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The Beauty in Everything

I spent my formative years in the mountains of North Carolina. A place so rural I couldn’t see our closest neighbors and people burned their trash or buried it because trash pickup didn’t exist and they couldn’t be bothered to head to the dump. I used to take walks on the mountain behind our house and brush snow off the limbs of the tree saplings because I worried they would bow under the weight. It was a pretty existence, but also a lonely one.

Being in the country, I yearned for the hustle and bustle of the city. The people, the activity, the culture. Give me the complete opposite of what I experienced growing up. It’s no surprise I’ve spent my adulthood in one city after another: Washington, D.C., London, San Francisco. I started to disparage the charms of nature, associating it with boredom and isolation. But then something funny happened. As I hit my Saturn return, a time when a person heals all of their childhood stuff and really comes into their own as an adult, I found myself wanting to be outside again. I wanted to walk among the trees and brush snow off the limbs of saplings. Cities started to become symbols for all that’s wrong in the world. Places filled with destruction, selfishness, greed. Places that brought out the absolute worst in humanity.

This picture! How could I not use this? Beautiful.

This picture! How could I not use this? Beautiful.

I started to hate cities, even though I live in one. I started to look upon all that the city offers with disgust, viewing every piece of trash and graffiti as a personal affront. Give me nature and beauty and the great outdoors. My life though is all about integration and learning the middle way, so now I’m coming to love both nature and cities. To see the benefits of both. Last night I saw “Arcane,” a contemporary ballet in San Francisco. It was stunning. My inner child exclaimed with joy and wonder and I was reminded, there are great things about the city. There is art and music and connection. There are things in the city that I cannot find in nature.

Originally, this post was going to be about how nature is awesome. How it can improve your outlook, and your focus, plus strengthen your immunity. But really what this post is about is finding beauty in all things. Understanding no person, place, or thing is all good or all bad. That everything has its pluses and minuses.

One of the things I love about my spiritual path is how it emphasizes that everything is God and everything comes from God. That means nature is the divine and cities are the divine and emotions are the divine. We cannot escape God nor can we find God because that’s like saying we found air – air was there all along, we just didn’t realize it or weren’t still enough to feel it.

What I’m coming to understand is the importance of embracing everything, of accepting everything, of allowing everything. The more I do that, the more I move past duality and start seeing everything as an expression of an infinite, loving consciousness. The more I do that, the more I’m also able to embrace all parts of myself and experience what unconditional self-love really means. And there’s nothing more beautiful than that.

I dream of a world where we embrace all that is. A world where we understand everything has its pros and cons and no person, place, or thing is perfect. A world where instead of looking for perfection, we accept things as they are because we are able to see the beauty in everything.

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

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How Disconnection Relates to Connection

I am sick today and having trouble writing the post I’d like to write, so instead I’m tweaking this one from 2013.

This week my lifecoach tasked me with contacting a handful of people everyday about my book, speaking engagements, etc. At first, I balked because I told him I didn’t want to be “the weird girl.” More than being afraid of rejection, I didn’t want that familiar sensation of people staring at me blankly, or even worse, turning up their nose at me. He asked me, “What’s that like? The sensation of being ‘the weird girl?'”

I told him it was a bit like being adrift at sea in nothing but a rowboat and no ships or people around for miles. The underlying feeling or sensation is one of being disconnected. Disconnected from other people, disconnected from my surroundings. For someone who LOVES to connect — with other people, her environment, and even connect one person with another — disconnection is like the ultimate hell.

However, what came out of my conversation with my lifecoach is that when I’m adrift at sea, I’m given a chance to connect with myself and also my higher power. So really, even when I disconnect I’m connected! It’s a bit like a Mobius strip in that one feeds into the other. There is no end and there is no edge. I’m connected at all times, even if it’s not to what I thought it would be.

My friend crocheted mobius strip handwarmers for me. Aren't they the best?!?

My friend crocheted mobius strip handwarmers for me. Aren’t they the best?!?

When I articulated this to him, my fear went away. I realized yeah, I may disconnect from my audience, from the random person I contacted, or whoever, but that’s OK because it gives me a chance to connect with someone or something else. I don’t have to be afraid of disconnection because by acknowledging it, I’m allowing the space for a new connection to be formed. I’m allowing myself to drift about like a feather in the wind, blowing to its next destination.

I don’t know if this blogpost is profound to anyone else, but to me, it’s so indicative of how this world works, of its dualistic nature. That without dark there is no light. Without cold, there is no hot. And also how one feeds into the other. Out of darkness comes light and out of disconnection comes connection. It also shows me that sometimes it’s within the depths of that which we fear, that we may find what we seek. That perhaps by venturing into what I’m avoiding at all costs, I’ll find what I’m attracted to.

I dream of a world where we understand disconnection is how we connect to something else. That connection and disconnection are two sides of the same coin. A world where we don’t fear anything because we understand good comes out of the bad, and even what we fear the most may not be as scary as it seems. A world where we face what troubles us and know we’ll still be OK. Because in the end, it may very well serve as a vehicle to get us what we want.

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

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The Contradiction of Pleasure

Lately, I keep hearing the message, “Only do things that make you feel good.” Or, “center your life around feeling good.” That sounds great! Who doesn’t want to feel good? I want to feel good all the time, but I see some real dangers from following that philosophy and giving into every desire that I have.

First of all, I’m an addict in recovery so for me, I’m the extreme example of doing whatever I could to feel good. I used to binge on food to the point of discomfort because once the pleasure switch got flipped, I couldn’t stop. It didn’t matter if I was hungry or not – I would keep eating the cookies because they tasted good. That’s part of the problem with the philosophy, “Only do things that make you feel good,” – there is no foresight. If all I can think about in the moment is how good the cookies taste, I’m not thinking in the future I’ll feel sick or have a stomachache. I’m only thinking about the present moment and enjoying it.

Mmmm. Looks good. But I'm allergic to almonds so eating this would be a bad idea no matter how pleasurable in the moment.

Mmmm. Looks good. But I’m allergic to almonds so eating this would be a bad idea no matter how pleasurable in the moment.

How often do we do this? Pursue something because it gives us pleasure and then suffer afterward? I still do this. There are so many foods I’m allergic to but I’ll still eat them sometimes because they taste good. I’m starting to realize, eating them is not worth it. Suffering for hours afterward is not worth the momentary pleasure I derive from eating a piece of pizza.

That’s the thing really about only doing what feels pleasurable, of chasing after desire. It’s temporary and fleeting. There is no lasting and permanent peace or happiness. There is no lasting satiation. That’s why I can’t abide by the “do it if it feels good” philosophy. Not only because I’ll only feel good for a second, but doing what feels good has consequences that more often than not leave me feeling crappy, especially if I haven’t thought my decision through.

I also find the “do it if it feels good” philosophy is rather selfish. I think about the blogpost I wrote back in August, “You plus me equals we,” where I spoke about the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion. That to me is a classic example of “do it if it feels good.” The dentist didn’t think about the consequences of killing Cecil, didn’t think about anything really, except satisfying his own desires. As a result, he caused an international uproar and destroyed his own business in the process as people chose to boycott him due to his actions.

Chasing after one desire and then another all the time only causes temporary relief from pain. Guys, I don’t want temporary relief, I want permanent relief. I want the ultimate good feeling, and I hate to say it, but it comes from practicing restraint and moderation. From using my brain, from thinking about the consequences of my actions, and also from attaching myself to the source of infinite happiness. Permanent happiness comes from meditating on the divine, to seeing everything as an expression of God, and keeping Source at the forefront of my mind. For an addict in recovery like me, it’s the only way I’ll achieve the fix I’m looking for.

I dream of a world where we remember there are consequences for our actions. A world where we don’t chase one desire after another because we realize we’ll never find the satisfaction that we seek. A world where we realize there’s only one way to feel good all the time, and that’s to ensconce ourselves in the divine.

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

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Make a Claim for Your Life

Maybe this is obvious, but I am easily swayed by strong personalities. That may sound funny because I’m such a strong personality, but I fall under the influence of others and get confused about what I want and what I believe. And if the person is an authority figure? Forget it. I’ve probably already signed away my life savings because that person is an authority, they have a doctorate, and experience, and what do I know?

This week especially I’ve been receiving conflicting advice from seemingly every person I come across. Every person has an opinion, and I know this is partially self-inflicted because I’m telling people I’m confused, so of course they’re weighing in. But then I started thinking about it and I realized it’s all well and good for someone to tell me to do X, but they’re not the person who will have to deal with the consequences – I am. I’m the person that will have to deal with the fallout of whatever choice I make, so it’s my responsibility to make a claim for my life and myself.

Stake a claim.

Stake a claim for yourself.

It’s my responsibility to do what’s best for me, even if other people disagree with it. The questions I don’t ask myself nearly enough are, “What do I want? What do I need?” So often I’m trying to do the “right” thing that I lose myself in the process. My life becomes a series of obligations and all the fun gets sucked out of it. Or even worse, what I want is so abstract that I don’t know how to get there and am weighed down by others’ opinions. For instance, I know I want and need to make more money, but I don’t know how. This is where someone will chime in, “Edit research papers!” or “Write more articles!” and because I’m so desperate to reach my end goal of making more money, I’ll say OK even if I’d rather poke out my eyes with rusty nails than do as suggested.

I wish I had a quote to throw out here but it’s just my luck that today I can’t find anything suitable, which is maybe for the best. Because what it really comes down to is knowing myself, making decisions that are best for me and my life. It’s easy for me to follow rules, to walk along the path others have set for me. Much harder for me to make my own path, to figure out where I want to go, especially if other people disagree with my decisions. And especially if there are many options before me.

The tenets of my spiritual practice are self-realization and service to society. Self-realization means realizing the true Self, the divine, the blissful, the infinite, but I also have to believe part of that process is realizing my little self too. Not just the small things like what do I want to eat today, but what makes me come alive? What makes my soul sing? What is going to bring me closer to realizing that big Self? Both on and off the meditation cushion.

I dream of a world where we pay attention to ourselves, to what we want, to what works best for us. Not in a hedonistic free-for-all, but in a concerted, discerning way. In a way that brings us one step closer to realizing infinite bliss. A world where we make a claim for our own lives.

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

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