Monday, 22 June 2015

Letting go and forgiving our parents

I met a wonderful woman the other day. She is passionate, loyal and kind-hearted but she also carries a heavy burden. She is attached to the notion that it's her responsibility to fight against evil and for over ten years she's devoted her life to fighting the system, moving from one protest site to another, living from skips, sleeping in make-shift shelters, living under a false name. Always putting the needs of the cause before her own.

When she was young there was a lot of violence in her family. She and her younger sister developed different ways of coping with the fact that as children there was no way for them to prevent this violence, and no way to protect themselves or their loved ones. The younger sister seeks to defend others from such harm, and is training to become a police officer. My friend has taken a different path, but the burden is the same. Both feels it is their responsibility to prevent evil from taking place. Although one perceives this evil in men who commit domestic violence and the other sees it in the domination of multi-national corporations over nature, both are projecting their feelings of failure and inadequacy onto the outside world instead of facing it within themselves.

We all know the saying, 'the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children,' and we've all seen this principle at work in our own lives. Our parents, bless them, never had a chance to rehearse their roles as mums and dads. They were simply thrown into the task and we are the result of their failings, as well as their many successes. Sometimes, in situations where parents are under a lot of stress, or not mature enough to deal skillfully with the challenges of parenthood, the failings are very great and children grow up carrying around all sorts of misconceived ideas about themselves and the world around them. In fact if we look closely at ourselves we find that almost everyone is carrying around some kind of burden bequeathed on them by their parents. 

My friend grew up watching violence she could do nothing about and at some point her little mind was made up: there was no way she was going to let that sort of thing happen again. This makes logical sense to a child, but what it translates to in her adult life makes no logical sense at all. Instead of recognising that evil has been a part of human history since we made our first faltering steps on this planet, and likely will be until we breathe our last, she devotes all her energy to struggling fruitlessly against it, exhausting herself with one failed fight after another.

As with all projection, my friend has an inner conflict that she is externalising. Instead of looking directly at the anger and pain she carries inside her, she directs it into the outside world. Until she can reconcile this conflict her struggle against evil will never cease. Nor will it bring about the justice for which she strives. This is because she will not allow herself justice. For what does a frightened child need but nurturing, freedom to play, to be creative and to be loved. Instead she berates herself for even the smallest acts of selfishness. Taking a break from the cause after so many years is a cause to feel guilty. She feels herself to be a sell-out for wanting a home, the small comforts of warmth, good food and stability.

By recognising where we are carrying burdens unwittingly left to us by our parents, and withdrawing the projections we've created to shift responsibility away from ourselves, we are empowered to enjoy fully the abundant, joyful life and creative life that is waiting for us. When we can see our parents flaws as human instead of looking at them through the idealistic lens that expects perfection, we see they were doing the best they could with what they had. We can forgive them and free ourselves from this unwanted inheritance.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Letting go of vanity

I've been struggling recently with a demon I'd suppressed for a long time and now he's out and he's vengeful!

The demon is called seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin condition I've been managing with mild cortisone creams. Finally, after many years, I'm acknowledging this is not a solution. In order to truly heal I have to find and understand the underlying cause and address it.

So I stopped the cream. Up came the rash and with it my vanity, my attachment to beauty!

It's very easy to say glibly that beauty comes from within when you feel pretty, but when you're looking in the mirror at a scaling, swollen red face it becomes much harder. All the insecurities I thought I'd gotten over came crushing back on top of me. The shyness and social anxiety, the fear of failure, that crushing sense of defeat and apathy we call depression. And all because my face is no longer beautiful!

I see clearly now just how much of my self-worth I've attached to my appearance. In truth I'm completely and utterly vain!

Letting go of physical beauty has been very hard for me and I still hold great hopes that I'll discover the root cause of the problem and regain my clear healthy skin. Of course this would be beneficial on many levels, as the rash is clearly only a symptom of a deeper malaise, however I've come to realise that even if I do not permanently lose my beauty now, I'll certainly lose it soon enough!

Letting go of vanity forces us to look deeper within ourselves to find our worth, to bring to the fore all the gifts and talents that truly give us value as human beings. These are the things most of our friends and family love us for. They may admire our beauty, but they love us for our kindness, our humour, our generosity.

Why is it then that we place such a high value on something so shallow? Could it be (shock, horror) that we've been brainwashed by our consumer culture? No... surely not!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Letting go and loving our dark side

Isn't it weird that as soon as I'm without my community around me I begin to question my own way of being? I start thinking, 'Am I crazy? Shouldn't I be getting on with my career, having children, buying a house?' The sense of certainty I felt about the 'rightness' of my life path just a week ago has all but evaporated. I'm adrift in a sea of doubt. And my doubt makes me feel frustrated and ashamed.

Even this blog, which has been giving me so much creative satisfaction, has come under fire from my critical mind. Suddenly I feel it's too preachy, too idealistic. How can I write about something so lofty as spiritual non-attachment when I clearly just haven't 'got it' yet! And what about all those other darker aspects of self that don't seem to fit?

I've come across this before and those who know me best will attest to it. I find it difficult to accept that inside this basically good person are all kinds of dark inclinations and desires: self-loathing, masochism, fear, judgement and anger. Sheesh! Anger especially! 

Spiritual teachers tell us that we should integrate our dark side but I've always felt a bit at a loss as to how this can be done without turning a wonderfully diverse character into a bland grey persona. Because honestly I love my dark side, even though at times I feel uncomfortable with it. I like that I'm a wild cat when pissed off, and that I'm introspective enough to question my own opinions and occasionally notice that I'm being a complete dick and feel like crap about it.

However I want to be able to move between these emotions, these aspects of self, and not get lost in them. So that they become like films projected across my being and I can enjoy every single moment, even wallowing in self-pity or ranting at someone I love, because I can stand aside from it and not identify with any of it.

Because none of it is really who I am! In A New Earth - Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, Eckhart Tolle clarifies this when he writes, “You are not IN the universe, you ARE the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself.”

Observing our reactions and allowing ourselves to experience every aspect of life, both 'light' and 'dark,' is part of our awakening process. I think the trick is not to get caught up in it, but to allow it to move through us freely while we remain firmly rooted in the present moment. Or as someone I no longer remember once put it: 'Don't jump in the river!' Just enjoy watching it flow on by :)

Monday, 1 June 2015

Letting go of creative control

When I was in Thailand recently I was responsible for cooking lunch for a group of twenty people each day. It was really fun but I was feeling challenged working with others, as I've just spent the last two years working closely with people and now have a strong urge to do something on my own. Because I'm attached to that idea, having to cooperate with others was pushing a few of my buttons!

So anyway, one night I lay awake and carefully imagined a beautiful meal based around hummus. What eventuated was something different; the girl making the hummus decided it was better kept til dinner and there was no hummus in the meal at all! Although it seems insignificant now, it rankled at the time because I was attached to my idea of how the meal should be. It made me feel grumpy towards her which made us both feel bad.

So the next day I thought I'd try to do things a bit differently. I decided to have no vision for the meal at all and to just provide the ingredients, fire and a clean environment for it to be created in. I chopped and washed vegetables and when someone asked my opinion about something I tried to counter with something like, "whatever you feel" or "just go with your intuition."

In the end the lunch was one of the yummiest we'd had and I did not cook at all! We had onion, pumpkin and chickpea stir fry by Jaun, savoury snake beans and morning glory by Letitia, an enormous salad by Ami covered in a garlicy sauce whipped up by Lucas. All this was followed by the gooey chocolatey goodness of Kokko's banana and sticky-rice bliss balls. OMG!!

The benefits of letting go of creative control are self-evident!