Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rumi's Field: I'll Meet You There

[I think there is an angel sitting on my shoulder and his name is Rumi.]

Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

- Rumi

Zen Weeding in Hawaii

Bodhisattva of Compassion: Tara in Tibet and Kwan Yin in China

I took this photo of a peaceful Kwan Yin at the Kalani Oceanside Retreat located in the Puna District on the big island of Hawaii. I was working on the landscaping team during the winter of 2009 and was assigned the job of weeding Kwan Yin’s flowerbed and the circle of rock around her feet. It was a rainy day when I did my Zen weeding, carefully pulling even the smallest of vegetative intruders out by their roots. Weeding gave me the time I needed to mentally pause, reflect, and commune with Kwan Yin in a simple fashion, while giving the moss roses in the flowerbed an opportunity to blossom.

[As many gospel songs explain to the suffering masses, “Every woman and man needs a place to lay awkward burdens down on the road of living.” Kwan Yin is a welcoming haven from life’s unpredictable twists and turns. Taking steps to forgive and love ourselves brings us closer to enlightenment.]

Indian Master Bapuji’s Celebration of Compassion and Self-Forgiveness

My beloved child,
Break your heart no longer.
Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.
You stop feeding on the love, which is the wellspring of your vitality.
The time has come, your time.

To live, to celebrate and see the goodness that you are.

Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obstruct you
If one comes, even in the name of “Truth,” forgive it for its unknowing
Do not fight.
Let go.
And breathe- into the goodness that you are.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Dynamic Duo Recline on the Cat Sofa

LIFE = Broken, Messy, Mysterious, & Vibrantly Alive

Radical Acceptance: It’s harder than you may think!

I’m in the midst of reading the book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach, and the truths in the book have moved me closer to behaviors and actions that reflect my authentic self. A colossal claim for a piece of non-fiction I know, but… read on.

Brach’s message: “to embrace life in all its realness- broken, messy, mysterious, and vibrantly alive” is something many of us don’t do because we are too busy hiding from the pain.

Who wants to embrace a messy, broken mysterious beast with body odor and halitosis? Sounds like a dragon from the days of yore to me, and people in the myths ran like hell from those fire-breathing menaces. But embrace flaws and scars we must if healing is to begin.

Brach quotes Carl Jung when he describes what happens when women and men run from the ogres in our origins who will never stop chasing us through the terrain of unstable intellect. It’s clear: “The unfaced and unfelt parts of our psyche are the source of all neurosis and suffering.”

Right on Carl Jung!

Denying our pain- and what Brach calls human rawness- leads us to put our lives, minds, hearts, bodies and spirits on automatic. We enter a trance-like state to protect the rawness of our hearts from being judged as pathetic and feeble. We defend ourselves against the doubts and demons in our minds because others might call us crazy. Unexamined and unrevealed fears are in control of our lives.

Facing and feeling the fear and shame awakens us from the trance and is the pathway to healing. “Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something that wants our love,” poet Rainer Maria Rilke reminds Buddhists who work hard each day to reveal more and more of their authentic selves.

Be prepared as you read this book: You may just recognize a few of your own habitual behaviors sticking their tongues out at you mockingly. When Brach reminds us that it’s time to “open up new and creative ways of responding to our hopes and fears,” listening to her professional advice leads us to a small slice of enlightenment pie and that's yummy.

I was a bit horrified and humbled to see myself lost in what Brach describes as pursuing substitutes because she writes that, “when we can’t meet our emotional needs directly, the wanting self develops strategies for satisfying them with substitutes. Like all strategies underlying the trance of unworthiness, those aimed at winning love and respect absorb and fixate our attention.”

Like Brach, my drive to be productive is a strategy for pursuing substitutes that my wanting self uses to gain approval and to demonstrate to the world that I am worthy of love and respect. For example, I will be in a trance-like state when I want to produce something to prove my human value: clean the kitchen until it sparkles like diamonds; write a hugely popular article that will win me accolades; exercise until my buns are like steel… and the list doesn’t stop.

In the past, I would push myself to excel so I could feel accepted and admired by my community members. In the process of producing, I would overlook personal relationships in the race for professional accomplishments that never made me feel whole or happy. I never felt content, calm or satisfied with my accomplishments because I had to wake up every morning anxious about what needed to be produced on that day. I couldn’t stop the demented dance. I had substituted accomplishments for my real, authentic self. I was strangling the voice of my deepest self because I was insecure, afraid of rejection, and not listening to the messy, broken song of my life. What a horrible, self-destructive pattern I had fallen into in my quest for validation and approval from those around me.

Brach quotes D.H. Lawrence who wrote: “Men [and women] are not free when they are doing just what they like. Men [and women] are only free when they are doing what the deepest self likes.”

By hiding from my deepest self, I made myself insecure, melancholic and neurotic. I was going nowhere on the path to Nirvana until I realized it was time to forgive myself, show some self-compassion, and let my deepest self articulate her "I Have a Dream" speech.

My accomplishments are not me!

Let me stop here because I don’t want to reveal everything this book has to offer. Moving closer to our inner selves is a life-long task that involves self-discipline and the courage to confront our inner demons, something I do when I mentally process the content of Brach's writing.

If you are ready to slay dragons, I recommend you read Tara Brach’s book.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Travel Beyond

Leo’s horoscope for May 12, 2009 and every day:

When you hit the road, you feel like a free spirit- liberated, a rebel on the move. This is true even if you're just going to the grocery store; however, your stars support you in traveling far beyond.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Inner Children Emerge

Pathogenic Beliefs and Sex
LJR - May 7, 2009

American culture relegates sexual fantasies to wayward and wicked categories labeled as naughty, pornographic, or even too obscene to articulate, yet sexual fantasies- when revealed and investigated- can often help men and women understand themselves on a deeper level.

Dr. Michael J. Bader’s book, Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, proposes that sexual fantasies are not simply about sex. By analyzing the sexual fantasies of his patients in psychoanalysis, Bader explores the significance of the sex fantasy and the sex act and their connections to managing insecurities and fears that arise for couples in intimate relationships.

We are all flawed and fearful children at heart- and at certain uncomfortable moments- inner boys and girls decide to throw colorful tantrums. These tantrums are even more likely to occur when we have sex.

Naked and vulnerable, we are exposed.

By showing compassion to ourselves and others in regard to understanding human sexual fantasies, we acknowledge our childhood baggage, baggage that often inhibits us from experiencing sexual pleasure.

Here are some excerpts from Bader’s book that shed light on a subject that has been kept in the dark for too long.

People use all the resources at their disposal to defend themselves against and transcend painful childhood beliefs.

Sexual fantasies illuminate and explain non-sexual problems that we are having.

…to the extent that earlier parental relationships contained elements of worry, guilt and shame (which most of our childhoods did), those feelings will enter our love life even more than they would most other aspects of our lives.

Nowhere are adults more dependent than in the relationship they have with their partners, and at no other time was this dependency as strong as it was in childhood. Therefore, the normal emotional dependency in long-term relationships inevitably contains echoes of these earlier attachments. There is an old joke that says when two people have sex, there are six people in the bed: the two lovers and the parents of each of them… intimate sexual relationships necessarily open the psychic doors to the repetition of our own original parent-child relationship.

Sexual compatibility is determined by the extent to which our pathogenic beliefs negate or reinforce those of our partner- and vice versa. And it is in intimate sexual relationships that our pathogenic beliefs about ourselves and others have the most direct opportunity to be confirmed or disproved… Our sexual partners, therefore, have to perform the same function as sexual fantasies, namely, to establish the conditions of safety necessary to allow sexual excitement to emerge.

Bader’s definition of love/chemistry/sexual compatibility is not at all poetic or idealistic.

With his new definition in mind, the lyrics to a famous Beatles’ song change slightly.

“All you need is love” becomes: “All you really need is someone to negate your pathogenic beliefs.”

A revision to Shakespeare’s lines in the comedy “Love's Labour's Lost” would look something like this.

And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.

And when Love speaks, the voice of inner children
Makes earth secure with fears put to rest.

Bader goes on to say that:

Human beings cannot tolerate helplessness for very long. They [either] shut down, fight back, or find some way to pretend it doesn’t exist.

The reason people resist change is not because they’re deriving gratification from being sick, but because they’re trying to ensure their own psychological safety.

According to Bader’s professional experience with his patients, satisfying sexual experiences involve establishing a sense of psychological safety in the bedroom for everyone involved. Reinforcing a partner’s negative, painful, pathogenic beliefs does not lead to first-class sex; it only leads to more shame, guilt and unhappiness.

This book led me to ask myself the honest question: What do I need from a partner to feel psychological safe?

Sorting out and exploring our sexual fantasies is a wholesome step in the process of identifying what we need in order to establish safe and intimate relationships both inside and outside the bedroom.

Sexual fantasies are not all about sex.

Bader, Michael. Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies. St. Martin’s Press, 2002.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Seymour's First Video / (My cat thinks he's a film star!)

I do believe I have uploaded my first blog-posted home movie of my cat Seymour enjoying some good loving. Last night, I wanted to re-acquaint myself with my Mac camera and iMovie, so this video is the result. Seymour says hello to all his adoring feline and human fans: Meow!

About Me

My photo

What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.