Friday, March 30, 2012

Compassion for Assumptions

What a week. Lots of activity, which I truly appreciate even though I found myself feeling quite overwhelmed now and then. I notice overwhelm shows up at times when I have several things coming up that I'm not quite ready for. As I step into the preparations for each activity I relax more and more and as always it all works out. It always helps to remind myself to just take it all one step at a time instead of compressing everything that needs to be done in the next few days into today. Funny how the mind works.

One of the themes I noticed this week was around how important it is to attend to the inner world and the other is one that I notice all the time now, how assumptions cause so much trouble in communication and relationships. I notice when making assumptions about what is going on or what people mean there is a barrier set up that is quite difficult to penetrate unless there is something more important than being right.

As I write this piece I am becoming even more aware of how attending to the inner world and moving beyond the barriers created by assumptions are not two different things but are actually interrelated. How can I even be aware of the assumptions creating unhappiness and distance if I am not paying attention to what is going on in the inner world. By inner world I mean the realm of feelings and their related thoughts. When I brush off feelings or don't really pay attention to what I think when those feelings arise it's easy to skim over the top and completely miss the fallacy of those beliefs and assumptions that are really driving the bus. Conversely when I pay attention and inquire into what's going on in the subcutaneous layers below the skin so to speak I open to a whole new world of possibility.

compassionTo put this in very simple terms, don't believe your own BS; it is not likely giving you what you think it is, usually having to do with safety. Since some kind of need for safety is behind much of what drives us, why not provide some of that safety by compassionately paying attention and calling the bluff? Sure beats the alternatives. Inquiry without compassion (the desire to relieve suffering) is not helpful since it tends to reinforce the less than loving beliefs we have with thoughts like 'What's the matter with me' 'I'm so stupid' or 'I should know better'. Those too are assumptions that do not serve so why not approach the dismantling of falsehood with compassion and understanding since it's all part of the human condition we find ourselves experiencing even though it is what we are.


Monday, March 26, 2012

The Drive to Survive

I found myself in an interesting space last night after watching a portion of Disney Nature's Earth. It is cinematically very beautiful and really awe inspiring. It is also a reminder of the harshness of life all over the planet and for me it really brought up how important the basic survival instinct is in all creatures, including us humans.

I've often been aware of this deep instinct to survive in my work with people and just in observing myself and life around me. It is likely one of the most powerful forces we deal with on a day to day basis, yet we are rarely aware of just how many of our fears and patterns of behaviour are actually connected to this built in survival mechanism.

Where I find this drive to stay alive most interesting is in the way we've woven in all kinds of unresolved memories and beliefs and concepts making it almost impossible to tell what's really a threat and what isn't. Most of the time fearful responses are so automatic there isn't even a moment of questioning the veracity of the triggers. When following the thread of belief behind a fear based reaction, it isn't unusual to come to the place where a person's very survival has been deemed to be threatened when in fact there was no such threat at all. A very simplistic example of this is glancing in the back yard and seeing a length of rope in the grass and mistaking it for a snake. It isn't the truth but if you don't check it out you will never know.

So it is with all kinds of fearful reactions we have to things that happen in life; if we don't check out if our assumptions are real or not (more often than not they aren't) we just keep reacting fearfully to anything that triggers those deeply buried memories. They become part of the survival instinct which is thus distorted, often to the point of not being recognizable. That's why it's so important to keep checking out those fearful reactions, they are rarely what we think they are on the surface. Feel AlivenessWhen we do see them for what they really are, distorted projections of unresolved memories, with compassion and understanding then we can move beyond them and live life more fully.There's so much more life to be lived.


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Stillness Beyond

Some days we have sunshine, some times it's cloudy, other days we have rain and today we have a beautiful spring snow. We need them all and there is something to appreciate in every kind of weather.

Life is like that isn't it? It isn't always sunny and it isn't always raining. Life is in a constant state of change even as the core of Being remains the same. I love that there is a place within that is totally unaffected by whatever the 'weather' is doing on the surface. It's a place from which the view is always awesome and there is no thought of whether anything is good or bad or right or wrong; it is what it is.

I personally do not find this place of tranquility when I am focused in my head and on my thoughts. Nor do I find it when I get caught up in emotionality which is really just the movement of thought in the body. I find it rather when I move deeply into being through any feelings or thoughts I may be experiencing at the moment. It is not a practice of avoiding but rather being present to whatever shows up with compassion and curiosity about what is beyond.

Sometimes I have to go through several layers of thoughts and emotions to get to the core but persistence pays and the reward is unlike anything I have ever experienced in my attempts to distract myself or avoid what was going on. Presence is; it is not personal or opinionated or something to be achieved. It is always here, the question is really where is the attention being focused? If I've been staring at something for any amount of time, caught up in what I think about it there is but a shift in focus required and the willingness to see beyond whatever I have been believing.

I breathe; I rest; I am that I am.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Revealing the Tenderness Within

Conversation is such a great revealer of what's going on within. I catch myself regularly in conversation saying things that are opinionated and judgmental which I could slide right past if I didn't hear myself say them in conversation.

We reveal ourselves regularly when we talk but we usually miss the signals because we're so used to saying what we say, believing what we believe and assuming that how we see it is the way it is. There's a fine line between having opinions about what is going on in the world and believing what we are opining. For instance, I heard recently that right now there are something like 18 veteran suicides in the US every day. That was a jaw dropper for me even though I am aware of  there being 10s of thousands of homeless veterans which kind of blew me away when I first heard it too. I have no objection to suicide per say, as Neale Donald Walsh pointed out in one of his Conversations with God books, most of us are committing suicide in some way or other, it's really just a matter of timing. What captures me is how poorly veterans are treated after serving their country. I have an opinion about that and I feel sad about it. Not that I'm pro war or the military but these are people, often young people, who seem to be treated as disposable commodities.

The fine line for me is in the tendency to judge those who are 'in charge'. I don't know the big picture, I don't have all the information and even if I did, there's so much more going on than I can fathom that it is really not possible for me to judge anyone, including myself. Even with all my opinions the only really sensible response for me is to come to the place of not knowing and allow compassion and understanding to emerge which it inevitably does when I go beyond my opinions and judgments.

An interesting note to this kind of melting away of judgment is how tender I end up feeling. I find myself getting teary eyed just watching news or a commercial or seeing people who are having difficulty of some kind or rejoicing with someone's achievement or victory in a way I do not when I'm hiding behind some kind of judgment or strong opinion. I'm here to tell you, I'd much rather get teary eyed for the flimsiest of reasons than barricade myself in the cold emptiness of criticism and fault finding. I know that place only too well.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Returning to Center

There is an interesting phenomenon that can happen in relationships of all kinds; it's called polarization. It's what happens when individuals (or groups for that matter) are off their centers, in other words reacting to something that is uncomfortable for them, and the other (s) react to their reaction.

Some people will head off into the swamp of feeling sorry for themselves, some will become very controlling, some will do whatever they can to avoid by trying to be uber positive, in other words go into denial, others will check out and go into a kind of metaphysical munchkin land. When this happens (well, really some people live in their off centered states most of their lives) it brings up discomfort for others in the relationship if they are off their centers and this is where the polarization happens; for example one gets negative, the other get super positive or at least avoids any 'negativity' or vice versa.

You know you're polarizing when your strategy (ie getting super positive and wanting the other (s) to be as well or getting swampy and wanting to drag the other (s) in there with you) don't work to make you happy. The real fun part is when you find that what you are doing isn't working so what do you do then? You do it more of course! You may think that is counter intuitive but alas it is the human condition to keep moving in the direction of our beliefs no matter what the results, until we don't.

The final shakeup usually takes some kind of crisis or the experience getting so uncomfortable you can't go on or you somehow realize there's a pattern unfolding, again, that has been with you most of your life. This is good news! When the strategies fall apart, there is an opening created for something more authentic to emerge.

So what do you do when you find yourself in one of these polarized dynamics in your personal relationships or at work? The first step would be to stop. Stop moving in the direction you've been desperately trying to resolve the issue in. If you've been trying to be super positive or have withdrawn in an attempt to protect yourself from someone's intense emotional pain for instance, stop, take a breath, relax a minute and touch into your discomfort. Let your attention rest there for a moment or two and acknowledge how hard you've been trying to avoid this experience. Notice what you think about this feeling you don't like. Did you decide somewhere along the line that this wasn't acceptable for some reason? Are you aware of how much you have been 'protecting' yourself from whatever it is? Is it true that you need to protect yourself now based on something that may have happened in the past? What if what you decided about this isn't really true? What if it was just a mistaken assumption made long ago that has been in charge whenever anything triggers the memory? What if you could just be here now, present to the pain or discomfort and allow what you think about it to dissolve? Is it really so bad? Are you really in danger here? Not likely my friend, not likely.
Lotus Yoga Energy Flow
What I'm saying here is that you don't have to polarize when you get uncomfortable, you can bring presence and understanding within instead of avoiding, which brings you back to center. From center you open to a myriad of possibilities that did not exist in the reactive state. You can see more clearly what is yours to do and you can experience true inner peace instead of trying to change those around you (which never works by the way) in order to be OK. Even writing about this brings me into a deeper state of peace and flow. I've experienced the shift many times and the good news is peace is restored quicker, easier and more joyfully with practice. It's really a way of being in the world.  Mmmm, delicious.


Monday, March 12, 2012

The Perfection of the Moment

Back home again to some beautiful weather after an uneventful flight back; I really appreciate uneventful flights. It's a bit of an adjustment getting back into Alberta time, especially when daylight savings started the day we returned but a couple of days into the routine at home and all is well.

I've been asked a few times what the best part of the holiday was for me and I honestly can't answer that. Every day was perfect in and of itself, just as every day at home is. They aren't all the same and they certainly aren't all fun and games but they are all perfect for what they present.

White FeatherI often use a line from the movie The Four Feathers with Heath Ledger that has stuck with me over time. When asked why he had helped the Ledger character and saved his life over and over, the African warrior replied 'Because God put you in my way.' That has become one of my favorite reminders that everything and everyone in my life is here because Life put them in my way. I don't always know why, that's really none of my business most of the time, the real question is what or who am I in the face of this? The old 'Who do you think you are?' comes into play in a very different way than had been inferred when I was younger. It isn't a put down anymore, it's a go deeper question.

I can tell pretty quickly now when I get caught up in thinking I am my body or personality or  self-image. If that's where I have defaulted to, I am quite likely to be triggered easily into reacting to people and situations that challenge me. On the other hand, when I go deeper and allow what I really am to respond I find that every challenge is an opportunity to express more of what that is in the moment. The good news is the turnaround can happen at any time in the process, even if I initially was in the illusion of being a personality.

'I am that I am' is another of my favourite reminders that it isn't about pigeon holing myself and others but rather being present to what is in every moment. We cannot predict and plan for every eventuality, what a chore that is; we can only show up and be fully present to the moment and the wonders of being that are available through whatever shows up. From here it's all perfect.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Both Eyes Open

One of the reasons we came to the island of Maui is because they have a sporting clays range that we wanted to visit. We finally made it yesterday after our first attempt was cancelled due to rain. There's been an incredible amount of rain in Hawaii these past few days with lots of flooding on Kauai and Oahu and some on other parts of Maui. We've been very fortunate to get some rain but nothing serious.

Anyway, we made it to Maui Sporting Clays yesterday morning and had a fabulous time. Got an unexpected lesson which totally screwed me up in terms if actually hitting any clays but invaluable in terms of understanding what I have been doing that hasn't been working. As usual, when we are learning something new it feels strange, uncomfortable and things don't seem to work at first. It takes time and lots of practice to get used to another way of doing and of being.

I am very grateful for the realization that it is better to see with both eyes open (I had been closing one of my eyes to shoot which I just learned is not the way to accurate shotgunning) and for a new concept of fluid motion in my shooting. As always this doesn't only apply to shooting now does it? Keeping both eyes open to see what's really going on and moving with what I see instead of trying to anticipate it certainly applies to every other area in life as well. After all, it's all metaphor isn't it?

Here's a picture, albeit a fairly poor quality one, of the crater where the sporting clays range is. The view was awesome.

Today we are relaxing as we prepare to fly back home tomorrow. It's been fabulous and I'm actually feeling ready to go back. So much appreciation for all that Life has to offer.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Where Am I Going?

I've been pondering life and where I'm headed while here in Hawaii.

I'm taking a 10 week master coach training online with Certified Coaching Federation and have been learning a lot about marketing, websites, writing books, social media, speaking, etc. All great stuff that also brings up a lot of questions for me, mainly, where am I going with all this?

I have come to a place of clarity about that today. At this stage in my life I have no desire to be some big celebrity coach or be out there traveling around most of the year or being a big time anything. I just want to do what I do the best way I can and live a relatively simple life. I love working with individuals and with small groups as we dismantle the illusions of separation and self-imposed limitation. I love being a life celebrant and sharing those very special times with families, supporting them to find meaning and closure in the death of their loved ones. I love officiating weddings and providing spiritual counseling and support. I don't need to be famous or be the most popular at any of it, I just want to give what I have to give as I am directed by Inner Being and let it be what it will be.

Having said all that, it doesn't mean I don't do any of the stuff I've been learning; on the contrary, I do what I am led to do and I let whatever isn't mine fall away. I am clear about what is important, at least at this point on the journey and I am at peace. I enjoy every moment and look forward to whatever it is that shows up on my path and that which I am led to do. Life really is quite simple when there is no trying to be something or someone other than what Life is as this particular expression of Itself.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012


It's quite fascinating to sit and watch the birds doing their thing down below our lanai. Our downstairs neighbours have been feeding the birds so we get a lot of returning visitors down there and occasionally up on our lanai as well. It's interesting to see the diversity of species and how they all just get along, scratching for food, doing their thing. There's a great harmony that is evident when you watch wildlife. Even those times where animals are chasing and eating others, there is a natural order unfolding that is undeniable when we remove our judgment and tendency toward anthropomorphism. When we aren't so quick to judge through our lens of fears and beliefs all is well.

I was talking to a friend via skype this morning as well. Her dad is really sick, has been for a long time and was just hospitalized yet again last week. She flew to where he lives to be with her mom and with him for a few days. I said something about how amazing it is how long people can hang on when they are very sick and she told me how he had been expressing his gratitude and appreciation for life, for the people in his life and for how fortunate he was compared to many others. This was not a perspective he had most of his life when he was healthy and younger but he has it now. Who would have guessed? It was a great reminder for me not to judge by appearances and by my own limited views, I really have no idea what's going on beyond the surface.

As I said, there is a harmony and a perfection in the way life is unfolding. All I really have to do to see it is be still, clear the filter of my thoughts and appreciate the moment.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Maui Mongooses and Rats

Pretty strange title for a post I know but bear with me. We are in beautiful Wailea, Maui enjoying the sun, surf and those fabulous trade winds. We are at a wonderful boutique hotel up the hill from the beach where there is an abundance of space, beautiful vegetation and quiet.This is a view from our lania in the early morning.

We also have an abundance of wildlife as there is all over Hawaii. Mostly birds of an endless variety but here we have a resident duck (a lame duck at that) and a chicken that hangs around most of the time too. Here they are viewed from our lanai as well.

We were at a manager's reception yesterday and were asking one of the staff about another animal we had seen chasing the chicken which we thought might be a mongoose. Sure as heck it was. We were told that there was a problem with rats on Maui and so someone in their infinite wisdom had brought in the mongoose to deal with the rat problem. The only problem with that is that the rats are nocturnal while the mongooses are not so, never the twain did meet now apparently they have a problem with rats and mongooses.

Hmm, I thought, there's a great metaphor in this little story. I would liken the rats to beliefs and experiences we don't like. We want to get rid of them because they make us uncomfortable so we bring in the mongoose, beliefs that we see as better than the rats but they don't actually deal with those beliefs and experiences we didn't like in the first place, they just become more beliefs and experiences we don't want either. Both end up proliferating unchecked because we didn't actually deal with the original problem we just added to it.

That's why I don't really encourage replacing one belief with yet another. It might feel good for a while but eventually we come to realize that it is just another belief, it still isn't the truth because it is something we brought in, not something that naturally arose from beyond the original belief. If we cannot find a place of peace wherever we are, with whatever is going on, introducing something else isn't going to do it either, at least not in the long term. We may get temporary relief but I for one prefer to deal with the real issue, not the just the symptoms.

So if the rat represents an uncomfortable idea that is not the truth, why not see it for what it really is, a lie no matter how well meaning it may have been when it was conceived. From there at least we have a modicum of possibility to open to the realization of the magnificent truth of Being instead of just adding another layer to the illusion.

That's my story about the rat and the mongoose. Metaphor is so much fun!

Now for another day in paradise...