There is no aspect of life more ripe with opportunities to grow than our relationships. It also seems to be perhaps the most difficult and often painful way to learn. Sometimes, I get the distinct impression that I may have been a little over confident when I signed up for what I wanted to achieve this lifetime.
I can see it now, back in the place it all began, way before I was born. A fluffy, nebulous space of brilliant, white light. There I am, in my shiny soul nakedness, just brimming with enthusiasm about my coming incarnation, having a chat with God about what I might like to learn this time around.
” I’m so stoked about this lifetime, God. I’m totally inspired and excited. This is my time, I can just feel it. This is gonna be my last time around. I just know it”
“There’s no reason to rush dear. You have all the time in the world to complete the syllabus. Besides, this is infinity, you don’t get extra credit for finishing ahead of time” God chuckles, being particularly partial to a pun.
“No really, God. I’ve been over the last one, I see exactly where I went wrong – I know I’m ready. You know, you really had me with that parenting thing. You really got me going. I just have to tell you, that is the most brilliant way to teach unconditional love, I don’t know how you come up with this stuff.”
“Oh, well you know… I’ve had a bit of practice, and of course the omniscience thing is handy, “ God murmurs, with customary modesty “Anyway, back to you. Have you had a think about what you might like to try this time? I thought you might like to give Life Purpose 101 a go” He suggests gently.
“Life Purpose? No way God, I want you to really challenge me this time. I want to do Relationships again, but this time, take off the training wheels, I’m going for Gold!”
” Ahh, hmm, I see.” God pauses, for quite a long time, until squirming, I interrupt the silence
“God, I know what you’re thinking..” God raises an eyebrow
“Well, erm, no obviously not” I respond a little sheepishly “The thing is God, I just wanted to say that whilst it may have looked like a bit of train wreck from your perspective, especially towards the end of my marriage, I feel I grew so much and I have given it a lot of thought and… well, I just know I am not going to make the same mistakes again”
God tactfully says nothing and look into the middle distance. In retrospect, I can see he was probably mulling over the free will issue and how difficult it is to uphold when you really just want to steer your creations away from the impending cliff edge of their own self-destruction.
“Trust me on this, God. I’m ready. Don’t hold anything back, I want you to give me your best shot.”
“As you wish, my child, as you wish.”
And here I am. Stumbling clumsily between the ego: “why is this happening to me?” and highest self: “what am I being shown here?”. Some days, some years, some relationships it feels like the time I misguidedly imagined I could become some other version of me who isn’t terrified of rollercoasters and got on Space Mountain at Disney.
I’m holding my breath, clenching my teeth and hanging on for dear life. All I can do is try to remember that this crazy rollercoaster ride through the darkness only feels like it is going to be fatal. That it’s going to end and I’ll be back in the light pretty soon. In the light is where I feel like I’m finally getting it. I can see where my patterns are, painful as it is to really see them. But it is in becoming conscious that we can finally choose a different behaviour and that’s when we get to choose to stop the ride and get off.
A prayer or intention for the rollercoaster of unhealthy relationships
Dear God, (or Goddess, Universe, Highest Self…whatever works for you)
Please heal the part of me that permits and accepts unhealthy relationships.
Teach me to protect my inner child from people who hurt her/him, even unintentionally.
Show me that forgiveness doesn’t mean staying connected at the expense of my well-being.
Remind me that it’s not my job to try to heal or change other people but simply to learn the lessons I am being shown.
Help me surrender, to trust and let go.
Amen (or So Be it, Thank you, Om Shanti)
Today is Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the year to those of the Jewish faith which calls for reflection, repentance and atonement.
As I thought about this day and what it means, I was struck by the idea that the desire to make amends or reparation for wrong-doing to another is, at the heart of things, a process of recognition that we are not separate.
Repentance requires from the transgressor an identification with and a validation of the pain of the victim. Sin is an act of separation, but both repentance and forgiveness unite. Thus, atonement can be understood as At-one-ment, a fundamentally yogic practice.
The Jewish prayers said today enumerate the many forms of sin that might need to be confessed. One of the first of which is described as having “hardened our hearts“. The hardening of our hearts may sometimes start as a desire to protect ourselves, yet the armored heart ultimately functions to inhibit our ability to feel another’s pain.
Once our vulnerability is secured beneath the shell of a hardened heart, our compassion becomes hidden alongside it. The hardened heart is disconnected from the other and becomes consumed with the ego of its individuality which need not be affected by the suffering of another.
The hardened heart belongs to both victim and transgressor and in many relationships both parties play both roles, in turns or simultaneously. But there is a cure for this evil malady, it is the practice of unconditional love.
As my yoga teacher Shiva Das would say “it’s easy to love when it’s easy to love”. But it is when it is least easy to love, that it may be the most powerful and the most important to do so. This is a rigorous spiritual practice, it requires faith, humility and discipline.
The revelation I had today was that true liberation from my own suffering was possible through the healing power of love. In order to be free, we must reject the illusion that we are a wounded child and remember the divinity within us that connects us with infinite, benevolent power.
By choosing to love precisely at the moment that it would seem impossible to do so, by loving the person who seems least deserving of our love, we transcend the role of victim. We are able to view the transgressor and ourselves and the similarities between us with compassion.
The division between us falls away and we see that we are both struggling and striving in our perfectly imperfect ways to understand what we are being asked to learn. In this moment of Namaste, all things are possible.
Today I celebrate a deeper understanding of how “Love is the Strongest Medicine”. Even as we feel broken by others, we can heal and grow by consciously going beyond forgiveness and striving to love those who hurt us.
Perhaps the true loves of our life are the people who challenge us the most to love them unconditionally. It is not an easy path. But when we succeed, how sweet the reward. When my heart is fully focussed on giving love, there is no space to fear or recollect it’s absence. In this moment, love will give us a God’s eye view of the situation and miracles can truly occur.
“Life will break you.
Nobody can protect you from that,
and living alone won’t either,
for solitude will also break you with its yearning.
You have to love.
You have to feel.
It is the reason you are here on earth.
You are here to risk your heart.
You are here to be swallowed up.
And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near,
Let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps,
Wasting their sweetness.
Yesterday I found a new role mode, in an Elephant Journal article by Robert Sturman about The Guiness Book of Records reigning oldest living yoga teacher, 93 year old Tao Porchon Lynch. As impressive as her strength and flexibility are for someone of any age, let alone a nonagenarian, it is much more than her physical prowess that enchants me about this radiant being.
For not only does she love yoga, but also wine and dancing the tango.
In a interview with Tara Stiles-Parker, she credits her longevity and zest for living to proper breathing and making a concerted effort to think positive thoughts, along with a nightly shoulder stand before bed each night. She eschews fear and procrastination, simply doing the next right thing without delay.
She beams and twinkles with a light that simply dazzles me.
“Smile at everyone”
She advises as she illustrates the phenomenal magnetism of her charismatic charm.
This is how I want to live my life.
Waking up grateful for each new day,
thrilled by the prospect of all that I can learn,
all the wonderful places and beautiful people to be met,
making the most of the great gift of life
and blessing all I see with a smile.
MATER DOLOROSA: THE UN-RUINED HEART
“It is said by the old women of the family that the hilts of the swords piercing Our Lady’s heart are shaped like the curling sepals which protect the buds of roses..
..that with prayer and time, each sword hilt will burst into seven fragrant roses, blooming again and again, because suffering brings the rain of tears, because the rain of tears waters the earth, because moisture on dry earth of our being is guaranteed to bring forth new life.
Tears are a river that take you somewhere… somewhere better, somewhere good.”
“The swords through your heart are not the ones which caused your wounds, but rather, these mighty swords of Strength were earned by your struggles through hard times.
Sword of Surrender: to withstand this time of learning.
Sword of Veils: to pierce the hidden meanings of this time.
Sword of Healing: to lance one’s own agony, bitterness.
Sword of New Life: to cut through, cut loose, plant anew.
Sword of Courage: to speak up, row on, touch others.
Sword of Life Force: to draw from, lean on, purify.
Sword of Love: often heaviest to lift consistently;
turns one away from war, to instead,
fall into the arms of Immaculate Strength.
O Immaculate Heart of My Mother,
give me shelter in the beautiful chambers of your heart.
Keep me strong, fierce, loving, and able in this world.
Remind me daily, that despite my imperfections,
my heart remains,
From the book “Untie the Strong Woman” by Clarissa Pinkola-Estés
I am driving away from a Woman Within weekend of staffing feeling so deeply fulfilled and connected to the women I worked alongside, the women who participated on the course and to all women everywhere. I think about the women around the world who do this work and the courage it takes to step into the fire and find the parts of yourself that you lost or buried years, months, or weeks ago. The parts that had to be shut away when the loss, hurt, betrayal, anger and grief of life lived on life’s terms became too much for your soul to bear. I think about the women who never get the chance to step within themselves, either because they’re too afraid or because their lives are such a struggle for survival that there are no resources to spare on finding one’s personal meaning for existence. I think too, of the many women who live in cultures and countries where women dare not have any voice at all.
Watching the four facilitators from the United States and the UK work with women this weekend, was like seeing miracles take place in front of my eyes. These women are so powerful yet so in touch with their vulnerability. I have been shown a new form of leadership. In fact, a new way of being in the world. These women have spent decades on their own journeys and in facilitating other women’s processes. Their complete presence when helping a woman process an issue is awe-inspiring. At the same time, their humility is astounding. Witnessing divine compassion radiate from a woman’s face while deep in facilitation, I knew I was watching God’s work.
I drive across the mountains towards my home, knowing that this weekend I stopped all the busyness of everyday living and made space to touch my own soul. My soul is grateful. I sing the songs we sang on the weekend just so I can hear once more the joyous sounds of women supporting each other. When I reach my house, I turn off the car and feel the waves of grief rush up and pour down my face. I don’t know if I am crying for all my own old wounds or for the individual women who laid forth their grief in all its rawness this weekend. They did this so that together we could nurture them back to the joy that I believe is our birthright. I cry with abandon for all the women who cannot cry. The women who dare not express their grief in case it consumes them. Until they are able to, I will cry for them. I sit in my car and I cry for lost love. I cry for the agony of betrayal. I cry for the shockingly numerous stories of sexual and emotional abuse often at the hands of people supposed to protect us.
As I cry, my tears change to tears of gratitude that I am able to witness this type of transformation. I let it all out, knowing that this is just a release. I am OK. When I am done, I get out my suitcase and start singing softly as I make my way inside,
“We are women on a journey,
Shining like the sun.
Shining through the darkest night,
The healing has begun, begun, the healing has begun.”