afternoon in one of my favorite places, the Japanese Tea Garden.  When I arrived, it was a mob scene because of a special free admission that day.  As a result, finding a quiet spot to meditate was a bit challenging.  However, as I took in the beauty while walking around, I instead found that quiet space within myself.  Eventually a bench on the outskirts of the garden, behind the gift shop, presented me the opportunity to meditate in solitude.  As I gently dropped my eyelids and focused inward, the expressions of nature resonated all around me.  While the wind rustled the leaves in the trees, the sun melted the cool presence of the fog, and the scent of the earth merged with the residual vapors in the air.  In this moment of observing these subtle interactions of nature, I contemplated how the wind can’t exist without moving the leaves and the leaves can’t exist without directing the wind.  The sun can’t help but evaporate the fog, and the damp earth’s aroma naturally infuses the atmosphere around it.
And so it is with our human journey that we cannot be in this world, taking up space, without effecting others.  In considering this, the question arose as to how one’s most true and authentic nature can effect change.  How can simply being in our truth without filtering it to please others, or without using that truth to judge others be a powerful way to create change?  To exist fully in our truth, to anchor it into our being without needing words to explain it, holds a great deal of power, and the second we begin to compare and contrast that inner truth with the world around us, it’s power begins to diminish.  It takes courage to be fully present and embody our highest truth, no matter how vulnerable it makes us feel, and yet when we are unwavering in the light of that truth, a deep and profound transformation takes place both within and all around us.  We begin to act and respond to the world from that place of truth with neither the need to justify it, nor the need to impose it on others.  Just as the wind can’t control how a leaf will succumb to its force, we cannot control the response of others to how we present our most authentic essence.  But when we present it from a place of compassion, we experience less resistance in life, and a greater certainty that being true to ourselves will lead us to our greatest state of happiness and inner peace.

Being in a compassionate state is not a result of empathy or taking on the suffering of others.  Authentic compassion comes from the non-dualistic mind, the inner part of us that understands our truth does not need to fix anything or to make the truth of another wrong.  Authentic compassion reaches for an outlet of expression without attachment to an outcome or response, gently asking us to trust that the power within that state of being is enough.  Once we are able to experience this, all that is left is to remain centered in that state of authentic compassion and be a loving presence no matter what transpires.  

As we consistently show up to our Reiki practice, we are invited to experience deeper states of this unwavering compassion.  The Reiki precepts and meditation practices assist us in cultivating compassion within our daily lives.  The more we return to this state of being, the better able we become to hold space for others to discover this inner truth for themselves, in a way that is just right for them.  This allows for the veil between our spiritual inner knowing and our human personality to lift, enabling the two to merge.  

I often times talk about how the heart is where the self that is connected to spirit and the self that is connected to earth blend.  When we breathe fully into the heart, we allow that union to integrate even more deeply, and our state of compassion grows stronger with each exhale, creating space for its expression, despite the vulnerabilities that may appear.

Towards the end of October, spiritual traditions around the world celebrate as we enter the darkest weeks of the year and the veil lifts between the spirit and earth realms.  This is the time when ceremonies are held to take off the masks we wear when interacting with the world, and allow for the vulnerable space in our hearts to bring forth our deepest wisdom that longs to be fully expressed. This is also the time when the ancestors are honored for their generations of wisdom that holds space for us to be here today, in our truth.  

As we  prepare in mind, body and soul for nature’s quietest time of year, let us meditate to not only listen to what spirit has to say, but to breathe courage into our hearts to allow our state of compassion to be ever more present as we move through each day.  In doing so, not only are we effecting the world around us, but holding space for others to also effect the world from their most authentic state of being.

To fully and completely be in this world is to know and honor the truth of who you are and your unique gifts.  Holding a sacred space for their authentic expression returns to us the inner power, strength and resilience that carry us through our suffering and our joy, our self-doubt and moments of clarity, our grief and our reasons for celebration.  It is what enables us to inspire transformation without effort and effect change without resistance.  It is what it means to be in an unwavering state of unconditional love for yourself and the world.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Taking Root

I was recently browsing through a home magazine and noticed a short article about planting wild flowers in one’s garden to attract certain critters to help with pollination.  It isn't just a flower’s color that attracts certain species of butterflies, bees and moths, but also the shape and texture.  The flat shaped flowers tend to attract butterflies while the cone shaped flowers with multiple layers of petals attract bees.  The more wild and unkempt the garden, the more likely they will take up residence as well.

I found myself amused by this bit of information and how all that these flowers need to do in order to thrive is simply take root and be, and the world around them takes care of the rest.  Not that growing into a flower is a totally effortless process.  As a flower stretches toward the sun, exhibiting its beautiful color, shape and texture, it is simultaneously reaching its roots deep into its dark history in the soil from where it pushed through the surface.  As part of our human nature, we often times prefer to ignore the shadow aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to our own history, and mainly focus our attention on “reaching for the sun” by achieving what we think will make us happy.  Yet, when we do this, the aspects of the shadow self and its history will continue to show up as a mirror in our lives over and over again until we integrate it and appreciate it as a part of who we are and what makes us unique.  

There is the Buddhist concept of the lotus flower not being able to bloom without the mud to anchor its roots.  If we don’t integrate the different aspects of the shadow self and draw nourishment and wisdom from our history, we will continue to find ourselves unable to live fully rooted in the present and appreciate ourselves for who we truly are.  An Echinacea flower doesn’t look over at the rose and think one is prettier than the other.  It simply grows into its environment as nature programmed it, thriving from its butterfly visitations, while the rose is over in its own space hosting the bees that enjoy its nectar.  As humans, the more we appreciate ourselves for the natural gifts and presence we bring to the garden of life without comparing ourselves to others, the more we offer ourselves the opportunity to thrive in a way that is just right for us.  

Years ago my Reiki teacher offered me an affirmation that I use to this day as a reminder that in the end, simply being myself is enough.  I use it during my personal Reiki practice whenever I find myself overwhelmed by the things I think I “have” to do.  This affirmation is simply I am loved.  I am enough.  How often do we take a moment to consider that just being us is enough?  And in being so, do we trust that life can and will draw us to the sun to be nourished and shine?  We don’t have to earn our worthiness or deservingness to shine in our unique light.  It is already bestowed on us and as we recognize it for ourselves, we will recognize it for others as well.

The Sanskrit word “Namaste” means the divine light within me recognizes the divine light within you.  The more we honor this true divine beauty held within our own unique human nature, the more we can honor it in others.  In turn, just as a flower seed in the ground can’t foresee a butterfly coming into its life before it blooms, we will discover an unexpected pollination of blessings we could have never imagined as we allow our true and colorful nature to blossom.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Crusty Edges

I recently watched a documentary about Massimo Bottura, the chef owner of Osteria Francescana which is one of the top restaurants in the world.  Bottura’s ingenuity and creative stance has cultivated a culinary language of its own with dishes such as Oops! I dropped the lemon tart.  Two things struck me throughout the telling of Bottura’s story.  The first was his desire to return to the traditional foods of his childhood while engaging his own child like imagination to transform the food into an abstract work of art.  His famous deconstructed lasagna goes so far as to highlight the crusty edges, something that so many fondly remember as the best part of their mother’s lasagna.  The second thing that struck me was Bottura’s willingness to dance on the figurative edges of life and take risks as both an artist and a business owner.  His culinary genius is fueled by his ability to step back and observe the human relationship to food with fresh eyes, and his success is owed to his persistent exploration of the creative realm.

People frequently shy away from the “crusty edges of life” because the vulnerability that arises when exploring unknown territory can feel too overwhelming.  Instead, we shut ourselves off from creative expression altogether, fearing it will cause us embarrassment or lead us down a path of failure.  We prefer to remain safe on the well paved paths, confining ourselves to what is sensible, as we are conditioned to do as a society.  We don’t allow even a little bit of space in our lives to consider or explore the part of the self that longs to bust through the hard layers of the ego and bring forth something unique.  Even our school systems are structured to teach students how to pass exams instead of teaching them to question, explore and deconstruct what they learn in order to excavate new concepts and make new discoveries.  We aren’t taught the tremendous value that comes out of trial and error or failure, so we don’t even take small risks or explore anything off the beaten track.  

For over a decade, whenever I have shown up for my practice, reiki has consistently invited me to take on the role of a compassionate observer for myself and others, leaving judgment at the door, even when experiencing strong emotions around any given situation.  In return my own creative experiences have opened up to a whole new level of awareness and understanding.  Being in this space of a non-judgmental, compassionate observer in life doesn’t come naturally.  The human brain is hardwired to focus on our worries which are misguided “what if” stories drummed up by our unhealed past.  However, when we breathe and lean into our pain, sorrow or grief and observe it with an open and loving heart, we can move past our fears and allow a greater vision to take over.  The ego is asked to take a time out from its negative mental chatter and space is given for a higher perspective to shine through.

Practicing compassionate, non-judgmental observation cultivates an overall sense of curiosity in life.  This curiosity is what assists us in remaining open hearted even when we are navigating unknown terrain and feel raw and exposed.  We become the caretakers of our hearts for those uncomfortable moments when we experience vulnerability, hurt, disappointment, or fear.

Artists, scientists, philosophers and leaders who have propelled society forward throughout the ages did not shrink from the challenges that the unknown edges of life presented.  They weathered them and looked deep inside the crevices of the unknown to discover something new, never judging but always exploring with a childlike curiosity.  This process isn’t something specially gifted to a select few.  It is available to anyone willing to partake.  We just have to be willing to stand on the edge, lean over and take a look.