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The Circle of Life

Doesn’t the title of this post make you want to break into song? If I felt more confident in my singing voice I’d serenade you. Ahem, anyway, all this week I’ve contemplated the circle of life. Within the span of 24 hours I found out two people I know are pregnant and another lost her mother. The juxtaposition of the two was enough to give me emotional whiplash.

In Sanskrit, the term for this is saḿsára, which means the entity that constantly keeps moving. As we all know, that’s what life does. It keeps moving even when we want it to stop, even when it seems like the world should stand still, it keeps spinning. It’s both a blessing and a curse. I don’t have any particular great insights. The whole thing sounds exhausting, and feels that way too. I’d like a break, but maybe that’s also particularly true for me because for a full week I’ve had a nightmare every night.

Isn’t this a great photo?

The “break” though doesn’t come from shuffling off this mortal coil, at least according to the spiritual philosophy I ascribe to. Because I believe in reincarnation, once I die, I’ll be reborn. The circle of life continues not only in general, but for me as well. Death and birth, death and birth. When does it end?

My spiritual teacher says, “Whichever way we look, we see only the external dynamism of everything, and as we witness this external dynamism, we feel pleasure when we get something, we feel pain when we lose something. If we try to discover the ultimate reality hidden within the apparent reality, we shall feel neither the momentary pleasure of gain in the mundane world, nor the sorrow of loss in the mundane world. The Supreme Entity which is neither to be obtained nor to be lost will remain always with us, and we shall remain absorbed in the eternal bliss of the companionship of that Supreme Entity.”

That sounds nice right now. To remain absorbed in eternal bliss. To escape the cycle of pain and pleasure, death and birth.

I write about these things because I need the reminder, and I suspect others do too. I need the reminder of what’s permanent, of what I can attach to, of what’s constant. Otherwise it’s easy for my mood to swing from high to low in an instant and the whole thing is exhausting. All I can do, all that I try to do, is keep my mind trained on my higher power, on the divine and loving presence that’s with me always so that eventually two become one.

I dream of a world where we all feel eternal bliss. A world where we train our sights on a constant, permanent entity. A world where we escape the circle of life.

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

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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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