the heart is not what i thought

After publishing my post on the heart I didn’t know what to blog about next. Everything I attempted to write seemed conceptual and slightly pretentious – ironically, coming from my head and not my heart!

My mind has been my albatross, but for the most part it’s felt more comfortable than my heart or body. The torture of the mind is strangely safe, familiar. At least I know what to expect, and its endless analyses make me feel like I’m in control of my experience. Shifting the power to my heart is venturing into unknown territory. It’s a blank, open space in which the rules are totally different. (And I can’t know the rules in advance.)

infullbloom_bf

Of course living from the heart is about love. But so many of our ideas about love are bound up in the emotions. Most of the time, I don’t walk around in an emotionally loving state. I get highly triggered on a daily basis. And for a long time, I felt bad about this. But at some point I accepted that I just wasn’t capable of more. So I started to take the pressure off myself in situations where I felt upset. Spirit, I can’t feel loving right now, so help me be neutral. Neutrality is the best I can do.

It’s like I thought being neutral would take me into a more ‘loving’ state, i.e., it was step two of three. Trigger – neutrality – love. But through my yoga and meditation practice these past few months, I’m wondering if neutrality is the loving state. Perhaps the heart, at its very essence, is less emotional than I thought.

A neutral heart-space is the gateway for spirit. Divine love can enter more easily when we’re not jammed up with habitual thoughts and emotions (especially self-judgment or self-blame). We have more room to be the vessel for service and healing. We are purer channels of consciousness when our minds don’t hijack the process with ideas of how love ‘should’ look and feel. Neutrality allows higher truth to flow through, and the heart is the portal.

Neutrality can be very uncomfortable. Emotions want to rush in and fill the space, because being ‘empty’ can feel almost cruel, like we’re robotic or don’t care. We’d rather have a negative emotion than no emotion at all! But neutrality is not boring or apathetic or lacking feeling, as I long thought. It’s not suppression or avoidance. Neutrality is the willingness to fully feel all our feelings and let them work through our body and psyche, so that we become more clarified. From there we can access more refined states of compassion and empathy.

Emotions don’t disappear…they are beautiful. But the intense waves subside.

I think we need to be as clear, neutral, and calm as possible these days, in this volatile world. There’s a bigger picture at play – the shadow of humanity is being unearthed, and it’s easy to get swept up in the highly charged fears and emotions. Playing into the collective drama of separation only feeds the perpetual game of duality.

I don’t want to dissociate from the game, but I try to remember my limited human perspective. Staying neutral, while seeing our own shadow reflected around us, is perhaps the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and the planet.

a selection of awakening experiences part II

I write these words the day before the February full moon, also my 40th birthday. For weeks I was looking forward to participating in Barbara Franken’s awakening challenge – I picked a pretty auspicious day for reflection – but now that the moment is here, I feel blocked. There’s so much to say about awakening, yet it all feels like concept. How to write about the ineffable?

Touching Her Potential, Hans Walor

Touching Her Potential, Hans Walor

I moved away from my current city last summer, only to return a few weeks ago. I’m living in the same apartment building as before the move, and this week I’ll likely return to my former place of employment. My favourite cashiers are still at the Whole Foods down the block, giving me extra stamps for my coffee. I hear the familiar sounds of birds chirping outside my window, and a siren in the downtown background.

It’s like I never left.

Back in August, I couldn’t wait to get out of the city. I was so tired of honking horns, screaming sirens and noisy neighbours. I was on edge all the time, and desperately wanted to be somewhere quieter, more removed. I needed to hear my own heart and voice, and I just couldn’t do it where I was.

And the move was good for me. I started my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program, met some wonderful new people, learned valuable work and life lessons, and, two weeks before moving back, ‘randomly’ reconnected with a soul mate for some much-needed healing and completion.

But overall, I didn’t really find the peace I was searching for. In perfect universal order, all the sounds I’d resisted followed me to my new place. I got it – changing the externals wasn’t going to change much. It was time to come ‘home’.

Knowing What She Wants, Hans Walor

Knowing What She Wants, Hans Walor

Since last October, when I began my teacher training, I’ve gone from sporadic meditation to a daily practice of yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or mantra chanting. Specifically, for the past two weeks I’ve been doing a meditation designed to calm the heart.

As I become more attuned to my body’s signals and sensations, I can feel the bracing of my heart. For many years I’ve held my breath, hypervigilant, steeling myself from any potential hurt or shock coming my way. Lying in savasana, deep relaxation, I’m aware of how difficult it’s been for my system to just…relax.

Throughout my spiritual journey, I heard the words ‘listen to your heart’, ’trust your heart’, and ‘open your heart’ so many times that they lost meaning for me. I was frustrated. I didn’t know how to hear my heart. I didn’t know how to access that soft, still place that knows, I’m okay wherever I am. The voice that knows me better than anyone.

Genesis, Hans Walor

Genesis, Hans Walor

With patience, practice, humility, commitment, and discipline, I am becoming stabilized in my own heart. This is my awakening. My breath is clearing the way. My heart was never closed to begin with. It has always been strong, open, pounding, wise, knowing, and loving – waiting for me. And now I get to live in that place.

The sirens don’t bother me so much anymore. The loud noises aren’t so jarring. Since participating in Barbara’s first challenge, I’ve learned and unlearned so much. I’m a different person than I was two years ago, six months ago, two weeks ago. Nothing has changed these past few months, yet everything has changed. My experience of awakening will surely change too. And it’s all perfect.

Thank you for this opportunity, Barbara. Next up is Sue at http://suedreamwalker.wordpress.com.

solstice, samskara, surrender

As we enter the winter solstice, I’m in awe of nature’s rhythms. Last week, my city was struck with back-to-back severe windstorms and heavy rains. It was evident that Gaia was doing some serious clearing and cleansing.

The dramatic weather perfectly mirrored my internal state as my frustrations, irritations, and limitations thrashed about. I felt uncomfortable and angry, like a caged bird. A prisoner in my own home, and in my own mind.

It took all my might to tune into a quiet, still voice from within. Is this how you want it to be? Do you realize you can let some of this go, once and for all?

A beautiful solstice labyrinth created by my friend G.

A beautiful solstice labyrinth created by my friend G.

The comments from my last post got me thinking about attachment to our emotions, particularly our pain. To me there’s no question that to become whole, essential beings, we must feel all our feelings – the light and the shadow, the joy and the sorrow.

But some of us get so comfortable processing the darkness that it becomes our identity. We don’t know when or how to give ourselves permission to stop. We drown in our samskaras, our karmic patterns and habitual tendencies. We can’t tell if we’re healing or wallowing.

Even though we want to feel lighter, brighter, and more carefree, we’re more at home in melancholia. Heaviness feels real, because we’ve practiced it for so long. The ‘light’ feels unknown, an empty space. For some of us, this emptiness evokes annihilation.

We don’t want to shun the darkness, but we would like some relief.

Obviously it’s a personal journey and one that demands radical self-honesty. Only we can know for ourselves when we’re avoiding painful emotions, when they’ve become a crutch or habit, and when we can let them go. This knowing happens in the heart and not the mind. It has many subtle layers.

For me it’s required a higher level of trust in something beyond ‘me’. It’s required humility in acknowledging that I can’t navigate the journey alone. It’s required the acceptance that I am not in control, I don’t know why things happen the way they do, and that I’m totally Spirit-dependent. It means having to let go of who I thought I was, and be willing to start anew. My ego hates all of that.

View from my apartment window

View from my apartment window

The thing about the howling wind and pouring rain…there was no question that it would pass. It had to. The real question was, would I allow the light that was sure to follow? Am I going to take myself out of my present hermitage and isolation, and embrace the love that’s all around? The love I once judged as ‘not good enough’, because I myself felt ‘not good enough’? Am I going to trust that grace exists?

I recently completed a 40-day meditation as part of my Kundalini Yoga homework. My samskaras – chronic anger, frustration, and reactivity – rose to the surface in a big way. As did the realization that it is totally in my power to release them, if that’s what I want. It may take time, discipline, and commitment…but it can happen.

I feel blessed to have lived on this island for the past few months. There aren’t words to describe what has opened for me. It was here that, fifteen years ago, I first discovered I was an angry woman. I’ve come full circle, and I’m ready to move forward.

It’s time to unburden ourselves from the weight we no longer need to carry. We’re allowed to surrender it to the light…the light of the solstice, the light of the Divine, and the light of the collective consciousness. We can trust that what’s ready for release will be transformed for the highest good. Once and For All.

you do not understand your features

you do not understand your features

susan seddon boulet, ‘venus’, with my modifications

stoking my heart’s fire

Fire has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s partly the talk of April’s cosmic intensity, but it’s also the desire to feel my own inner fire. To have it burn so strong and steady that I don’t question myself about anything anymore.

I want my life to be fuelled by that glowing, beautiful fire within. The fire that can be trusted to stir, ignite, heat up…but never harm or burn.

My inner fire is my inner voice. My inner voice is my heart.

'harmony', by the amazing toni carmine salerno.

‘harmony’, by the amazing toni carmine salerno.

For many years, I didn’t trust my heart. Somewhere in childhood, I began to rely quite heavily on my mind, my brain. I was always the smartest in school, and this became my ‘thing’. My brain was consistent. It was my trusty friend, and it wouldn’t let me down. It delivered.

My heart, on the other hand, was not so safe and predictable. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it shut down, but I recall many incidences where it became increasingly weighed down and stifled. I think many of us can relate to this. It’s not always just one thing that closes the heart; it’s more like it gives up after a string of defeats.

When we don’t feel our heart, how can we possibly trust it?

Throughout my teens and twenties, I saw myself as someone with a weak heart. Lots of physical ‘facts’ backed this up: a slight heart murmur, my Ayurvedic constitution, a lack of vitality, weak chi. I often felt awkward around people; I was an introvert, and small talk was painful. (That last part is still true.) I was envious of friends who could so easily connect with others.

When I was told I was ‘reserved’ or ‘angry’ and advised to ‘open my heart’, this lent to my sense of inherent wrongness, that my heart was somehow deficient. I felt transparent, like everyone could see right through me.

But – awareness is a wonderful thing, and I’m now questioning all that bullshit.

Of course I have a heart, and of course it’s strong, and of course it’s giving me guidance all the freakin’ time, and of course I can hear it. It may seem to speak softly…but it’s actually roaring.

The fire I’m feeling is my heart coming alive, my inner voice and authority becoming louder and clearer.

It’s time to let my heart take the reins. To trust that it’s been there all along. It’s the one thing that can provide true solace and guidance in these times of flux and change. My brain has been in control for so long, serving and protecting me well in many ways. But I must release some of that control, on the faith that something far more vast and powerful is available to me.

My heart was never really closed or hardened, because the heart cannot be those things. It can only be obscured – ignored, forgotten – to the point where it seems inaccessible. Its fire can become dimmer and dimmer, but that original spark, no matter how small, will never completely extinguish.

I’ve been intent on leveraging April’s potent energies to create what I really want. But it’s not just about lists and goals and external manifestations. The most meaningful creation must emanate from the heart-space. And this is about how I want to feel in life, more than anything: peaceful, steady, centered, trusting, vibrant, alive, passionate – and yes, oh-so-fiery.

the burning loneliness

In Reveal, Meggan Watterson writes of her spiritual pilgrimage to France, where she discovered that, without a partner/lover travelling by her side, she was challenged to maintain her own self-worth: 

I found myself on a treacherous see-saw, vacillating between the extremes of feeling free and entirely independent – like Salma Hayek in the movie Frida, when she cuts her hair and becomes her own after her husband has betrayed her – to feeling totally alone and ineffectual, my life devoid of purpose and meaning.

While my experience was not so intense, I resonate with Watterson’s words.

misty fireball

There were times in Italy when I was just so cool with my aloneness. I loved being on the trains, listening to music and watching the landscape pass me by. These were some of my favourite moments. I loved doing whatever I wanted each day, even if it meant doing nothing. I loved getting up early and walking for hours with no real destination, which might have been harder with a travel partner. Sitting at a cafe and just observing my surroundings was a favourite pastime. This is when I often met people; in that open, receptive state, content in being one with everything around me.

But at times it was incredibly challenging to be alone. That is, it was lonely. As in, I’m in Italy and there’s all this beauty around me and yes, I’m grateful, but man, what is the point of it all, if there is no one around to share it with? I remember walking amongst the intense crowds in Venice and thinking, How can I possibly feel alone right now, with all these people here, all of us enjoying this beautiful place together? And while I felt that to some degree, I was also fooling myself. Venice was hard.

lonely venice

At times, I was so sick of my own company. Of entertaining myself, of thinking my own thoughts. I realized there’s a limit to how much of myself I can take.

I thought about those I love, my friends and family back home. I missed them. And, more profoundly, I felt how I shut them out when I am at home. Well, maybe that’s too harsh. Rather, I felt how I don’t really make the effort to spend more time with them, to show them how much I care. Why don’t I do more to maintain those loving, vital connections?  Do I expect/assume that others will do it?

One of my most challenging moments was in a restaurant in Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast. As I sat down and ordered my meal, the room quickly began filling with people. Groups of people. Families, friends, couples. Maybe it was because I was towards the end of my trip, maybe because I’d made two strong (soul) connections a couple nights before…but I felt my aloneness intensely. Like I was in the middle of a 360, my solo status blatantly on display for all to see. Spotlighted.

I could feel my face and body burning with it; that no matter how cool I attempted to look, people could see right through me. Wondering why this girl was alone, here of all places. Maybe feeling sorry for me, embarrassed for me. I was practically hyperventilating with self-consciousness. Regardless of whether anyone even noticed me that night…I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

a new door

I realized in Italy that I need people. And that I want to need people. Be dependent on them.  Be softer and more vulnerable.

I think I have overrated my independence. I’m glad that I can be happy in my own company…but I can see now how I’ve gotten too comfortable with it. As more and more friends find partners and start families of their own, I see that years can go by in flash. I haven’t known for sure if I want marriage and/or children, but I recognize I could be on the trajectory of not allowing them at all. And that’s a big wake-up call.

Now that I’m home, whether or not I invest more energy in creating/sustaining my relationships is totally up to me. It means questioning: what is truly liking my own company, and what is not being comfortable in – avoiding – the presence of others? Is there a fear of rejection in ‘putting myself out there’? Have my ‘introvert’ and ‘high sensitivity’ labels merely become (un)comfortable excuses to avoid deeper interactions? Does being ‘reserved’ make me feel somehow powerful, untouchable?

***

Or maybe it means not questioning any of it anymore. Maybe the whole point is that it is not so complicated at all. Love is not complicated. It’s the ego that wants to make everything an issue, a puzzle, a problem to be fixed.

I think the Italians would recommend that I stop thinking about it, and live.  Right.  Okay.

Grazie Mille, Italy.

Images courtesy of Vaughan Lewis.