Milestones

Depending on when you’re reading this, today is my 35th birthday. It’s weird and surreal and feels like more of a milestone than turning 30. A lot of it has to do with the fact my mother had me when she was 35 and I am nowhere near that place in life. So much is still up in the air for me and a part of me feels grief about that.

At the same time, a friend reflected, “Yeah but when you thought about what life would be like at 35 you didn’t have enough information.” Meaning, when I dreamed up my life at 35, I didn’t factor in a sleep disorder that would rob me of rest for seven years. Nor did I take into account other health issues that would keep me from being able to accomplish the things I planned. So really, aren’t I right where I’m supposed to be? Given all the things I’ve been through, aren’t I doing a great job?

stones on a beach

Seemed appropriate. Photo by Colton Brown on Unsplash

I don’t own a house, but I have an apartment I love. I’m not married, but I’m committed to myself. I don’t have kids, but I’m the beloved auntie of many children. Are things really so bad? All day my phone has buzzed with telephone calls and text messages from people wishing me happy birthday. I love and am loved and isn’t that what matters most anyway?

An excerpt of Barbara Crooker’s poem “In the Middle” seems appropriate here:

Time is always ahead of us, running down the beach, urging
us on faster, but sometimes we take off our watches,
sometimes we lie in the hammock, caught between the mesh
of rope and the net of stars, suspended, tangled up
in love, running out of time.

Running out of time — how true. I feel that acutely because very recently a dear family friend died. I’m reminded birthdays are not promised. They are not foregone conclusions. Many people don’t make it to 35, or 34, or 33. Truly every birthday is a milestone. Shivi’s death also has me asking, how I can accept the things in my life with grace? He had ALS so his death was expected and when I saw him last, he seemed at peace with it. He wasn’t bitter or resentful about dying. He accepted the fact of his life and still managed to be there for the people around him. He exuded love and care right until the end.

I’m crying as I type this because I loved Shivi so much and he is a great example of embracing life as it is. Not always, not in every moment — he was human after all — but he flowed with life. As I get older I recognize the importance of doing the same. This past year especially threw me many, many curveballs but I’m still here. I’m going where the water is warm, so to speak, I’m accepting the direction my life is taking me, and I’m letting go of preconceived notions because who can predict anything anyway? If I’ve learned anything in 35 years it’s that.

I dream of a world where we let go of preconceived notions. A world where we accept what is. A world where we feel gratitude for the present moment, even if it’s not what we anticipated. A world where we can accept each day, each year as a milestone.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Something strange happened to me on Thursday. In the afternoon I heard a helicopter circling and peered out my window to identify its location. When I looked out my bedroom window, I spotted not only the helicopter above me, but also a swarm of police cars on the street behind my house. I’m on a hill so the cars were not directly behind me but I could still see them.

I jumped on Twitter and used all the hashtags that came to mind to determine why police cars and a helicopter parked near my house. I googled local news and even called the police nonemergency number. After waiting on hold for nearly 10 minutes I hung up. I couldn’t find an answer to my question. I thought about walking up to a police officer and asking about the fuss, but then I questioned that. “Do you really need to know? Maybe it’s better if you don’t.”

Does this person need to know what they’re walking on or is it better if they don’t, being a sewer and all? Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Confession, although I suspect you already guessed this about me, I don’t watch true crime. I’m not a Law and Order junkie, or a CSI fanatic. I don’t enjoy murders and murder mysteries because I’m too sensitive. That means my brain doesn’t come up with gruesome scenarios, and let’s be honest, reality is much grimmer than my personal imagination. Some of the things people do to one another would never occur to me. But if there are police cars and a helicopter involved, the situation is probably not because someone accumulated parking tickets. Do I need to know that person lives nearby? I do not. (Note: If your google search is more fruitful than mine, please don’t tell me why the police visited my neighborhood unless it is for something innocuous like littering.)

This perspective is a huge shift for me because I want to know everything. My brain tells me I’ll be safer if I know all the details. But is that really true? Does knowing about a murder in Omaha make me safer here in Oakland? Or does it only succeed in making me scared to go to Omaha? All weekend I’ve wrestled with this, itching to check Twitter to find out what happened on Thursday. I resist because once I learn something, that information cannot be unlearned. It’s like trying to suck toothpaste back into a tube.

What also comes to mind is the converse of what I’ve shared: If I need to know something, I will. My higher power will arrange things so I find out information. I’ll run into someone at a party, I’ll overhear a conversation on the street, etc. I searched for a quote here from my spiritual teacher to throw in and came across this one: “[T]he source of physical knowledge is bound up by time, space, and person. With the change of time, space, and person, physical knowledge will change. Hence it is not a permanent knowledge.”

I derive comfort from that quote because it means even if someone awful lives behind me now, it doesn’t mean they always will. Maybe knowledge, like safety, is a snapshot in time. And if it’s a snapshot in time, what’s the point in scaring myself right now?

I dream of a world where we recognize sometimes it’s better to stay in the dark. A world where we realize if we’re meant to know something, we will. A world where we understand sometimes we don’t need to know.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about self-confidence and what I believe I’m capable of. At this point I’m paying attention to the universe and noticing over and over this year I’m making money from contract gigs and freelance assignments. Every full-time (or even part-time!) job I’ve applied for has rejected me. But the random contract gigs and freelance assignments keep rolling in.

I haven’t ruled out getting a regular job, but I’ve also decided to pursue my own business. I’m actively searching for individuals and small businesses that need blogposts, which I can write as myself, or I can ghostwrite them. (Ghostwriting means I capture the person’s voice, do all of the writing for them, but someone else is listed as the author of the piece.) You can check out my website for more information.

Seemed appropriate given the title. Photo by Free Nature Stock on Unsplash

All of this is a preamble to say I teeter on the edge of confidence and insecurity with this new venture. In some moments I exclaim, “I can do this! I’m talented! I got this!” and in others I moan, “Who am I to start a business? I’m talented but will anyone pay me what I’m worth? I’m not sure I can do this.” It has me thinking about humility. The word humility gets a bad rap and is often associated with humiliation or low self-esteem, but the way my recovery programs present humility is “simply an awareness of who we really are today and a willingness to become all that we can be. Genuine humility brings an end to feelings of inadequacy, the self-absorption, and the status-seeking.”

What I’m coming to is isn’t it a kind of cosmic arrogance to think I can’t do something if all signs are pointing toward yes, I can? Isn’t it thumbing my nose at the universe to keep declining something, to choose to keep playing small because of a notion of who think I am? I guess you could say I have a bit of an inferiority complex.

Related to this topic, Indian philosopher, poet, and linguist P.R. Sarkar said neohumanism is a philosophy that will “make people understand that they are not merely ordinary creatures. This philosophy will liberate them from all inferiority feelings and defects, and make them aware of their own importance; it will inspire them to build a new world.”

I identify as a neohumanist and that means I’m not ordinary, and neither are you. None of us are. It also means that something divine is working through me, that I’m used as a channel or a conduit. Who am I to say, “No, that can’t come through me”? To be human, it seems to me, requires surrender, letting go, and accepting what is. And sometimes that’s different and bigger than what I imagined.

I dream of a world where we practice true humility, which is an awareness of who we are and a willingness to become all we can be. A world where we accept and surrender to what the universe desires to express through us. A world where we accept sometimes the universe wants more for us than we want for ourselves, and in those cases we are still fully equipped to handle it.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Whose Bliss?

I feel drained from this weekend so I didn’t write a new post, but this question keeps coming to mind: “How do I know if I’m on the right path?” There have been a few times in the past I felt sure I knew what to do and that doors would swing open for me. However, they stayed firmly shut. Does that mean I wasn’t truly following my bliss? Or rather that my bliss hadn’t been refined yet? With all that in mind, I’m resharing a post from March 2018.

The other day a friend told me he asks people, “How do you know your bliss is the right one?” in response to the slogan “follow your bliss.” When he said that to me, I exhaled deeply. I’ve heard variations of “follow your bliss” such as “follow your bliss and the money will come” for years and it filled me with rancor. I published a book and started a publishing company and the money did not follow. Life didn’t become all sunshine and roses. In fact, the years since my book came out have been some of the hardest of my life. To recap, I moved a jillion times, my health deteriorated, my finances took a nose dive, and more. I did not receive either the internal or external promised riches.

Normally I get pissed off like a child who did exactly as she was asked and didn’t receive her reward. Where is my gold star? Why don’t I have what I’m “supposed” to? I also usually start to look at other people’s lives and say, “They followed their bliss and got what they wanted. Why didn’t it happen for me?” It’s a resentment filled adventure for sure.

I would like to see something like this all the time, thanks. Photo by Kevin Noble on Unsplash

When I ponder that “my” bliss isn’t the right one, I feel better. Perhaps “my” bliss is ego driven and self-centered. Perhaps the bliss I’m following will lead me to a place I ultimately don’t want to go. Maybe I don’t know what’s best for me and maybe I don’t know what “my” bliss is.

I am strong believer in a power greater than myself. I’ve seen over and over again that I’m guided. And if that’s true, that means there’s something doing the guiding, and more often than not, that “something” knows better and knows more than I do, which also relates to how I pray. My prayer is a variation of, “I don’t know what’s best for me universe. Only you know what’s best for me. I want what you want for me. Please align my will with yours.” I think bliss is like that. If I had it my way, I’d live a super cushy life without any drama, with money flowing in due to little effort on my part, seeing beautiful things every day, and eating decadent food. That sounds lovely, but it also means I wouldn’t confront any of my issues; I wouldn’t deal with any of my demons.

In the same conversation with my friend, I told him I can’t suppress anything and because that’s true, I’d rather confront my issues head on. Confronting my issues has made me a better person and a happier person. I don’t feel nearly as anxious as I used to and that’s a direct result of bringing my demons out of the shadows and into the light. That leads me to believe that perhaps my higher power is thinking of my long-term happiness and bliss rather than a short-term gain. Perhaps real bliss then is not mine, but what my higher power wants and I’d feel happier if I aligned my will accordingly. It’s difficult for me to maintain that perspective, but it seems worth a shot. After all, I’d much rather feel happier for a longer period of time than a shorter one.

I dream of a world where we realize sometimes our bliss takes us places that don’t serve us. A world where we understand there’s a difference between the bliss we aim for and the bliss our higher power wants for us. A world where we understand whose bliss will ultimately lead us where we want to go.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

The other day I shared a poem by Khalil Gibran on Facebook titled “Fear.” I’m sharing it again here because it’s relevant to my life right now:

It is said that before entering the sea
a river trembles with fear.

She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.

And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.

But there is no other way.
The river cannot go back.

Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.

The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.

I am that river right now. I’m traveling through mountain peaks and crossing forests. The current of life is moving me along in a direction that excites me and scares me. I’m progressing toward something I didn’t anticipate and for many years said I never wanted, yet here I am, traveling down this path. I want to run away, to turn back and go in the other direction, but like the river, I cannot. Too much momentum has built up. Will I change course? Possibly, but eventually I’ll still enter the ocean, become the ocean. It’s inevitable one way or another.

It all leads to this. Photo by Mathew Waters on Unsplash

I’m speaking in metaphors but that’s because I’m not ready to talk about what I’m going through publicly yet. A part of me doesn’t want to fully commit to this path and telling people what I’m doing means just that. Also, so much changes so quickly for me these days. The river current is rough and filled with rapids at the moment. I don’t know how things will shake out.

And yet, there’s something about becoming the ocean that speaks to me. When I look at what I’m going through, it feels like I’m becoming my truest self. I’m becoming the self I was always meant to be, which is lovely. Also, there’s the spiritual level of becoming the ocean.

My spiritual teacher often uses the metaphor of a river and the ocean to talk about the spiritual journey we’re on. How we’re flowing back to the ocean and becoming the ocean. In essence, we’re returning to Cosmic Consciousness and merging with it.

Sometimes the journey is fast and sometimes it’s slow, but it’s inevitable according to my spiritual philosophy. There’s something comforting for me about knowing the general path is laid out, that even if this river changes course, eventually I’ll still wind up in the same place: the ocean.

I don’t know if this post is making much sense, but I want to close with saying we are each becoming more fully our true selves. We are learning and growing and changing. The process can be scary at times, we may be wending our way through the dark, but we’re heading somewhere amazing and becoming who we’re meant to be.

I dream of a world where we realize our greatness. A world where we flow with the current of life. A world where we understand sometimes there comes a point where we can’t turn back and all that’s left is to keep going. A world where we become the ocean.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Right now, all over the world people are celebrating Diipavali or Diwali, a festival of lights that symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. There’s something interesting for me about how Diipavali is coinciding with the fires in California. I know October is a dry month for California so it’s no surprise my beloved state is on fire, but there’s something especially poignant about the timing of it all.

What I mean is it’s coming to light, pun intended, that Pacific Gas and Electric, the utility company in northern California, is responsible for the blazes raging both currently and last year. Last year an entire town, Paradise, burned to the ground due to PG&E’s negligence, and prompted the company to file for bankruptcy. The utility company has known about the trouble with its equipment for decades and didn’t upgrade it. It’s only now that we can pin the blame squarely on PG&E’s shoulders that something is being done about it.

One candle may kindle another to drive out darkness. Photo by Nishta Sharma on Unsplash

What I’m seeing over and over again is corruption floating to the surface. Secrets are emerging, we’re shining a spotlight in the dark corners, and watching cockroaches scuttle away. Not only with PG&E, but with the impeachment inquiry as well. Shady practices that Trump engaged in are emerging and the majority of us are saying, “No. This is not OK.”

However, unlike with Diipavali where good has triumphed over evil, I don’t think we’re there yet. Instead, we’re in the day before Diipavali, metaphorically speaking. The day before the festival is supposed to be the darkest day of the year when it seems like light will never win. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately. I cannot express how angry I am at PG&E, as well as the behavior of corrupt politicians and CEOs. I want to shake everyone by the shoulders and say, “No, no, no! You can’t do this!”

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here. I notice a swell of anger and frustration erupting but where is it supposed to go? What are we supposed to do? Some are taking to the streets. Others are writing petitions or conversing with elected officials. I’m doing the same but it doesn’t feel like enough. And then I think about Diipavali. The word comes from dīpa, which means lamp or light, and āvali, which means a row, a range, continuous line, series. Essentially a lot of little lights can conquer darkness. One by one by one our actions add up to something bright and Diipavali reminds me of that.

I dream of a world where we have faith light drives out darkness. A world where we believe good conquers evil. A world where we remember our little actions coalesce into something bigger than us and creates a better world for all of us.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

The other day I noticed an Instagram influencer with millions of followers and she has messages like: “This is where your excuses come to die” and “Don’t let anything stop you.” I started wondering, why are these messages so popular? Why does this woman have so many followers? And then it occurred to me, we’re all looking for mirrors, metaphorically speaking.

What I mean is we seek people, situations, experiences, perspectives, etc. that reflect our insides in order to feel safe. If I think I’m a piece of crap and completely unlovable, then I’ll be in relationship with people who convey those messages to me through words and actions. If I believe I’m amazing, then I’ll be in relationship with people who convey those messages to me through words and actions.

We want our outsides to match our insides. Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

What does this have to do with safety? If something doesn’t fit into our worldview, it’s threatening. To go back to my earlier example, if I think I’m a piece of crap, having someone tell me otherwise will lead to suspicion. “What’s wrong with this person if they think I’m great?” or another common thought is, “If they only knew the real me, they wouldn’t believe I’m so great.” Eventually I’d stop hanging out with that person because hearing I’m awesome would be too triggering. It would then be easy to think my relationships are so terrible because other people are the problem, when in reality the world is merely reflecting what I’m projecting.

Why am I bringing this up? I’m bringing it up because it’s easy to believe life is better when something external changes, and that’s true, the external is important, but how many of us are working on our insides? How many of us recognize the connection between our inner world and our outer world?

According to the spiritual philosophy I align with, everything is a thought projection of Cosmic Consciousness. That means nothing is external and everything is internal. It then follows how and why the same is true for the individual — that my internal world gets reflected externally. I understand not everyone will jive with that philosophy, and that’s fine. The point I’m trying to make — and perhaps awkwardly because I’m still sick — is that there’s no difference between the internal and external. What we feel, we project and we seek out. We are all looking for mirrors.

I dream of a world where we understand in order to change our experience of the world we must change our internal reality. A world where we realize oftentimes the external won’t change until the internal does. A world where we realize we are all looking for mirrors.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I’m sick right now and didn’t feel well enough to write a new post or record any audio. The post that came to mind to recycle is from my birthday nearly six years ago. Enjoy! And just in case it wasn’t clear, I’m grateful for you. <3

Today is my 29th birthday, that is, if you’re reading this on December 1st. It’s been a less than stellar day because I had to work from 8:30 to 4:30, I’m still experiencing pain from the car accident, and I’m not having a big party. Suffice to say, today has not turned out the way I expected. The challenge for me is to find the good in what is.

I think we all have expectations of certain days — birthdays, holidays, graduation, first dates, etc. — and when those expectations aren’t met we’re left feeling disappointed. I know I am. However, even though today hasn’t gone the way I’d hoped and I’m not feeling the buzz I normally do on my birthday, there’s been a lot of good about today too. I’ve received numerous telephone calls, text messages, and facebook posts from friends near and far wishing me well. My mom is at this moment making me a delicious dinner. There’s a lot of love for me in this world and today is the day I get to bask in it.

birthday cupcake

It’s my birthday! Here are some pretty cupcakes.

What’s awesome is I spoke to a friend on the phone and I mentioned that if I was in Chicago like I normally am at this time of year to cover a conference, I’d still be celebrating my birthday with family because my sister lives there. Hearing myself say that I was taken aback because I’m so lucky, I’m so loved, I have a lot of community all over the world, which is amazing.

I’m telling you all this not to brag, but because I’m sincerely grateful. Sometimes gratitude becomes dry as I reel off all the things I’m grateful for like heat and food and a roof over my head because I list those things every day. If something occurs every day it becomes mundane, ordinary, common — at least it does for me. So when something doesn’t go the way I expect, it’s even more important for me to find the good about what is. What’s good about the here and now? What’s true? When I do that I can genuinely pull the feeling of gratitude into my heart because I am grateful for my friends and family, I am grateful so many people are wishing me happy birthday, and I am grateful I chose to come into this world on this day. Thank you for being with me on my journey.

I dream of a world where even in sucky situations we can find something good about what is. A world where we all feel genuinely grateful for something. A world where we not only accept what is, but we find something positive about it.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

It’s no secret I’m not doing all that well. Applying for jobs is one of the most demoralizing things a person can do, in my opinion. It’s really getting to me. Not in the sense that I’m questioning my own worth and merit — I know I’m talented and I’m clear I’d be an asset to any company. What’s getting to me is the uncertainty. The question mark of when this will all be over.

People keep telling me, “You’ll get a job,” but no one can say, “You’ll get a job in the next month” because nobody knows. It’s hard to keep putting in effort without seeing payoff. The amount of effort I’m making doesn’t translate into results. It’s not like going to the gym after a couple of weeks and starting to see muscle definition. No. Instead the job thing is more random and haphazard, which is the opposite of my preference. What am I supposed to do here, other than what I already am, which is applying for jobs, writing cover letters, asking for help, networking, etc.? After much struggle, the answer I came to is: Have faith.

This is what faith is like for me — light in the darkness. Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash.

“Having faith” is difficult for me. It’s such a trite phrase we throw around but what does it actually mean? This weekend I realized I expect faith to be rational. I want it to be scientific and evidence-based. I want proof before I’ll believe. Not getting any interviews right now? Then why should I believe I will in the future? This cautionary sort of faith and trust in my higher power is not working for me. It’s sinking me into a depression, a place where hope disintegrates. It’s pessimistic and it’s dark. But here’s the thing about faith: it’s not rational or scientific or evidence-based. Faith is the opposite of all those things. It’s belief without proof. That’s not just my definition; the dictionary defines faith in the same way.

What does that mean for me? It means I have to actively, consciously, choose to believe my life will change, that I’ll have a steady job again. It means I have to choose to put my trust in the universe that things will get better for me. It means I have to fight against pessimism and hold fast to something else, which is also a part of the meditation I practice.

A Sanskrit phrase for meditation is Iishvara prańidhána, or seeking shelter in the Supreme. My spiritual teacher says, “Iishvara prańidhána also implies implicit faith in [the divine] irrespective of whether one lives in momentary happiness or sorrow, prosperity or adversity.”

Easier said than done my friends. Easier said than done. I don’t live in implicit faith, obviously, but the alternative is becoming too painful. My way isn’t working so it’s time to try something new. For me that means choosing faith. It’s scary and uncomfortable and doesn’t feel at all rational, but it’s not supposed to. That’s what faith is — belief without proof. And right now, faith is what’s getting me through.

I dream of a world where we choose faith even when it seems ridiculous, even when our rational brain says we shouldn’t. A world where we put our trust in something greater than ourselves. A world where we understand faith isn’t a passive thing but instead something active and conscious. A world where faith is what sees us through.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

What with the recent Climate Strike, Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN, and the news in general, climate change has been on my mind. Jonathan Franzen wrote an article recently about a new kind of climate change denialism, which is denying how bad things will likely get. He says, “The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.”

Franzen’s essay elicited a lot of ire for multiple reasons. Climate scientists refuted his claims of doom and gloom, and others pointed out the sexism and racism in giving a novelist room to write about climate change as opposed to others who are experts in the field. As for me, I’m teetering on the edge of doom and gloom. I’m thrilled about the passion we’re seeing from youth especially. I’m excited that friends of mine are becoming vegan or vegetarian. It’s incredible to see all the changes people are making. And at the same time, we’re already experiencing the effects of climate change.

Could some beauty come from all this? Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

That’s not news to most people, but I’m repeating it now because there is a sense of loss, of mourning. The world is different now than it was 10 years ago. We’re undergoing another mass extinction. Am I crying about it? Yes I am. And at the same time a different perspective is arising.

I think about how dinosaurs used to roam this Earth and then became extinct. Their extinction paved the way for me, for us. Could the same be true for climate change? Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we should move full steam ahead and kill everything because by doing so a new creature will appear. Nor am I saying people should continue to feed every greedy impulse and use up all the planet’s natural resources. But what I am wondering is perhaps whether good can come from doom. That the changes we’re experiencing on the planet are real and terrible; that many people will die and suffer, and maybe we’ll move into a new era. One that’s more thoughtful, more equitable, more cooperative because we’ve learned we literally cannot live any other way.

My spiritual teacher has said in passing that eventually blue eyes will become extinct. As someone with blue-green eyes that gives me a pang, and it demonstrates to me extinction is built into existence. Eventually maybe everything goes extinct. I don’t want to speed the process along by any means, but it has me wonder about the divine intelligence at play. What if I could mourn the planet, fight like hell to save it, and at the same time believe something beautiful could rise from the rubble? Even saying that right now, I feel more hope and less fear, and that’s a great place for me to be.

I dream of a world where we act as stewards of the planet, caring for it as best we can. A world where we recognize that change is sad and scary but also inevitable. A world where we grasp that something beautiful can come from something tragic.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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