Practice your Inhaling.

“There is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and it’s easy to believe that we must exhale all the time, without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale.” -Roshi Joan Halifax

Before I read this in Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness today, yesterday in the shower, I got irritated by the culture we live in. Equal to my irritation was concern for humanity. Brené says we are in a spiritual crisis. I’ve thought this for years and it’s origin is in the quote above.

This culture demands we exhale constantly, and continually. Are we healthier for this? Are we wiser? Kinder? Maybe we think we are more productive, successful and cool. But, so what. We are losing ourselves— and essentially killing ourselves with all the exhaling.

For a week now I’ve been inhaling. I have finished my fall semester of graduate school, and I am in a break before my final semester. I’ve been pushing for four years to earn a degree, and although I anticipate this experience giving me discipline, knowledge and growth I could not have had otherwise, academic learning only uses a limited part of my mind.

Believe it or not, there was a time, before these four years, where I probably did too much inhaling. I used a larger part of my mind for introspection and self-study. I dug deep into internal spaces, many of them dark. But, in these years of inhaling, I learned so much about myself— some of who I am, but mostly of who I am not. This kind of introspection is brutal, and also beautiful, and is absolutely necessary to our growth.

In these several years of exhaling, and holding my breath through graduate school, I have learned what the university wants me to learn. I have gained skills and knowledge from books, projects and papers. I have pushed myself beyond my comfort level to finish the readings, projects and papers. I have become an expert at organizing my time, or more accurate, obsessing about my time. And yes, I have been more outwardly productive, and I will see myself as successful and cool once I have two degrees on my wall. But— I am going to be working with people after I graduate. People who will be struggling with mental health issues, and essentially experiencing their own spiritual crisis. The books, projects and papers of academia will only take me so far. Those years of introspection is what will be the core foundation of everything I have to offer.

This past week, I inhaled again. Next week, I will do the same. That small part of mind gave way to the larger and time hasn’t mattered. Projects and papers and textbooks haven’t mattered. I’ve read books I want to read. I’ve worked on my projects and writings. I hear my inner voice again. She’s still here. I heard her in the shower yesterday. She is concerned.

Now, that I have experienced extremes on both ends of the exhale and inhale I see how important it is for balance. I see how I needed the long time of the inhale to dig through the past, to face my demons and come out the other side. I see how I’ve needed this long time to exhale— to throw myself into this external world and learn about it, and at times be horrified and frightened by it. Right now, as a culture we are off balance. We are doing far too much exhaling. Our focus needs to come back to the in-breath, the inhale. Winter is a perfect time for introspection. To take a break. To check in with ourselves: how are we feeling? What do we need? Who have we become? Where are we headed? What small shifts can we make to change directions? How can we love ourselves more? Love each other more? What is in our dark spaces that needs to see the light? 

sunset

One of the inhaling practices I did this week was to begin a new journal, and instead of venting through the pages as I often do, I pasted some images that expressed my intentions for the coming year. Next to the images I wrote in present tense about how these intentions will unfold for me. One of my intentions is to lean into, with full heart and vulnerability, two primary relationships. I have spent years blaming, resenting and essentially fearing them. I have put up my armor and said: you will not hurt me. I have used the weapons of self-righteousness, manipulation and victimhood. These once, so I believed, gave me power. Now, I see their truth— they only create more distrust, resentment and therefore, further isolation.

Over the past several months, I have added a small movement to my yoga/mediation practice. I open my arms, roll back my shoulders, look up and say, I am open. When I was a little girl, trick or treating with my dad, I took off my Cinderella mask and said to my dad: I just want to be myself. This has been my journey— twists, turns and tangles of unraveling all that I am not to become who I am. To open up my arms, roll back my shoulders and say, I am open. This is the wilderness Brené speaks about. It takes courage and a hell of a lot of commitment.

To know ourselves, we must inhale- even if it just starts with one deeper breath in. If we do this continually, we will tip the scales toward truth and light, and this spiritual crisis will transform into a spiritual revolution.

The Soul Reporter

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What Space Are You In?

Do you ever notice if you are having a new experience with yourself? Are you aware you are having an experience with yourself?

I am having a new experience with myself. Suddenly, I find I don’t have much to say. I notice less chatter inside of my head. I notice I don’t have much to feel. The presence inside feels smooth, almost void of conflict. It kind of feels like death. But, really it’s just a foreign state of less inner conflict and disturbance and more inner silence.

 

WaterIsThereSomewhere

The Devil’s Kettle, Northern Minnesota

Sometimes, in this unfamiliar state I watch myself try and create drama and conflict within me. Sometimes, I question the silence. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s depression or sadness. But I know those states and that is not what this is. This state is not peaceful. It is not joyful. It is not sad. It just is.

The silence allows me to notice life outside of me, people mostly. I watch the drama people bring onto themselves. Then I watch them blame others or their environments. I think some of us don’t feel alive unless there’s drama and conflict. I think many of us fear the silence. I want to say to the people— you are creating this chaos and you don’t have to. This is the lesson to be learned.

But, how?

The Sufi poet Rumi said, “Work. Keep digging your well. Don’t think about getting off from work. Water is there somewhere.” I have dug my well in many ways. I dug through journaling, through reading, through therapy, through processing out loud, through walks in the woods, through crying my eyes out, through running in the streets not knowing where to run, through fighting, and most recently through a yoga and meditation practice I learned from a guru. In my digging I hit rock, branches and mud. I got hit, kicked, pummeled, bruised and I thought, broken. I also hit some clear spots, and rested. I cannot say I have hit water yet or if I am even close. What I can say is the current space is dark, unfamiliar, quiet and still. And for the first time in an unfamiliar space, I am unafraid. Instead I am slightly curious and mostly present.

Your how comes with desire. You must want to find the water. You must want liberation more than you want drama. You must keep digging even when it’s hard. You must keep working even when you think you’re not getting anywhere. You must want to be free more than anything else. And then, you’ll come to a space that feels different than all the others. You’ll wonder where you are, but you won’t be afraid. The space will be clear. Vacant, but oddly alive without any more limitations, without any more rocks to hit or stones to throw or vines to be caught in. You’ll be suspended in this space. I don’t know where you’ll go next, but water is there somewhere.

 

The Soul Reporter.

 

 

 

 

 

The Resistance Pattern.

I am in a fight with resistance. It’s a fight I’ve been fighting underneath the surface, probably since birth. Now it is a fight that is risen to the surface to which I am fully aware and very uncomfortable with.

A few weeks ago I went through an intensive program called Inner Engineering. It consists of learning practices like yoga, asanas and breathing/meditation technologies. For four days, two of them for 12 hours I sat cross-legged on the a floor learning the practices and listening to videos of Sadhguru, a man and a mystic with a mission to bring these technologies, as he calls them to “create inner wellbeing.”

After the retreat, I did feel well and for a couple of days after. I felt alive and free and large within myself. Then, I had to take all of that and fit it into my life, which right now feels small, constricting, dull and consisting of choices I made when I didn’t feel so alive. What to do? Well, of course- resist. Resist my small, constricting life. I resist homework. I resist winter. I resist my responsibilities. I resist my dog dying. I resist that he is still alive and I have to carry him up the stairs and clean up his pee. I resist Trump. I resist doing my inner engineering practices two times a day. I even resist my resistance. All of this resisting is making me kind of crabby, to say the least.

SONY DSC

And, here’s the beauty- the resistance is here so I can face it. So I can look at it. Feel it. Wrestle with it and eventually surrender to it. In the surrendering I will find there is nothing to resist. Sadhguru said over and over again, only this moment is inevitable. I couldn’t grasp it. I still really can’t grasp it. He says, if you only accept that this moment is inevitable “your aliveness will blossom.” This is because when we are only in this moment we are connected with existence, with life.

My resistance stops this inevitable moment experience. I resist this inevitable moment. I don’t know why. But, what I do know the reasons and the patterns are coming undone and I am doing my best to not resist this.

The Soul Reporter

 

You Belong. You Exist.

You belong. You exist.

This is important to say. You belong. You exist. Exist means: to have actual being.

Very often we don’t receive these messages as children. You belong. You exist. The yearning to belong and exist is deep, deep within us. I might argue this yearning creates everything we have experienced in our lives so far. There comes a point, if we are reaching for it, where we realize we actually do belong, we do exist. This occurrence happens even if our experiences have shown us the opposite.

I just had this experience. I was listening to Day 5 of Deepak & Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation, Experiencing, Creating Peace from the Inside Out. Oprah said, “If it is intimacy and connection you resist, it is love you crave most.” This struck a chord and is a theme that’s been surfacing lately.

Moving into the meditation, the centering thought for Day 5 was, I only feel a need to connect. Instead of closing my eyes as I normally would, I looked up at a picture of me, probably 4 or 5 years of age, sitting at on a chair at my grandmother’s house. I’m wearing light bluish-green pants, a dark blue-green turtle neck and what look like Buster Brown shoes. My hands are folded in my lap, my shoulders are hunched over and my head is slightly tilted to the side. My eyes are bright, yet distant, I have a soft smile and I envy my thick, wavy hair. I think: this little girl only feels a need to connect.

I cannot hold back what’s inside of me. Pain and hurt for the yearning of this little girl. I began to speak to her. You are not rejected. You aren’t rejectable. You are sacred. You are connected. You are loved. You are safe.

I cried throughout the meditation and continued to speak to her. I imagined myself holding her to my heart, giving her a kiss on that thick, wavy head of hair. After the meditation I picked up the framed picture and kissed her face and held her image to my chest and said, “You belong. You exist.”

The word exist felt like truth ringing inside of my being. I made the connection to my pattern of hiding to this fear I don’t exist. I keep this pattern going by continuing to hide. But, now, I know~

littlenikkiI do belong. I do exist. I don’t need to hide anymore.

I look at her now, and smile.

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

Trying to be Alone

Today’s Soul Report: A Writing/Walking Meditation (written several weeks ago)

I am called forward by the sound of a bird. It is the only sound I want to hear. Soon I hear them all:

traffic noise that I don’t want to hear;

a wind chime;

an old porsche- the driver pushing on the gas to get it to rumble;

a child’s laughter, and the sound of water hitting the car as its being washed by father and son;

a weed whacked.

I see: 

a tiny lizard running deeper into a bush;

groceries being taken out of a car;

two friends talking loud. A young boy paaaes by on his cell phone;

a young mother walking her baby.

There are too many out today. But who am I? No one more special than the next. 

More birds. A place in the shade;

they turned on their front yard fountain. No one home to listen.

All of these beautiful spaces with no one to sit and listen, to the fountain. The birds. 

I feel:

it is hot. Sun exposing me;

I have a great opening line. I’m afraid to go deeper;

I don’t want to see people or have them see me;

like the lizard that runs to the dark everytime a footstep is felt.

I want:

a writing room. The one I see in my imagination. More like a cottage. Moved away from the main house. I walk there with my tea. Smiling. Ready to enter.

I am: 

selfish I’m sure. To want nothing but birds. Wind. Quiet. A cottage to write that only I enter into;

aware I created a life before knowing who I was. This life now makes me feel confined- in moments;

longing for a life that will one day come. But, only after the kids are raised and the money is raised. The career established. Or am I just being dramatic?

wandering the streets to try and find a space that is just mine.

I know the pursuit is selfish. The longing of it makes me unhappy. Soon I will enter my over priced rental. Family of four. No room to write. Only a wall space between the bedroom closet and drawers. My husband will probably be in there sleeping. It’s Saturday. I will feel pressure to join the family.

I hear be grateful being chanted from the positive thinking cult on my left, and on my right I hear some form of my dad and the Buddha tellling me it’s too bad I lost my desire to only be useful- and nothing else.

I find a place. I’ve been here before. It’s on a graffiti filled rock. Above the Rose Bowl. The only space where there’s shade. I see people have been here. But no one is here now.

What’s the rustling in that bush? Probably another lizard.