I’m hearing daily stories of heart break, illness and tenderness from friends and clients. It seems to be in the collective energy field right now. Regardless of where you fall politically, I think many people are experiencing the chasm in our country: between parties, between groups, between relatives and friends.
If our true nature is to be universally connected to all (which I believe) then this rampant atmosphere of divide and finger-pointing must be painful to all of us on a soul level.
So what to do? How to keep my heart open? No matter what? No matter who I am thinking about or dealing with? That is my practice that I’ve dedicated my life to. Even if it feels good to distance myself from somebody (or some group) because of their actions or words, I choose to take a look within myself and try and access compassion.
It’s a spiritual axiom that we can only change ourselves. Gandhi said “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I know I’m not saying anything new, but I’m sharing my practice with you with the hope that it may be helpful. Living a heart-opened path (no matter what!) is much easier to do when everyone is doing what I think is right, or “playing nice” and not triggering me. But what about when someone does something egregious? It’s so tempting to distance myself and say “Oh no. I would never do that!”
But if we’re all connected…I need to take a long, deep look at myself and find the part(s) of me that are related. Instead of pushing away aspects of myself that I don’t like to see in others, or that make me uncomfortable, I need to shine a light on those parts, and love them up. I believe that I do have the wounded masculine aspect in myself that acts out of insecurity and powerlessness. I am the wounded feminine that is too afraid to speak up, or speaks out harshly, fearing I can’t have what I want. I am the divine as well – we all are. I have all aspects of shadow and light inside of me because I am human. I am a spirit having a human experience. I think I signed up for all of it!
I am practicing loving myself. Unconditionally. Simple yet profound.
Love. It’s been written about. It’s been sung about. It’s an energy. It’s a feeling. It’s a way to live. So often I have looked externally for this feeling and offered it freely to others, but I forgot (or rushed past) the first step: Self-love.
If you are like me, you might read those two words and think “Blech”. Self-love? That’s no fun. I like to connect with others. I like to interact. Self-love sounds lonely. And boring. I really used to think that! (TRUTH: Sometimes it is kind of lonely and boring – definitely not instant gratification land.)
I believe self-love is the foundation for my life. When I skip this step (and I have) the opportunities keep showing up to allow me to get it right. Like pulling a weed and not getting the root, it just keeps coming back.
How do I practice self-love?
One of the ways I do is to stay present to “what is” vs. what I wish was happening, and not try and escape any uncomfortable feelings that may arise (like loneliness, fear, grief). It’s a practice and some days are better than others. When an uncomfortable emotion shows up, I try to be loving and patient – the same way I would be with one of my children. Acceptance and forgiveness are huge players in this arena. Trying to love all parts of myself, not just the “nice” parts.
Unconditionally loving ourselves means accepting all parts of us, not “fixing” or removing the more prickly parts of self, rather shining true love and compassion on those harder to accept aspects of ourselves. This is love unconditional. This is love invincible. This is LOVELUTION.
LOVELUTION: a beautiful and quick shift from simply existing to loving oneself constantly and totally, radically impacting all areas of your life to ripple out to others. (I made it up. You’re welcome.)
Ripple out to others?
Yes! The best part of this, is that when I fully give myself to this path of open-hearted living, it is guaranteed to benefit everyone in my life. That’s right, by loving myself, I am increasing the love in my life. Love begets Love. I am surrounding myself with love. This is an energy I can always impact and control because it begins with ME. When I plug into this, I see its effects immediately. People respond and behave lovingly to me. Some days are easier than others. Some days I love myself more than others. One day at a time. Progress not perfection. I’ll keep you posted.
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Three years ago, over the course of three months, I lost 3 friends. They didn’t die, they dumped me. All of these relationships ended abruptly and each one of them came as a surprise to me. I’d love to have a nice new age explanation for why these friendships ended – like, it was time for anything and anyone that doesn’t serve to end – but all I really know, is that they did. End that is.
I didn’t want anyone to know that someone I had considered one of my closest friends no longer wanted to be in relationship with me. You know that phrase “You’re only as sick as your secrets?” well I kept this a secret for a long time. Only my husband and one or two close friends knew. Recently, as I was confessing all of this to another friend, she shared that she had recently had some friendships end too. “There’s no term for friend divorce.” she said. As we spoke, I realized that I’ve been carrying a sense of shame about these endings and feeling very secretive about it. I can feel guilt and hurt, but carrying shame is toxic. Why is it that the very thing I am embarrassed about in myself, I can accept and understand in somebody else? I wonder if other women are walking around feeling shame about friendships that have ended.
A few weeks ago, I was in a group that was studying with Ann Drucker, and we were discussing the shaman practice of “dismemberment.” In a shamanic journey, it can be common to experience dismemberment by one’s spirit guide. This is a unique experience for each person, but it’s common to be literally torn apart, limb from limb, or eaten/ingested so that there is nothing left of you. The spirit guide does this with great intention and service to the individual, in order to tear down and clear away the old, what no longer serves, ego.
Make no mistake about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true. – Adyashanti
I started thinking about my past relationships and wondered if on some energetic, karmic plane, these particular friendships were dismemberment gifts to me. I have no idea, but I can say that looking at these endings with this lens is comforting. I felt totally naked, exposed, raw when these friendships ended – one in particular. She wrote me an email and said terrible things to me about my character – things I would never have thought a friend would say – I did feel like my heart was ripped open – the same way a Jaguar spirit animal might eat my flesh. But what if that was the gift? I hardly ever know why things happen the way they do…that’s actually one thing I’m looking forward to when I die – I hope I get let in on the mysteries of life! But I do trust the universe. And I do trust that these friendships ended for a reason.
Fast forward to last week, sitting in my car, on the phone with a friend, both of us confessing about our ended relationships and both of us realizing that we carry shame and secrecy around this. As we talked, she gave me a gift. She said “People are complex. We have our faults. We’re not perfect. But I know this, if any one of those people reached out to you today and asked if you would meet with them, you would say “yes”, wouldn’t you?” I said “Of course!” and just like that, I re-membered myself. I RE-MEMBERED myself! All the shame, all the embarrassement, all the secrecy I’d been carrying for years started to lift. Yes, I am imperfect. I am horribly hormonal sometimes. Ugh. I am flawed. But I am also unflinching in crisis. I am always, always willing to try again. I have a gentle and kind heart. And my friend reminded me, to re-member who I am. I AM. And that is another gift of the shamanic spirit guide, after they dismember you, they re-member you so that you are complete. Whole. It took me awhile to remember myself, years to be exact, but I am more whole today because of those friendships.
These days, I am filled with gratitude for the women in my life. I am blessed to experience the level of intimacy in my relationships that I do. I feel humbled with the abundance of love that is beamed at me, regularly! I’m still me, I didn’t suddenly become the greatest person in the world. I do keep working on myself and try to own my shit, when I’m aware of it. The one common thread that all my relationships have currently is the quality of “leaning in.” I can truly lean in to my friends and they can lean in to me. Each of them have seen me in my rawness, my vulnerability and my imperfection and loved me anyway. Inspite of. Because of. Deep gratitude to the women in my life – all of them. Past. Present. Future.
and PS – thank you to my husband who midwifed me through all my grief during that time, even as he struggled to understand what the big deal was. I love you.