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Love Means Saying No

When I think “love,” I think soft, gentle, and kind. I also think “permissive.” If I love someone, I want them to have everything they desire. But that’s not real love. Real love also means saying “no.”

I think we all know this. We talk about it often in the context of parents and children. Children frequently want things that aren’t good for them, like to eat toxic paint, and the parent has to put his or her foot down. In that case, it’s easy to understand saying “no” is ultimately for the child’s best interest. But what about when it comes to ourselves? Can we tell ourselves “no” when a part of us wants to say “yes?”

Love requires boundaries.

Over the years, I’ve come to see I have many internal parts or selves. I have multiple inner children, an inner teenager, a loving parent, a witnessing entity. There are so many internal “me’s” I could easily fill up a minivan. That means sometimes I’ll feel conflicted because one part of me wants something and another part does not. What to do in that situation? Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I have to be a parent to myself as well. I have to say no to myself just as I would to an external child.

It’s so hard though. I love myself and want myself to have everything I desire. I want to say “yes” unequivocally. It feels good to say yes. Especially saying yes to my inner child. Somehow it’s easier for me to say “no” to my adult than it is to say “no” to my inner child. But that’s not love. Yes, love is soft, gentle, and kind, but it’s also tough, firm, and at times harsh. My spiritual teacher talks about this. He says, “Sometimes I appear harsh to some. But that is for love. If I were indifferent, there would be no need for scolding or punishment.” He also says, “Punishment alone, without love, is not good. Love and punishment should go together, and the degree of punishment should never exceed the degree of love.”

Inherent in his statement is the notion love and punishment go hand in hand. To only shower a being with love and affection, to only say yes, to give in to everything the person wants, is not love. In fact, it’s damaging, as anyone who’s read or seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory knows. One of the characters, Veruca Salt, gets everything she ever wants, has never heard the word “no” in her life. In the movie, Veruca wants her father to buy her one of Wonka’s golden egg-laying geese. After Wonka refuses, Veruca goes on a tirade by trashing the room and disturbing the Oompa Loompas’ work in the process. She climbs onto an Eggdicator and is dropped down into the furnace holding room after being rejected as a “bad egg” by the machine. A reminder for us all that nothing good comes from being spoiled. Nothing good comes from always saying “yes.”

I dream of a world where we realize the most loving thing we can do for ourselves sometimes is to say “no,” even if a part of us wants to say “yes.” A world where we recognize love is better with boundaries. A world where we remember love is soft and gentle, but it’s also tough and strong.

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

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The Beloved is Me (and You)

Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but I keep thinking about a post I wrote more than a year ago on being the beloved. Recognizing the beloved is me (and you). I’m sharing it again with you now.

The other day I had a conversation with my friend and neighbor about how I’m constantly seeking love from the “other.” And what I’m still learning is how to give love to myself and be OK with my own company. She reminded me while it’s true it’s important to love ourselves, it’s also important to remember we are the beloved. That we are the divine in physical form and we are already loved and cherished more than we can imagine.

My spiritual teacher says pretty much the same thing, but he adds in a twist and mentions the notion of subject and object. He says when we are meditating, we are thinking of God, we think of ourselves as the subject because we are the ones doing, we are the ones meditating. In actuality, God is meditating on us and we are the object. I think I’ve heard that a bajillion times and I just. don’t. get. it. Maybe it’s because I never learned grammar in elementary and middle school, but I don’t connect with the subject and object analogy.

The beloved is me, and you, and these penguins.

I started thinking about this more, puzzling over how to feel into the notion I am the beloved, the beloved is me. I started thinking about the people I love unconditionally, the people I would do anything for, and don’t require anything in return because loving them is enough. One such person is my niece (not by blood), nicknamed Buddha. This is a girl I fell in love with at first sight. I’ve sung her to sleep, I’ve wiped her butt happily while she was potty training, I’ve kissed her, held her, and loved her even while she threw her worst temper tantrums.

It occurred to me God loves me, and us, the way I love my niece. All the love I feel for Buddha, that’s exactly how God feels about me, plus more. I am loved, cherished, and adored beyond measure. Just now I looked up from my computer to the sky outside and saw a heart in the clouds as if to remind me, “Yes, Rebekah, love is everywhere and you are loved that much.”

Take a moment with me and feel into that. Think of some entity, whether it’s a person or a pet, who you love unconditionally and now imagine all the love you feel for them directed at yourself. Feel the depth and breadth of love for you, for us.

I dream of a world where we feel how loved we are. A world where even at our most alone, we don’t feel lonely because we sense the love of something greater than ourselves. A world where we recognize we are the beloved.

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

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Mighty is Your Strength

I’ve been thinking a lot about strength and power and what it means to have those. I spend most of my time feeling powerless, as in my ability to act feels diminished. Particularly when I contemplate the broader society. This is where I could write about how there’s strength in numbers and all of us working together have greater power than when we’re alone, but you’ve already heard all that. Instead, what interests me more is thinking about the types of strength and power we possess.

As someone who feels like a frail wildwood flower, physical strength appeals to me. However, physical strength is not the greatest strength there is. On some level we all know this, but in times like these I think it’s important to get that reminder. Psychic strength is greater than physical strength, and spiritual strength is greater than psychic strength.

It takes strength to do this.

If we look at human history, we see this progression. People could not fight a lion or tiger with their physical bodies – they had to invent weapons. Even if we pit an elephant against a human being we see an elephant driver can use their intellectual powers to direct the elephant. Physical strength can be defeated by psychic strength. In fact, my spiritual teacher says human strength is much more powerful than the strength of atom bombs. Why? Because human beings created atom bombs and that means human beings can also discover a weapon to counteract the strength of atom bombs.

What about spiritual power? For me, I believe in a higher power so it makes sense there is a power greater than myself infusing me with strength. An entity that may accomplish what I cannot. It’s harder for me to think about spiritual strength triumphing over psychic strength, but when I contemplate it, it makes sense. In a competition between me and an enlightened being like the Buddha, who would win? Certainly not me. An enlightened being knows all and sees all, so of course an enlightened being is more powerful than I am.

I also think about this in my personal life. How my intuition picks up on things that my rational brain does not. That, too, is a power. If I intuit during a game of rock, paper, scissors that you’re going to choose rock, who has the power in that situation? Who is at an advantage?

Ultimately what I’m driving at here is we are never as powerless or as helpless as we think we are. We all have strength and we have strength we didn’t know we had when we draw on the well from the source of all creation. When I tap into an infinite loving consciousness, my strength, my power never runs dry. I’ve heard many amazing stories like that. For instance, Sri Chinmoy is someone who lifted airplanes and automobiles. He said:

“As an individual I am nothing and I can do nothing. For everything that I have achieved, I give 100 percent credit to God’s Grace…when I pray and meditate I feel that somebody else is helping me, whereas an ordinary man feels that he can only rely on himself. When he is under the weight, he thinks that he is lifting it all by himself. He has practiced for so many years and developed his strength and he feels that everything depends on his physical strength. But in my case, I feel I am only an instrument. There is some other power that is coming to help me. That power I call God’s Grace.”

I dream of a world where we remember we are mighty. A world where we remember we are more powerful than we think we are. A world where we tap into the reserves of a power greater than ourselves, recognizing that’s where our real power lies.

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

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From Fearful Love to Fearless Love

Fear seems to be running rampant in the U.S. these days. Fear of the future, fear of other people. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, the Land of the Brave has become the Land of the Very Anxious. I get it.

We all want to survive. In days past, people settled near water to have materials for that purpose. These days, people move to where there are jobs for the same reason. We all want to survive and we will fight for our survival. When there is a perception security is threatened, people retaliate. By instating a ban on all Muslims for instance. The thing is though, just as my life is important to me, others’ lives are equally important to them.

I’m not sure what to say about this picture except it seems to fit.

“[I]f we do not give proper value to the lives of all creatures, then the development of the entire humanity becomes impossible,” says philosopher and social revolutionary P.R. Sarkar. “If people think more about themselves as individuals or about their small families, castes, clans, or tribes, and do not think at all about the collectivity, this is decidedly detrimental …. It will help people understand that human beings, as the most thoughtful and intelligent beings in this created universe, will have to accept the great responsibility of taking care of the entire universe – will have to accept that the responsibility for the entire universe rests on them.”

We’re caretakers for the entire universe. No big deal or anything. I’m pretty sure some people have forgotten that concept though. They’ve forgotten we all belong to each other, that my self-preservation is tied to your self-preservation.

All week, the phrase running through my mind has been intuitional practice is the process of transformation of fearful love into fearless love. I can’t help but think that’s what we’re undergoing collectively. We are in a state of fearful love – scared of making one wrong move because then we’ll lose something. Scared if we don’t do something, we won’t keep what we have. In the U.S., it seems to me some people are operating under the assumption that in order for our country to be great, we have to keep out all things we fear, all thing we perceive threaten our self-preservation, our security.

An extremely hard lesson I’ve learned over the years – which you all have been privy to – is security comes from within. There was one point I lived literally in the middle of nowhere – I’m talking a cabin in the woods 20 miles from the nearest town – and I still had an intense fear my place would be broken into. Security is an outside job but it’s also an inside job. There is no place we can go that will keep us 100 percent safe and secure. There is no ban on a group of people that will prevent us from being threatened. Building a wall to keep people out can just as easily turn into a prison keeping us trapped.

Living in fearful love is not the answer. The answer instead lies in cultivating fearless love, in reaching out to our brothers and sisters in need. In creating a society where everyone is taken care of. Where no person is left behind because we recognize the responsibility for the entire universe rests on our shoulders. Ultimately, we are all in this together.

I dream of a world where we all take care of each other. A world where we recognize every person’s life is just as important to them as ours is to us. A world where we cultivate inner security. A world where we move from fearful love to fearless love.

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

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Reassurance for Challenging Times

This whole week I’ve been spinning out, contemplating the future. “If this happens, then I’ll do this. If that happens, then I’ll do that.” I’ve been on a veritable hamster wheel of potential future outcomes. When I asked myself, “Que pasa?” the answer was, I want to know the future so I can feel safe. I want to know what’s coming so I can plan for it and feel at ease.

One of my favorite authors, Dr. Gabor Maté, wrote in his book When the Body Says No, if someone is “controlling,” they are in fact deeply anxious. He said, “When such a person fears that he is unable to control events, he experiences great stress. Unconsciously, he believes that only by controlling every aspect of his life and environment will he be able to ensure the satisfaction of his needs.”

I think this is lavender. If not, let’s pretend it is — lavender is very soothing.

Yep. Certainly true for me. Unfortunately, I can’t control every aspect of my life and environment, something I’m very clear on. To circumvent that, I try to predict the future, which also, unfortunately, I’m terrible at doing. The future pretty much never goes the way I anticipate it will. Maybe not never. I think one time out of a million I’m right, but those are terrible odds. No one would hire me to tell their fortune, that’s for sure. What to do then?

What I’ve been ruminating on is the notion I can take care of myself no matter what circumstances I’m in. Instead of running through a million possibilities in my head, I’m saying to the scared parts of me, “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not ever going anywhere. I’ll protect you. Let me take care of that.” I’m saying it every day, every hour, every 10 minutes. Every time I’m scared and start future tripping.

I’m also reminded of one of my favorite quotes by my spiritual teacher, which I’m sure I’ve shared before: “Difficulties can never be greater than your capacity to solve them.” That means I can have faith in myself and in humanity that no matter what comes, we can handle it. We can solve any problem, we can overcome any difficulty. We are creative and resourceful, and furthermore, we’re not alone. We have each other, but we also have a force greater than ourselves.

My teacher also said, “[A]s long as there is a speck of dust under your feet, as long as a single star twinkles over your head, you should remember that you are not helpless, that you are not alone. You need not have any fear or apprehension about this under any circumstances.”

The way for me to keep fear and apprehension at bay is to keep reminding myself of this. That I’m not alone. That I’m here. That my higher power is here. That we can solve anything together.

I dream of a world where we keep reassuring ourselves. A world where we soothe ourselves about our capacity to handle life. A world where we remember we’re not alone. A world where we know we can solve any difficulty that comes our way.

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

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Life as a Drama

I asked a friend the other day how he maintains hope and faith when the whole world seems to have gone mad, and he told me he views life as a drama – there will be happy parts and sad parts and scary parts. He doesn’t expect life to be a smooth ride where nothing happens.

He also told me a particular scene we find distasteful could be pivotal to the story – in hindsight we may find certain actions were crucial.

I like his perspective – it helps me to detach a little and not become quite so dismayed at the events in the world. I’m not saying I no longer care, nor that we should sit back and do nothing. Rather, his perspective reminds me this is reality. I want everyone to be happy all the time. I want life to proceed in a straight line improving day by day. I want rainbows and sunshine and kittens prancing through fields all day long. But that’s not what we’re living in, and that’s never what we’ve lived in. Life is a series of ups and downs, twists and turns. And furthermore, there are good people and bad people, just like in any riveting tale. There are heroes and villains, and I hate to admit it, but the villains usually prompt the heroes to leave the house. If the villains weren’t engaging in some nefarious scheme, the heroes would twiddle their thumbs and maybe knit a scarf. Personally, I’d find that kind of story dull and would ask for my money back.

So melodramatic.

Similarly, real life is the same way. There are heroes and villains, there are wise advisers and fools. We all have our parts to play, but unfortunately, no one handed us a script or fed us our lines.

My spiritual teacher says, “When human beings bring something within the scope of their intellect, and by perceiving and observing it closely, can understand the cause behind it, this is called kriidá; and when the cause is beyond the scope of their thinking it is called liilá [or play]. Whatever the Macrocosm does is beyond the periphery of the human intellect, and that is why whatever He does is His liilá.”

My interpretation of this quote is a lot of stuff happens in this world. Some of it I will understand and some of it I won’t, and maybe never will. The stuff I don’t understand is liilá or play. My point of view is instead of agonizing over why this happened or why this didn’t happen, it’s better for me to take the mindset that life is a play, life is a drama, something I get to witness unfolding.

What I also believe to be true is ultimately the arc of civilization bends toward the beneficent. Ultimately things improve for all of us. However, getting there sometimes requires clash and conflict. Sometimes things get crazy and bizarre, like any good drama, before they are sorted out. It seems to me right now our society is in the middle of an important and intense scene, one that I’d like to believe is leading us somewhere better, but it won’t make sense until later on when the story plays out.

I dream of a world where we view life as a drama. A world where we realize the ups and downs are a part of life. A world where we understand we all have our part to play and we play it with gusto. A world where we keep doing our part trusting eventually the story will resolve.

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

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Always with Us

I have a lot of fears. Most of them centering around physical safety. For much of life, I’ve tried to inoculate myself from danger by either not engaging, or by believing terrible things wouldn’t happen to me because I’m protected by my higher power. A few years ago, I was hit by a car as a pedestrian and that viewpoint shattered. It was a horrible time that shook me to my core. I realized being a woman of faith doesn’t mean I’ll escape all harm. Rather, it means regardless of what happens there is always a loving force with me.

I’m also reminded of a scene from the movie Rogue One. If you haven’t seen it and are planning to, stop reading or listening right now. The scene I’m thinking of is where blind warrior Chirrut chants, “I am one with the Force; the Force is with me,” as he strides into battle. He accomplishes what he sets out to, but he dies anyway. Being “one with the force” doesn’t make us immortal or keep us from getting hurt, instead it offers us the reassurance, the comfort, knowing we are not alone in any thing at any point.

We have one true friend.

In my yoga and meditation group, my spiritual teacher says our relationship with source or the divine is like the relationship of a fish with water – ever present, inseparable. Higher power, or whatever name you want to use, is our one true friend, the being who loved us in the past, who will love us in the future, and will be with us always.

This feeling was cemented for me over New Year’s. After the midnight meditation during my yoga and meditation retreat, I was struck with a strong feeling that we are deeply loved; through thick and thin there is a divine presence with us. That we will never be abandoned.

In these troubling times, when the future is uncertain and I don’t know what will happen next, it’s a balm to my soul realizing I’m not alone. That even if something terrible happens, I’m not handling it by myself – not only because I have friends, community, and me, but also because there is a loving presence with me always. It’s a comfort to me knowing I have a true friend.

I personally wanted faith to act as a force field shielding me from harm, but that’s not realistic. To be alive means to experience joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. The more I accept that, the better off I’ll be. But the lovely thing is I’m not alone with any of it, none of us are.

I dream of a world where we feel into the presence of a loving, nurturing higher power with us at all times. A world where we recognize in good times and bad there is something else with us. A world where we know no matter what, we’re not alone.

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

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The Purple Dawn

For the past five days I’ve lived in a bubble. Members of my yoga and meditation group gathered in Malibu where we sang, danced, meditated, and learned from each other. Gazing at the ocean surrounded by so much beauty and love, it was easy to forget the real world. And then I flew home.

Re-entry startled and unnerved me, raw and sensitive as I am running on a few hours of sleep. On the drive home, I saw police officers tackling a man on the shoulder of the highway. It wasn’t me being chased, but my heart started pounding nonetheless. On the same ride, I saw hearts painted on the roof of a building. All of these things coexist.

The new dawn is on its way.

I don’t know what this year holds. I’m guessing it will be a mix of things, just like my ride home. There will be happy things and scary things and sad things and awesome things. For some of us there will be an unequal mix. But feeling my heart pound watching someone else’s life, reminds me we are all in this together. We all belong to each other and we are all responsible for each other. We are not as separate as we’d like to believe. On the same car ride home, the word “one” also caught my attention from a passing sign. It seemed to me a reminder of that fundamental truth.

As we start this new year, I want to quote my spiritual teacher because the message seems relevant. He said:

Just as the advent of the purple dawn is inevitable at the end of the cimmerian darkness of the interlunar night, exactly in the same way I know that a gloriously brilliant chapter will also come after the endless reproach and humiliation of the neglected humanity of today.

Those who love humanity and those who desire the welfare of living beings should be vigorously active from this very moment, after shaking off all lethargy and sloth, so that the most auspicious hour arrives at the earliest.

Let us all greet the new dawn. Let us all experience a gloriously brilliant chapter. And let us all work to bring that “auspicious hour” sooner rather than later.

I dream of a world where we remember we’re all connected. A world where we remember we all belong to each other. A world where we work together to create a glorious and brilliant life that we all wish to lead.

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

 

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Lighting the Way Together

I’m spending time with my family right now so I’m editing/recycling some old posts of mine.

Right now it’s Christmas and Hanukkah, which I love. In times like these, I think we need to be reminded of what unites us instead of divides us.

Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but to me, Jesus seems like a mythical figure on the order of Zeus or Apollo. He lived so long ago that sometimes I take for granted he actually existed. He was born, he bled, he defecated. Jesus was a human being. Yes, an amazing human being, but he still existed, was still blood and bones the same as you and I, which astounds me. Fun fact, Sir Isaac Newton was also born on December 25. Newton wasn’t Jesus, but he was still a remarkable guy.

Let’s light the way for each other, together.

Why am I mentioning Newton’s birth? Primarily because when I hear about incredible human beings like Jesus, Newton, Albert Einstein, or Martin Luther King Jr., I somehow put them above me. I think to myself, “Those were amazing human beings, but I could never do anything like they did. I could never accomplish what they did.”  I somehow don’t believe they felt the things I felt or struggled the way I struggled. But that’s not true. They were people just like us. They had fears and failures just like us. Nothing separates us.

We’re all made of the same material. We all come from the same source. We are all light, which brings me to Hanukkah. One of the principles of the holiday I like the most is that one candle may kindle the light of many others and yet lose none of its own light. Right now I think it’s important to remember great people of the past, to remember we are like them, may accomplish what they’ve accomplished, and also we can be candles in the dark that kindle the light of many others.

My spiritual path is about using everything as a vehicle for liberation or enlightenment. About not running from feelings and tough times, and yet always remembering there is something more to me. Something outside the drama, the ups and downs, a witnessing part of me that remains unaffected and emits a light that can never be diminished. It’s my job to keep growing that light, to keep remembering its presence, and to kindle that light in others.

We need to keep kindling that light in others so we create a world we wish to see. A world where we live amongst each other in harmony. A world where we celebrate with each other and mourn with each other. A world where we aspire to great heights, accomplishing what we burn to accomplish like people in the past. A world where we remember who we really are — light beings.

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

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Remaining Unperturbed

The other day, a monk from my yoga and meditation group posted a Facebook live video about remaining unperturbed in the face of external stimuli. His comment struck me primarily because I’m not unperturbed. I’m disturbed by every little thing. When the news is bad, I feel bad. When the news is good, I feel good. My mood of late seems to be tied to what’s going on in the world. This is not how I want to live.

Tying my mood to anything external is a dangerous business because things in the external world are so changeable. I think it’s important to know what’s going on in society, but to plunge from high to low at the drop of a hat is exhausting. My spiritual teacher advocates mental balance and equipoise and said, “We must maintain our mental balance and remain indifferent to both praise and slander, to both joy and sorrow.”

I'd like to be as placid as this lake.

I’d like to be as placid as this lake.

I’ve heard this concept before, to remain unaffected by what people say because our self-esteem and self-worth comes from within, but I haven’t thought about the concept much in terms of the news. Seems wise, especially as the news these days runs from bizarre to baffling. How to accomplish this though?

The short answer is to turn inward. To keep remembering what’s really important, to hold tight to our innermost presence. About this process my teacher said, “The charming allurements of the external world no longer keep their minds in thrall. The dazzling splendor of form and color, their glittering attraction, no longer evokes any response in the innermost recesses of their minds. The radiance of the colorful world and the effulgence of their inner life become one.”

Yes please. I’d love for the “radiance of the colorful world and the effulgence of [my] inner life” to become one. That sounds delightful. I’d like to remain unassailed by circumstances, for my mind to remain steady regardless of what’s happening externally. I’m pretty sure the only way to do this is to keep aligning my will with my higher power’s. To take shelter under the benevolent and loving force that pervades the universe and to keep letting go over and over again.

I dream of a world where we maintain mental balance. A world where external circumstances don’t affect us so drastically. A world where we keep turning inward over and over again. A world where we take shelter under the unaffected and unssailed power that’s greater than us.

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

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