Tag Archives: surrender

sunshine tree

Love is greater than terror.

sunshine tree

Love’s light can shine through anything. Growth is always possible.

“Terrorists are jerks.”

That’s the subject line of an email a very dear friend sent me last weekend. She went on to let me know that some terrorists had opened fire at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and that a very dear friend of hers was there when the gunfire began and was currently MIA.

The next night I found out that her friend, Ravi, did not survive the attacks. He’s dead now, just like more than sixty other people who were mercilessly gunned down for no good reason.

I’ve been focusing a lot lately on surrender, on letting go, on accepting a lack of control. And that’s great, it’s lovely, it’s wise and good and all of that.

But sometimes it seems like a load of crap. It’s hard to feel helpless in the face of inhumanity.

My first reaction when I learned of the attacks, and especially of Ravi’s death, was to lash out spiritually. I felt aggrieved and angry. How can god/the universe/whatever I believe in let this kind of stuff happen?

But then I remembered I already know the answer to that question. God/the universe/whatever has no choice BUT to let this kind of stuff happen, because energy is responsive and humans have free will.

So my next reaction was to lash out at the terrorists. How could anyone voluntarily commit such horrific acts of violence?

And then I remembered I already know the answer to that question too. Hurt people hurt people. If the attackers felt fully whole, if they were deeply connected to their inner okayness, if they truly loved themselves, they could not also be terrorists.

Terror, a stronger word for fear, is the utter absence of love. Where love flourishes, terror cannot.

It’s true I can’t control what happened at Westgate. Upsetting as it is, acts of violence, hatred, and terror occur all the time, and most of them I can’t stop. Nor can I prevent the pain and grief that follow.

But that doesn’t mean I’m helpless, because I can still choose love.

Every time I pick love over fear, I am shining light into terror’s darkness.  Love—that is what god/the universe/whatever is absolutely full of, and that is what we’re here to share.

Every single human on the planet has love to give. Some of us are taught to spread fear instead, and that’s why it’s so important that the rest of us show up for what’s good.

Change happens one person at a time, one heart at a time, one action, one vote, one choice at a time. By supporting my friends in mourning, by smiling at strangers, by asking for help and declining despair, I am choosing love.

My heart goes out to those who are grieving the loss of Ravi. I never got to meet him, but I know he was a person who chose love. I am so sorry that fear caused his death, and I am grateful for his light. May we all have the courage to shine.

It’s already okay

you-are-enough butterfly

I had a whole elaborate blog post planned. I was prepared to tell you all about my latest bout with insecurity, and how I was hoping to overcome it quickly. (I was on a deadline.)

So to start, I tracked down an image that contained the message “you are enough,” and I composed the title of “it’s already okay.” And to my pleasant surprise, I felt like I was finished.

I could take more space and time to detail the specifics of today’s low-grade anxiety. Maybe I even will.

But for now, I am resting in the reassurance of two simple phrases, and in the relief and comfort it gives me to share their truth.

Carrying with care

Sometimes the box goes in the backseat.

“You can put that box down,” my high school boyfriend once told me. We’d been driving for a while, and had a while left to travel, and the whole time I’d been gripping a cardboard box full of…CDs? Books? The contents weren’t particularly important, but having their weight on my lap was comfortable.

I am comfortable carrying weight, all right with responsibility. Sometimes it overwhelms me, but as long as I am honest, I usually feel light, even if my burdens are heavy.

But it matters what I hold, and why. There is no need for me to balance a box on my lap when I can just as easily put that box in the backseat. It helps to have free hands.

And while I don’t always get to choose my responsibilities, a lot of the time I do. Just because I can carry something doesn’t mean I need to. So I do my best to choose wisely, and if I notice I’m lifting unnecessary weight, I can always put it down.

(And if I really miss it, I can usually pick it up again…)

Restful release

Some truths transecend typos.

I took a yoga class today that should have been easy. Or if not easy, easily within my asana abilities. And yet, I had to sit out about half of it.

It’s one thing to stay still because you don’t feel like moving, and another entirely to feel forced into immobility. I love my Saturday yoga class; I was eager for the opportunity and didn’t want to miss a moment. But about twenty minutes in, my vision was getting fuzzy, and a mental dialogue ensued.

Although accurately recalling a thought chain is about as impossible as inhaling the same air twice, I know my mind was spinning something like this:

What the hell? Why am I so lightheaded? Is it because I ate an egg and an apple an hour before class? I know better than to eat before yoga. But I had to eat something. And that was such a light meal! Oh, wow, I am kind of dizzy. Am I really going to have to sit down, or is this my brain being lazy? Maybe it’s because I gave blood yesterday. I probably haven’t had enough water since then. But seriously, this is just Warrior Two. I should be able to do this

And that’s when I sat down. Because “should” is a sure sign that the ego is in charge, and I know better than to let it rule. But it is hard, honoring weakness. I have been feeling quite strong, and I was shocked to find my body disagreeing.

I aimed for compromise, avoiding the full surrender of child’s pose and instead sitting tall on my knees, the way I learned to do in Bikram. In the hot room, it seemed borderline shameful to sit down (no matter what the teacher said, the energy told me otherwise), but if you had to, there was protocol: on your knees, head above the heart, focus on the breath.

Focus on the breath, oh yes. That was where I’d lost my way, in the first ten minutes of class. As the teacher guided us through a beautifully modified set of sun salutations I noticed I was panting to keep up. But instead of slowing down, I told myself, C’mon, this isn’t even fast. 

Which, it wasn’t. The pace was perfectly reasonable–all the more reason for my ego to resist defeat.

That resistance, that ego, is how I ended up pretending I was fine and almost passing out before finally snatching at that mental “should” and sinking to my mat. I pressed my palms together at my chest, my mouth closed in a firm line. You’re okay. You’re okay. You have been here before. Just breathe. Keep your heart lifted, your focus strong, and–

“Rest.” The teacher’s hand was on my back, gently pressing me down into child’s pose. “Rest, rest, rest.”

I trusted my teacher’s touch and I relaxed. I let go. I listened to my breath, long and steady with the rise and fall of my spine. I released my expectations and accepted what I was feeling. I soaked in the sounds of the kirtan playing in the background.

I realized as I mentally chanted along with one of my favorite artists that even at rest–maybe especially at rest–I was still doing yoga. I felt my fingertips tingle and I agreed with the lyrics: “I am so thankful, jai, I am so thankful for this moment right now.”

What a gift, what good yoga, to allow for rest. As class progressed, at some points I was able to participate, and at others I again required retreat. Thoughts of failure, of weakness, of inadquacy showed up from time to time, but the music and the mood reminded me to stick with bhakti, the yoga of love and devotion.

I devoted myself to my breath, and I followed it with patience and compassion, and I was grateful.

Resting in unrest

Image courtesy of “Annie” Nancy JonesFrancis (annieo76) via Flickr Creative Commons

I don’t always get what I want, but I always, always get what I need.

The first time I heard the Rolling Stones sing something similar, I instantly related, though it’s taken me years to realize I can try more than sometimes, and there is no “just might” about it:

I get what I need.

(And so do you, particularly if you’re reading this, since to do so you’ve got to be breathing.)

For the past few days my yoga has been slippery. I’ve been grasping for peace and it’s been shimmering just beyond reach. I’ve gotten caught up with wanting, nearly forgotten that I am not in need.

When I think I need something I get anxious, and when I am anxious I am uneasy. Usually I’m making things harder than they have to be. The solution is simple, but I don’t always see it.

When I upset the balance of my existence–when I attempt to control my life more than accept it–anxiety shows up and I am in unrest. The trick is, the only way out of unrest is to rest in it. If I stay still with the situation, if I gently steer my thought-tangled mind toward silence for even a minute, I start to see what I was missing before.

Nothing. Nothing is missing, nothing is needed. And if I allow myself to accept that reality–a truth I perceive with my own senses–anxiety has nowhere to nestle.