In her book, Awakening Loving-Kindness, Pema Chodron offers us a wonderful story about the illusions of heaven and hell:
“There’s another story that you may have read that has to do with what we call heaven and hell, life and death, good and bad. It’s a story about how those things don’t really exist except as a creation of our own minds. It goes like this: A big burly samurai comes to the wise man and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.” And the roshi looks him in the face and says: “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?”
The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won’t stop, he keeps saying, “A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?” Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he’s just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, “That’s hell.”
The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, “That’s heaven.” “
An idea to ponder today from one of my favorite authors and spiritual teachers…
“I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were, or think we ought to be. By cultivating nonjudgmental openness to ourselves and to whatever arises, to our surprise and delight we will find ourselves genuinely welcoming the never-pin-downable quality of life, experiencing it as a friend, a teacher, and a support, and no longer as an enemy.”
I have sorrow surfacing this morning. This sorrow bubbled up after I heard about the break-up of two people I love. Like the tender little flowering vine above, this sorrow winds itself around my heart. And it tightens its grip when I read about some people’s reactions to Bowe Bergdahl’s release from years of captivity in Afghanistan. Most of the press about Berdahl is so mean and cruel; he went from being a victim we heroically rescued from the Taliban to an evil deserter perp in record time. And now his parents are getting death threats. I am so sad when I hear about how cruel we can be to each other. I just don’t see how arguing about who is the real victim and who is the baddest person of all helps anyone.
I am sad from watching people push hurt and pain onto someone else while insisting that it is the right or moral thing to do. We humans excel at off-loading our grief and hurt, don’t we? Instead of sitting with hurt or sorrow and allowing ourselves to feel it, own it and then honestly express it, we spew our pain all over someone else. I get the sense that this pain passing round robin is why we keep repeating the same mistakes again and again, re enacting the same wars, crimes and petty nastiness against each other generation after generation. We lob our yucky dissonant feelings (what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain body) on to another person like a hot potato. We may feel better temporarily, but we’ve simply passed the pain on to someone else and nothing ever gets resolved.
In all the years that I had a private healing practice, I spent most of each session teaching clients how to get in touch with their pent up emotions and then express them than in way that didn’t hurt anyone else. Expressing the difficult emotions is such a key part of being able to heal and move on. But instead of feeling and healing, we continue to spew and blame others for every pain.
Humans have clubbed each other over the head with their pain and their hurt for millennia. Only now, we have raised pain passing to fine art; we employ hate radio jocks like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to help lob our pain “out there” – onto some evil person who “deserves it.” Or we post and tweet hateful things about people we don’t even know and call it entertainment. It’s easy to lob our pain onto a stranger and walk away.
I am sad about what I heard today. It hurts to be sad, I do NOT like this feeling. But I’ve learned that the only way to move beyond sadness or grief without lobbing it on someone else is to acknowledge what I am feeling right now; I need to sit with it. Sit quietly and breathe deeply. So I will sit and breathe and focus on whatever sensations come up in my body. I will honor this feeling and the big open hearted part of me that cares so deeply and feels so sad. I may weep. I may feel like my heart will break. But I will sit with this sad and honor it with my attention. And slowly, like a summer storm blowing through, this sad will pass.
Sit in a safe, quiet place
Slow down your breathing; count to 3 with each in breath, then 4 or 5 or 6.
Breathe slow and deep. Notice whatever you’re feeling right now.
Lengthen your exhale. Make your exhale longer than your inhale.
Imagine that you can breathe out difficult feelings and sensations. No need to ignore or push them away; just breathe them out.
Just breathe and notice whatever bubbles up from within you; body aches, emotion, difficult thoughts. Just notice whatever comes up and breathe it out.
Breathe it all out without judging it harshly. Breathe it out with as much compassion and self-love as you can muster.
If tears or rage come, breathe that out too. Try to open your heart to each feeling, each sensation. This is your inner weather – this storm will pass.
Just notice and breathe. Notice and breathe and open your heart.
I was one of the lucky ones; our house was on high ground and didn’t get damaged by the flooding in Lyons, Colorado. But my family still had to evacuate and spend a month moving between various hotels in Longmont, CO. The entire town of Lyons lost sewer, water and gas service. And it still hasn’t been restored.
A few lessons I learned from the flood:
1. Mother Nature is in charge. We humans can fool ourselves for awhile, but when push comes to shove, nature rules.
2. People are amazingly kind-hearted. I saw so much compassion and caring in Lyons in the days and weeks after the flood. My heart continues to overflow with gratitude and joy for all the acts of kindness, both big and small that I witnessed.
3. Not having a place to go home to sucks. Just this tiny taste of homelessness gave me huge compassion for people who spend months or years living in their cars or on the streets. Not having a home is truly nerve wracking.
4. I love Lyons, Colorado! The town is still a complete mess, but I want to be part of this community.
5. Stress can literally kill you. Our 3 1/2 year old male cat Raja didn’t make it through a month of being away from home. Even though he was staying with an amazing friend, Raja got so stressed that he stopped eating. Good bye, buddy! I hope you’re now hunting and sunning in cat heaven.
6. Flowing water can transform the landscape in a matter of minutes. The St Vrain river valley that I have loved and walked and photographed is now a different place.
Water does NOT submit to human control. We can dam it up, and try to stop it, but we should NEVER forget that water is born to flow. And it will continue to flow whether we humans like it or not! Water will NOT be controlled.
7. Flow never stops; Each drop of water on planet earth is on a flowing journey that never ends. This visual of the ocean’s currents, gives us a hint of just how amazing water’s flowing journey truly is:
And my own journey continues; My husband and I spent days searching for a new place to roost without any results. Then, due to the kindness of my favorite realtor, Mark Webber, we rented a great house on the edge of Lyons. This one has a septic system and well (!) AND a kick ass view:
Was this experience good? or bad? Like the old Buddhist story goes, it’s still too soon to tell…
The word healing comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “haelen”, which means to be or become whole. Balance, resonate and heal are all words for the same concept.
To heal and to cure are not the same thing. You can cure or “fix” the physical body, but total healing involves the entire person – not just their physical body. Healing involves balancing and integrating a person’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs and spirit. In practice, the only difference between cure and heal may be about intent; does your doctor, healer, sage, or therapist intend to heal body, mind, heart and spirit? Or just fix your body’s symptoms?
I believe that healing involves reconnecting with what is amazing about ourselves. So I don’t focus on just stopping some symptom or pain in my ElementalFlow sessions. Flow healing is about transformation; it’s about digging in, and bringing joy and passion up to the surface . And it’s about learning how to live authentically from a space of joy. My goal is to blaze a new trail that cuts through the craziness of the world, and helps each of us find our way home.
“Healthy tissue flows with juice. A healthy person flows with joy. And a healthy life flows from one adventure to the next. Flow is at the heart of all healing and transformation.” ~Nancy Lankston
When you picture health, think wet, juicy and mobile. Imagine clean flowing fluids. Immobile, stiff body parts are signs of distress; To stay healthy, living cells require oxygen and nourishment flowing in and waste flowing out. Tissues with poor flow will eventually manifest disease in one form or another.
Any part of your life where you are stuck in mental, emotional or spiritual discomfort or dis-ease – any place where you choose to ignore, stuff or disconnect from your discomfort will eventually create tense, stuck places in the body as well. Each unresolved issue is a potential illness in your future.
The Poetry of Pain
Many times, pain is the only way that your body has been able to get your attention. Believe it or not, those physical and emotional pains that you are experiencing are actually your body’s way of trying to help you find your way home.
I find that at the heart of most chronic struggles, pains and illness, lies an emotional or spiritual issue that you have been ignoring or avoiding. Those issues that are too painful to face have a direct link to the chronic pains you experience in your body. As Wilhelm Reich, psychoanalyst turned bodyworker, described it, “our issues are in our tissues.” When you uncover the underlying issue or emotion and deal with it, then your symptoms will resolve.
After 25+ years in the “healing” profession, I continued to be stunned and awed by the miraculous workings of the human body. It is as though our bodies hold all the knowledge of the world’s most gifted sages and healers. The wisdom of the ages is held there within our cells. The trick is to figure out how to access all that knowledge; to decipher our body’s language.
Bodies never lie and they always know what the real problem is. The trick is to learn how to reconnect with your body’s natural language. Bodies speak in metaphor and poetry. And your body poem will be uniquely your own. Learning to read your signs is key. Chronic migraines, back pain, that trick knee; learn to listen to your body closely and you will uncover what your body is really upset about.
The Power of Belief
What you personally believe about yourself and your world dramatically influences the way you feel and how you heal. If you believe that you need surgery to repair the herniated disc in your back, then you will need surgery before your back will get better. If you believe your colds always turn into sinus infections unless you take an antibiotic, then guess what? Your next cold is quite likely to turn into a sinus infection! And if you believe that you can’t get a more fulfilling job, then you probably never will. Cling to the belief that your life can never improve and it won’t.
Rigid rules and strongly held beliefs have a huge impact on your physical health; those thoughts of “I have to do it this way”, “things won’t ever change” and “I’m not allowed to do that” actually create tense, tight places in your body where healing flow is not allowed to go. Learning to change your mind and drop rigid rules and judgmental thinking will help you heal and transform your life.
Your physical body needs food to survive. And your soul needs quiet contemplation or prayer. Feed your soul regularly. Your heart requires regular loving connection with other beings; human, spiritual and animal beings. Never underestimate the healing power of a friend just sitting and listening to you – or an animal cuddling with you. And don’t discount the value of playing in the grass or communing with an old tree. Healing comes in all shapes and sizes; use them all!
Follow your heart and feed your Soul regularly. And remember to feed your mind with hopeful, uplifting ideas and images. If you want to be truly happy and healthy, present your mind with joyful words and images. Perhaps watching the Kardashian sisters fight again isn’t always the best entertainment choice. 🙂
Today’s choices create tomorrow’s reality.
It’s an Inside Job
No one can change your life or your health except you. There may be a drug, a doctor, a shaman, a sound, an herb, or a specific therapy that helps you heal or shift in some way. But all healing and transformation ultimately comes from within you. Don’t expect any drug or any person to “fix” you. Find therapists and teachers who help you uncover your own sense of knowing, your own sense of yourself. And in the process, you will uncover how to heal yourself. Your path of healing and transformation will be as unique as your fingerprints. Honor yourself and follow the path that feels right to you.