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.

It’s ironic the title of this post is “Stronger than We Seem” when right now I feel weak. Subsisting off of powder and water will do that to a gal. However, when I looked through old blog posts to recycle, this is the one that jumped out at me. A lot has changed since I wrote it in September 2017, but the message is still a relevant one. No audio because I couldn’t manage it.

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know.” – A.A. Milne

It seems to me right now we’re all being called to become our best selves. We’re being asked to stretch and grow in ways that are uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Milne’s quote reminds me so often I sell myself short and there is more courage, strength, intelligence, and love within me than I acknowledge.

There is some not-fun stuff going on in the world, as per usual, and the challenge for us is to rise to the occasion. For me personally, that means getting in touch with my inner power. Often I want other people to do the heavy lifting in my life. I want them to “fix me,” to “make me better,” to “have all of the answers,” or in some way allow me to play the damsel in distress. The place this shows up the most is with my health.

There’s more beneath the surface. Photo by Muhammad Shahzad on Unsplash.

I’m writing a long facebook note about everything my chronic illness has taught me, but for the purposes of this post I want to focus on empowerment. The dynamic that has shown up with my health is I approach doctors and healers not as partners in my path to wellness, not as people who help me to heal myself, but rather as wizards who will magically cure me without any effort on my part. I realize awe-inspiring stories of magical healing happen every day, and I so wish I could be one of those people, but thus far the universe has said to me, “Nah gurl, you gotta be your own hero and rescue yourself.”

I came to this conclusion after literally trying all the things Western and Eastern to heal my physical body and not seeing much in the way of results. A friend of mine posted about a book called Energy Medicine on Instagram and even seeing the title sparked curiosity within me to explore deeper. After the eclipse, an intense and passionate desire bubbled up within me to start reading the book. It’s a synthesis of all the modalities I have familiarity with – acupressure, energy meridians, chakras – and describes them in a practical way. The book explains why certain spots on my body are tender, or why I instinctively cradle my stomach. More importantly though, it’s empowering me to heal myself.

It’s early days, but even if I don’t see the results I’d like, it seems like a valuable lesson to remember I have power and magic within me. That I am capable of more than I think I am. That I don’t have to outsource everything to other people. This post is all about me, but the principle applies to the broader society as well. How many of us think what’s happening is “someone else’s” problem? Or that “someone else” will take charge? And how much of that is based on insecurity or inferiority?

My spiritual teacher says over and over again, “You should behave with every created being, every human being, in such a way that neither a superiority complex nor an inferiority complex develops in you, or in those with whom you interact. … A person must not suffer from an inferiority complex, because that person and his or her friends and siblings are all the progeny of the same Progenitor. They come from the same origin.”

That means I’m just as capable as anyone else. That means the same power within others is also within me. And vice versa.

I dream of a world where we recognize we all have inner power and strength. A world where we remember no one is superior or inferior to us. A world where we realize we are braver than we believe, stronger than we seem, and smarter than we think.

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

Certain things in my life feel inevitable. What’s going on with my diet right now feels like one of them. Some of you know I have a long list of food allergies that keeps getting longer. The frustrating part for me is if I eat something frequently enough, I become allergic to it.

The other week I noticed when I eat figs, now my mouth burns. Never mind that I’ve eaten figs for YEARS without any problem. Suddenly, they’re a problem. If you know anything about health, you might be saying, “It’s sound like you have leaky gut.” You would be correct. However, following the leaky gut diet (i.e., no gluten, cutting out carbs, low sugar, etc.) hasn’t made a lick of difference and in fact I’m only getting worse.

Yeah, not eating any of this right now. Photo by Waranya Mooldee on Unsplash

I called my doctor in frustration and she recommended the Elemental Diet. The Elemental Diet is food broken down into its most elemental form. It’s a powdered meal replacement. It’s something physicians give to patients with Crohn’s disease and to recovering anorexics, among others. The recommended procedure is to eat only the powder mixed with water for two to three weeks to give the digestive system a break. That means no solid food. I cried when my doctor suggested the regimen and also freaked out, worrying that I’d feel hungry. It’s only been a couple of days, but surprisingly, I feel good. My body doesn’t hurt after eating. The powder is filling. My mood has improved. Will I do this for three weeks? I don’t know — it’s one meal at a time for me right now.

What’s interesting is in my yoga and meditation group we’re supposed to fast 11 days after the full and new moon. Concessions are made for people who don’t have good health, but if someone can fast, they are encouraged to do so. And fasting runs the gamut from consuming absolutely nothing, including no water, to merely abstaining from rice and fried foods. The reason fasting is encouraged is it gives the body a break and also the time spent eating, cleaning, and prepping can be used for spiritual pursuits. I’m finding the same is true for me. Thus far, I’m meditating more and feeling closer to my higher power.

The reason why this whole thing feels inevitable is I’m finally engaging in a practice that is a big part of my spiritual tradition. My life is oriented around spirituality, around moving closer to something bigger than myself, and fasting is allowing me to do that. It feels like I would always end up here. That I would always see the benefit of fasting for my body, mind, and spirit. Because as I’ve seen with other practices, like yoga, eventually something happens to get me to come around. I’m not sure I’m doing a great job explaining myself, but that’s OK. For me and for everyone there are certain things in our lives that feel inevitable, and that’s what I’m speaking to.

I dream of a world where we accept the inescapability of certain things. A world where we recognize we were always going to end up someplace or doing something specific. That there are some things we can’t fight and instead we give in to them. A world where we feel at peace with the inevitable.

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

A close friend of mine used an analogy the other day that’s stuck with me. She said her higher power has closed a door in her life and hasn’t opened another one yet. So for now she’s stuck in the hallway, waiting for another door to open. Yesssssss. That’s so my life right now. I’m in limbo, in the hallway, waiting for something new, for a door to open, but it hasn’t yet and it’s uncomfortable.

I hate this phase. I think most people do. And at the same time I recognize this is a part of life — it’s filled with speed and then pause. Even when breathing we inhale, pause slightly, and then exhale with another slight pause. When we walk, we put one foot on the ground or we can’t move forward. The left foot makes the next step only if the right foot prepares by being placed on the ground.

I live here now. Metaphorically speaking. Photo by Runnyrem on Unsplash.

My spiritual teacher says, “This is crucial for successful movement. Thus if we wish to say something about speed, or the characteristics of movement, we will have to acknowledge the necessity of the state of pause otherwise it will not be possible to move into the next stage. …  This speed and pause will continue. Pause means gathering momentum for speed in the subsequent phase. If one closely watches the effect of speed on a particular community or the entire humanity, one sees that generally people eulogize the period of speed. However, we cannot afford to ignore the state of pause, because by judging what the previous state of pause was like, we can discern the speed of the next phase.”

A couple of things jump out at me from that quote. First of all, the pause is temporary. It feels like I’m going to be stuck in this hallway forever but I won’t be. Worse comes to worst I’ll get a job at an ice cream parlor or a grocery store or something. Things will change, they absolutely will, even if a part of me doesn’t believe that. I’m reminded just because I may not believe something doesn’t make it any less true. For instance, some people still believe the Earth is flat, but regardless, the Earth is round.

The other point that jumps out at me from the quote is the last bit, about how the state of pause can help discern the speed of the next phase. What I’m taking that to mean is my life is going to go off like a rocket. All of this momentum, this angst, is going to catapult me into the next phase and my life will move at warp speed. I cannot express how much I’m looking forward to it. And at the same time, I’m recognizing the necessity for this state of pause, this place where I’m spinning my wheels, revving my engine, and getting ready to zoom ahead. Pretty soon a door will open and I’m going to bolt through it. But for now I’m here, in the hallway.

I dream of a world where we recognize the importance of limbo periods. A world where we understand in order to move ahead we also have to pause, to gather momentum. A world where we recognize even when it seems like we’re standing still it’s all in service of what’s next.

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

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