Friday, January 23, 2009

Inquiry: Judgment

Wednesday I wrote about my meditation, part of the release I felt during the process, and forgiving myself for things I thought I'd long since gotten over. I reflected on the experience in my journal both yesterday and this morning and feel like I've made some further progress. The part I'd been missing this whole time was not that I hadn't learned, not that I hadn't moved on, but that I had judged. 

In my daily life I try not to judge others. I make a conscious effort to be kind to people who cut me off while driving, cut in line in the supermarket, or are rude in line at retail stores. This conscious effort doesn't mean that I'm always successful, but I can usually restrain myself to only thinking what I'd like to say instead of actually saying it. And then I coach myself on why the thoughts are not acceptable either.
Dian, you know that negative energy has to go somewhere...if even if you're just thinking negative thoughts and not spewing them out into the world, it's still negative energy; it's still toxic.
But that's only when I catch myself thinking about other people. What about when I resent myself? I won't rehash the past because I just put it where it belongs, so I'll just say that it's not enough to move forward and act outwardly like you've learned and moved on. It's even more important to believe those changes in yourself. 

As a result of the meditation, I saw the facts. Nothing more, nothing less. I was able to walk away from the experience leaving all judgement to flow through the foundation below my apartment and back into the earth. I had a dream Wednesday night that the energy I released became one with the positive energy of the earth and was thus transformed, as only the earth would know how to do.

I don't believe that life is about being right or wrong, good or bad. I believe life is about being true to the nature of who you are and finding ways to share love, just as we were created. In my mind and my belief, there is no judgment day, there is only today. It's not about being better than anyone else, but, for me, being better than who I was yesterday. And how can I be better if I'm constantly reminding myself of an awful thing I did yesterday (or a year or twelve ago)? I don't believe I can. 

If I'm to change my actions, first I must become aware of them. If I don't take time to notice my own behavior, how can I expect to change it? So with that, I have some questions:

How much time in my day do I spend judging others? How much time do I spend judging myself? If I judge others less will that flow over to less judgments of myself? If I judge myself less with that turn into less judgment on others? What is it about my ego that makes me even want to place judgment, whether it be on myself or another? 

These are questions I'll be reflecting on in today's meditation. I'm not sure if these are the right questions to ask or where these questions will lead me, but I do know that if I don't ask, then I can't grow. 

Are there any questions you have of yourself?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Whole Release Meditation

I can never seem to block out any of the noise outside my head, let alone the stuff going on inside. And I can never seem to sit still for more than seven minutes at a time. Or keep myself from opening my eyes every three or five or eight minutes. Or every thirty seconds wondering how long it's been since the last time I looked.

I just meditated for 30 minutes for the first time in my life. I wish I could say that I meditated for a solid thirty minutes with none of the aforementioned distractions, but that's not entirely the case. The first time I looked, it had been one minute. The next, six minutes. The next, four. And then I made an executive decision that no matter what, I would not look again. And I didn't.

My iPod brought a meditation track of rain falling on a porch into my ears. The track is twenty-nine minutes and fifty-eight seconds long. Which means that for somewhere around nineteen minutes I did not open my eyes. And after making my shut-eye decision, I also managed to keep the fidgeting to a minimum, regardless of the pretzel position my lower limbs had been forced into.

The purpose of this meditation was to release. Release. Release what? That's what the mediation was to find out. I've been making so many changes in my life so quickly this year that I need to make room for all this new energy in my body. Which means I need to release the old energy. The stale energy. The toxic energy—the energy that has long since served its purpose and is now ready to move on (and probably has been ready for quite some time).

Behind my eyelids flowed dark shades of yellow and purple and blue and red. Lines and shapes formed and faded, swayed and bowed, ebbed and flowed. It's rare that I visualize a familiar face or place, but I did recognize this as a dreamlike state. What I saw before me was energy. Pure and simple, energy flowing right before my eyes.

With the rain falling in my ears, I breathed in and out, in and out, in and out. I tried to focus on breathing into my diaphragm and not just my lungs, but I admit I'm a novice and caught myself with tense shoulders and a pregnant chest of air I would not allow full access to. And just as I inhaled, I exhaled as well, trying to time the in equal to the out, also mildly successful. The whole process seemed to mirror my life in the way I take things on and sometimes refuse to let go, even when I know that it's besteven when I've set out to simply let go. And so I regrouped (again and again) and practiced breathing in and out, in and out.

As I began my meditation, I inhaled to "Re-" and exhaled to "lease". Re-lease. Re-lease. And at some point the words changed to "Let. Go" Let go. Breath in, Let. Breath out, Go. In, Let. Out, Go. And after I committed to myself that my eyes would not open and I would give my full attention to this exercise, something amazing happened; I began to let go.

Tears found a crack in the bottom my closed eyelids, and slowly seeped through. I first began to think about my mom, which passed quickly and made space for my dad. I've made peace with my father's death, and still with every new step forward I make in my life, I forge a path that somehow leads both away from and right to him. Buying a house is a big deal and the one person I could count on to fix anything I brought to him had graduated me to a life without him. Graduated: I've learned what I needed to, and now it's time to move forward. The tears for this part were short and sweet, and I started to think letting go would be easy. And then I thought about Alison.

The tears no longer seeped. In the quietest way possible, they exploded from me and rolled one after another down my cheeks. Some touched the corner of my lips as they passed by, some rolled just to one side or the other as they found a way to cling to the bottom of my chin before dripping into my lap. And others still, skipped all that and jumped straight from my flared cheeks onto my thighs.

I sobbed as I thought about the way things ended and how I'd behaved. And while I've come to terms with the fact that the end was completely necessary, I've allowed the guilt to linger unwanted in the walls of my heart, my lungs, my everything that keeps me sane and alive. This guilt I hold dear and nurture it daily, quietly, methodically. Somehow I've allowed myself to believe that I do not deserve to be forgiven for my actions, now so far away. And a voice rings loud and true: Let. Go.

In the middle of the apartment with the dog sleeping quietly in front of the door and the cats sleeping religiously on their king bed (which I seem to have purchased for them), I cried out loud for what seemed like an eternity. And then all at once, I was done. Calm swept over and through me. It seemed to actually come from within. I concentrated again on my breathing, in and out, in and out. Let and Go, Let and Go, Let and Go.

I sat and breathed for the rest of the twenty-nine minutes and fifty-eight seconds in silence. I thought about what it all meant. It wasn't a matter of mourning the loss; I made my peace with the absence of her in my life long ago. It wasn't about wanting her to forgive me or my actions; I've resolved to be indifferent to her view of me and who I am. As I followed the energy across my eyelids and the calmness throughout my being, I realized it didn't have anything to do with her, per se. It had to do with forgiveness.

To accept ourselves is not necessarily to like what we did or to approve of it, but rather to forgive ourselves. To forgive, in Sanskrit, is to untie—when we forgive we untie an emotional knot and unclog the emotional system.
What I experienced was an emotional unclogging of my soul. I had been holding on to resentment of myself for actions that had long since been acted out. I have moved on in my life, my relationship, my love—of others, but not of myself! Forgiveness is not about saying it's okay, it's about learning and moving forward. I had learned. I had moved on. But I failed to acknowledge those things and truly believe about myself that I deserved the happiness that came so soon after the turmoil I'd created. And now it all made sense.

The rain slowed in my ears. The breathing slowed in my belly. And the calm cemented itself deep in my body, in every part. The calm had replaced the fear, the disdain, the anger, the guilt that had been residing, hiding in the dark comfort of my shadowed self. And at some point the words that flowed in and out with every breath changed from Let Go to Feel Whole. I had released my toxic energy and in its place was the whole of myself.

It's nice to see her again.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Updated Growth & Balance

The house we put an offer on did not get accepted. And all we can do is be thankful for the opportunity to learn something. The house would have been great, but this surely means that there's something better in the works for us. Of course, we haven't been able to see what it is, given the limited listings out there right now. So we've expanded our search area with the mindset of being open to areas outside of Long Beach and Lakewood. 

You won't catch us back in The Valley (sorry Betty & Jane), but you will catch us learning more about which areas in South LA County (and maybe even North Orange County) are favorable to live in. Which is crazy to me because just a few years ago I couldn't see myself living outside of the San Fernando Valley unless I lived out of state (which I found plenty of excuses to not do). 

I was born and raised in the heart of the SFV and grew to love it, in all its heat and traffic. I know it like the back of my hand. I'm comfortable there. I know where the good restaurants are, where the cheapest gas is, which areas are acceptable to settle down in and which areas I wouldn't walk around during the daytime in. I have friends and family there, I could play softball 7 days a week there, and I know where my private sanctuaries are when I don't want anyone to find me. But it's occurred to me that there's more to my life than just what I know; more than just what I'm comfortable with. In fact, my life has been more about everything I don't know lately, and it's been leading me to happiness.

I didn't realize it at the time, but moving to Long Beach was a big step for me a couple of years ago. It's taught me that the reason you come isn't always the reason you stay. It's taught me that settling in isn't always settling down. It's taught me that I can change my surroundings but until I change myself it's all the same. And it's taught me that I can be comfortable anywhere I live as long as I hold balance high in priority. 

So cheers to moving on and moving up. And growth. And balance. And the integration of all these things to find exactly what we want in life.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Risk, Comin' Right Up!

Risk #1 was making a decision to stay out of the corporate life and pursue a Life Coach Certification this year while continuing to work on my book. Risk #2 was to be a small risk, like going to a new hair stylist to get my hair cut (which I'm still resisting because I love where I get my hair cut, she's just so far away), talking to a neighbor I've never talked to (which I did, but it was only to tell him to shut the after-hours party down--twice), or play a game I've never played. 

But instead of any of those things, we decided to buy a house. And when we make a decision, we don't mess around. Within 48 hours there was a pre-approval on a loan (and a limit set for what we can really afford versus what the loan tells us we can afford). Within 48 hours of that, we went house hunting and found a house we actually want to put an offer on. And as of this morning, we're waiting another 48 hours to find out if our offer gets accepted, rejected, or countered. 

Yesterday morning I talked with my life coach about getting out of your own way. I first heard this term a few years back and I've always liked the idea. The idea that no one but me holds me back from getting what I really want. 

Everything that I think that I need to do is all only in order to propel me to some place that when I get there, I think I will be happier. So, everything that I am doing, no matter what it is, all of my lists of rights and wrongs… are all about me getting to a manifestation that I believe I will then be happier... So, why don’t I take a short cut and just go get happy?
It's easy to wait for someone or something to come along and "make me happy". But in the end, it's really all about what I choose. Happiness is all in the hands of whom they're attached. If all I concentrate on are the things I don't have, then this remains my focus and I have little energy left for the things I want. When I focus on the things I want, I can always figure out a way to get what I want. I just have to stop resisting myself. 

There are probably 1,000+ reasons not to buy a house right now. The market is still going down. I don't have an income. My investments took a dive in the end of 2008. We're not married. We just got a dog. I stubbed my toe this morning. We can afford our rent. We like this neighborhood. We can't afford our dream house. We've never bought a house before. It's a pain in the ass to move. My toe still hurts....

I've done focusing on those things...and those things still remain true as long as I do. The market is pretty close to the bottom and will be on the upswing in the next year or two. My investments are still working well for me, including the investment I've made in myself. We're pretty solid, even if we're not married yet, we'll get there. The dog needs a yard. I hadn't thought about the toe until I just brought it up. Rent doesn't get us equity in this apartment building. We have cars that will drive us back to this neighborhood should we move out of it. We can afford a starter house and work our way up to our dream house. First time buyer programs will eliminate us from being first time buyers. Moving still sucks, but that's what movers are for. And toes...toes heal.

So with that, risk#2 of 2009 was actually putting an offer in on a house. We asked the Universe for an opportunity in this market to purchase a home in a good neighborhood that we'll be happy in for at least a few years (and maybe a few more details I'll keep to myself). The Universe responded with some options and waited for us to take action. Our action may not end with putting the offer in...we may have to up the offer to get into this house (as there are multiple offers on it already), or we may get outbid entirely. And then we'll move on to the next house...pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again. It's such a great process to learn. 

I had no idea this year was going to be so exciting. And we're not even through January yet!

So cheers to us for getting out of our own way...I encourage you to do the same!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Inquiry: Taking Risks

I seldom take risks. I mean, I take them, but only after a great deal of thinking and convincing myself that the world isn't going to fall apart if I go ahead and _____. One of those risks was leaving the safety of my corporate job of nearly 8 years to pursue a dream of writing a book. The thing is, that may have been the last professional risk I've taken. And that was over 2 years ago.

Risk is defined as:
"exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance: It's not worth the risk."
But life is lived and things accomplished only when taking risks, some might say:
I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.  ~Pablo Picasso
Progress always involves risks.  You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first.  ~Frederick B. Wilcox
You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.  ~Wayne Gretzky
A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are for.  ~John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic
Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.  ~Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, 1759
It's not enough to dream about the things I want to do, I must take action if I want any of those dreams to come true. Last week my life coach challenged me to take one risk. Now I must figure out a risk to take. Do I even have any risks lined up? Is there anything I've been holding off on for the fear of it?

Risk is not about doing things that doesn't make sense. It's not about doing something just because I'm scared. I'm not about to jump out of a plane just yet. To me, risk is doing something that moves me forward when the only thing holding me back is fear. With that in mind, I will...

I started writing about a project I want to work on and the words came out with too much effort. So I stepped away to gain some perspective. By stepped away I mean I sat right here in my chair. And by gain some perspective I mean I journaled for 30 minutes on why I'm feeling so much anxiety in my life right now. 

The money I'd set aside for the past 2 years is gone. I'm concerned about finding a job. I've been looking, but nothing has even remotely sparked my interest. But of course, that's not true. I've had thoughts for the last two years about becoming a life coach. I researched it in November 2006 after leaving my job the month prior. And I let that information sit, unreviewed for the last 25 months. Why?

Because if I enroll in a program to become a Certified Life Coach, then I will have finish that course. And then I'll have to be a Certified Life Coach. I will have to get clients. I will have to coach them. I will have to inspire them. I will have to impart words of wisdom they've never heard before and be the greatest person they ever met. I will have to be the person they owe everything to...but wait...that's just too much pressure. What if I didn't have to be all those things?

What if I just take the course? What if I pass the exams and get a Certificate? What if I end up at a party and someone asks what I do for a living and I tell them I'm a Life Coach? What if that intrigues them and we talk a bit more? What if they ask me to coach them based on that conversation? What if they accomplish some goals as a result of our sessions? What if they refer me to a friend? What if this becomes a pattern and I can make a living out of helping people accomplish their goals? 

With this in mind, I've decided that the best risk I can take to better myself and release the fears in doing so is to make an investment in myself. I've researched certification programs and chosen a program. This morning after my life coach session I enrolled with Coaches Training Institute, and my courses begin on Friday, February 20, 2009. Which means that by this time next year, I will be a Certified Life Coach, as recognized by the International Coach Federation. Good God, I feel liberated!!

I've also been tasked to keep this excitement alive by taking another risk this week. I've confirmed that a small risk is okay, given the huge risk I've just maybe I'll golf at night. Or play a game I've never played or know I'm not good at. Or talk to a neighbor I've never talked to. Whatever the risk, I want to make sure I'm expanding myself in some way that's in alignment not with who I am, but with who I want to be. 

After all, isn't growth the whole point of risk?


And what risk will you take this week?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

3 Years

It's been 3 years since his death. 
3 years and 3 days since I last saw his open eyes. 
3 years and 1 week since I last heard his voice. 
Sometimes it seems like just yesterday. 
Mostly it seems so far away. 
And yet there are times when it feels like his death never happened at all. 
But he's not here, so it must have. 

I don't think about my father's death on a daily basis. The thoughts come and go, and mostly they're happy thoughts. Of warming up with him before his softball games on Friday nights and Sunday mornings. Of going to work with him on Saturdays and learning why it's important to treat wood fence posts before you put them in the ground. Of the black and white fur left on his clothes on his Sunday visits after church. Of the cans of Sprite he practically had glued to his hand and lips. Of the smile he had on his face every time he saw me. Of the thousands of times he told me how proud of me he was. Of the millions of times he told me he loved me. Of the infinite times he showed me he loved me. 

On this day, my father is alive. I'm sure of it.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Inquiry: What Is Complete Joy?

I've been tasked by my life coach to explore what complete joy is to me. So I thought I'd explore this with you. 

The definition of joy is:
"the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation"
Some things that elicit joy in my life:
  • Waking up on the weekend after sleeping in. And realizing it's still only 7:00am
  • Winning a softball game in the bottom of the 7th inning 
  • Watching the sunset from my favorite beach
  • Getting licked by a happy dog
  • A cat resting on my chest while I nap
  • Seeing someone smile when they don't notice anyone's watching
  • Watching someone open a gift they never expected to get
  • Seeing a funny movie
  • Watching a baseball game from any seat in the stadium, beer and hot dog in hand
  • Just Like Heaven
  • A cuddle in the middle of the night when she didn't even know she was doing it
  • Pictures of my me and my dad and me and my mom
  • Reading a book that speaks to me
  • Realizing I've grown
I think the only way to really feel joy is to get lost in it. The moment I recognize it as joy I start to lose it. In the Pray portion of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, she talks about experiencing something so fantastic she gets lost in it. She describes the experience as though she's living it right there in the pages of the book. And she realizes shortly into her experience that she doesn't want it to end. And the moment she has this realization is the moment the experience begins to fade. The more she tries to hold onto it, the quicker it slips away. I believe this is how joy works.

The most important part of happiness and joy and all things good is to actually experience them. "You had to be there," is so true. Even when a story is told well, it is impossible to recreate the atmosphere, recreate the action, the words, the laughter, the moment;  something different has ultimately been created. The importance lies in living the moment rather than reliving the moment. 

For me, complete joy is the act of experiencing these things that bring about emotion of great delight, keen pleasure, and elation, without stopping to wonder how it happened, why it happened, when it's ending, or when it's coming back. So...what is it for you?