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Connected at the Core

The other week I read an interesting philosophical treatise about the structure of our universe, which is an oval. We are made up of atoms with electrons moving around a nucleus. On a larger scale, the Earth is the nucleus and the moon is moving around it. In our solar system, the sun is the nucleus and all the planets are moving around it. According to my spiritual philosophy, there is a Supreme nucleus and we are all moving around it.

Is that Supreme hub a place we can get to? Can I jump into a rocketship and go see it? Is the Supreme nucleus instead a metaphor? I do not know the answers to these questions, but a friend commented on this discourse and said we are all emanating out from the same nucleus. We all have the same center, the same core.

We are all spiraling around the same nucleus.

His comment struck me because regardless of whether or not a person believes in a Cosmic Consciousness, or subscribes to my spiritual philosophy, we do have the same core. It is a fact we are all made up of atoms. It is a fact we are all made up of stardust, to paraphrase Carl Sagan. To quote an article on the subject:

“The carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago. Because humans and every other animal as well as most of the matter on Earth contain these elements, we are literally made of star stuff.”

I’ve been hearing about this concept for many years so it’s easy for me to gloss over it, but something about thinking how we all have the same core got to me. It allows me to connect with you even deeper because inside we are the same, and knowingly or unknowingly, we are moving together. Some people are moving closer to the Supreme hub. I would say the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis are great examples of people who are moving closer to Cosmic Consciousness because they have a universal outlook. They seem to look upon others with a sense of oneness, that we are all connected, that there is no difference between them and someone else.

My spiritual teacher says, “Each and every aspirant, each and every artist, each and every scientist, and each and every philosopher must be ensconced in this supreme veracity – that they will have to be one with the Supreme, that each will have to coincide his or her microcosmic nucleus with the macrocosmic one.”

The speed with which this happens varies, and some people move further away from the nucleus, but no one can move beyond its scope. Even the most terrible person, even the most despised people are still circling the nucleus. They may be at the periphery, but they still have the same nucleus, and that means I can recognize those people, too, are my brothers and sisters. They, too, are on the spiritual journey with me and that means I can soften my heart toward them. Because we are all connected at the core.

I dream of a world where we recognize we are all made of the same things. A world where we recognize we all emanate from the same source. A world where we remember we are all connected at the core.

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

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Intimacy Begins with Me

Last week, I wrote about the death of a colleague. In addition to grieving, I’m learning a lot about intimacy.

So often when I think about intimacy, it’s in the context of a romantic relationship, but the truth is, intimacy is not confined to a romantic partner. Real intimacy is like unzipping yourself and displaying your insides, and that can be done with anyone, something I’ve witnessed in this process.

As I share the news about my co-worker’s death, people react in different ways. Some people allow me to cry without offering a diversion or attempting to fix it. Other people become discomfited and say a quick, “I’m sorry,” before moving on to another topic. I’m not deriding people for their reactions – people are where they’re at and will respond how they do. What I notice though is in order to share my feelings with someone else, to be intimate with them, I have to acknowledge my feelings first. If I’m uncomfortable feeling sad, there’s no way I can share that with someone else because I’m shutting the feelings down internally. Someone else may be more than willing to share and connect with me, but if I’m not connected to myself, no one else can connect with me either.

As with most things, intimacy is an inside job.

We hear often, “You can’t give what you don’t have,” but I’m a concrete gal and I like examples. As an example, if someone asked me for oranges right now, I’d have to shake my head and say, “Sorry, I don’t have any.” Similarly, I can’t give intimacy if I don’t have it internally.

We think of intimacy and love as “out there,” something to find or force. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve complained about certain men in my life, lamenting that they’re not opening up, as if they were clams I could pry open. I’ve craved intimacy, but it’s only been within recent years I’ve created it internally by embracing all of my emotions. By giving myself space to feel.

Love and intimacy get presented as if we could walk into a store and buy them. We don’t realize intimacy is something we create, something we work on internally. I could be in relationship with the most amazing person, someone who loves intimacy, but if I’m not in touch with my own feelings, if I’m not allowing myself to feel them, we won’t have intimacy. It will be like talking to a brick wall. I say this because that’s also been my experience in grieving. When I share my insides with people who are discomfited, it’s like I threw an egg against a brick wall – my insides are smeared, on display. There’s no reciprocity, only impact. When I share my insides with people who are comfortable with emotion, it’s like I threw an egg at a cloud of cotton – I feel held, comforted, and supported.

Matt Licata, a psychotherapist I follow, synthesizes this concept well:

When all is said and done, perhaps there is no secret to co-creating a fulfilling, supportive, mutually beneficial intimate relationship, as it is always in the end a movement of the unknown. Healthy intimacy is not something you will figure out one day by way of some checklist or magical formula, but something you are asked to live in each moment, in all its chaotic glory. By learning to take care of yourself, you are creating a foundation upon which the mysteries of intimacy can come alive within and around you, providing a crucible like no other for the great work of aliveness that you have come here to embody.

I dream of a world where we embody our emotions. A world where we understand intimacy is not something “out there,” but rather “in here.” A world where we recognize intimacy is not something we find, but rather something we create. A world where we realize intimacy beings with us.

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

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Out, Out, Brief Candle

I found out on Thursday a work colleague of mine died unexpectedly. No warning, no known life-threatening health issues, just gone. Out like a candle. It reminds me of that passage from Macbeth:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.

I’m still in shock to be honest. Here one minute, gone the next. It doesn’t seem real. I know some people experience a shift in perspective at times like these. It reminds them life is short and not to waste a minute of it. This it not that sort of blogpost. I will not suddenly seize the day or live like I’ll die tomorrow, because for me, that sort of pace will kill me. I know this because living with that mindset has wrecked my body. Instead, this post is a meditation on transience.

We are all candles, here for a brief period.

My colleague’s death reminds me that everything – my thoughts, my feelings, even my life – has an end. I trick myself otherwise, convinced every feeling and situation is interminable, but in truth, it’s not. We often say, “This, too, shall pass,” forgetting “this” also includes life itself.

I’m still coming out of shock and into grief, yet I feel at peace, not about my colleague’s death, but about the nature of life itself. I’m in deep acceptance that I don’t have as much agency as I think I do. That I can eat well, exercise, wear sunscreen, but when I die is not up to me. I will be here as long as I am here.

In my spiritual tradition, we say a person will merge in Cosmic Consciousness only after completing the duty assigned to him or her by Cosmic Consciousness. The trouble is, there’s no sand timer in the sky letting us know when the sand has run out. And what’s interesting is the older I get, the more I understand what people mean when they say life goes by quickly. With that in mind, I have no trouble believing I could live until I was 120 and it would still feel too short. It would still feel like a flash in the pan. In truth, no matter how long we live, it will always be a brief moment in time, a period when for a short while we walked the Earth.

My spiritual teacher says, “This expressed universe is nothing but a collection of temporary entities which are undergoing constant metamorphosis according to the sweet will of nature.” We are all temporary entities and we are all constantly undergoing change. Nothing stays the same. Nothing. I can’t help but wonder if I kept this thought at the forefront of my mind how my life would be different. If I would experience more ease and peace as well as joy knowing my life is like a candle that can be blown out at any moment.

This post is a somber one, I know, but I hope it will also be a reassuring one. For those of you undergoing hardship, remember it will end. And for those of you undergoing ecstasy, enjoy it while you can, because it, too, will end.

I dream of a world where we remember all things are temporary. A world where we realize we’re not in control of everything. A world where we practice acceptance of what is because we recognize like everything else, this, too, shall pass.

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

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Accepting Uncertainty

Historically, one of the ways I’ve dealt with uncertainty and ambiguity is to become controlling. If I didn’t know what was going on, I’d make a plan or force a decision so that I did, because then at least I’d know, and knowing was more comfortable than not knowing.

It should come as no surprise I was a stage manager in high school, and for a couple of years in college. For those unaware, the stage manager is the person behind the scenes of a show who is calling all the lighting and sound cues, the person who makes sure the sets are moving when they should, the person who determines when the show starts, even. This is not done without input or help, but the ultimate responsibility is the stage manager’s. I loved stage managing. At last my character traits of controlling and perfectionism were put to good use. Instead of being disparaged for them, I was lauded.

Will this person hitch a ride or not?

Unfortunately, while all the world’s a stage, I’m not the stage manager. Nor did I get the script in advance. For someone prone to anxiety, and who likes to know what’s happening beforehand, this is not a good combination. To manage this, I could have become the type of person who does the same thing every day, who sticks to a schedule rigidly, who never tries anything new, who lives in a safe container of the known and the familiar, but I get bored and restless. Well shucks. What’s a gal to do then?

Lately, instead of defaulting to controlling, I’m allowing all of my feelings. I’m letting it be OK that I’m scared. I’m letting it be OK that I think things should be this way or that. I’m also letting it be OK that there’s a part of me itching to decide one way or another. These days I’m letting all my parts co-exist and that means accepting uncertainty. The truth is, for all my planning, nothing ever happened the way I thought it would anyway. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop planning altogether – I will never be a person who’s comfortable flying into a foreign city without knowing where she’s sleeping that night – but it also means I’m allowing for flexibility.

According to my spiritual teacher, and many teachers, adjustment and flexibility are essentials for human progress. My teacher says, “Intelligent people will not cling to old, outdated ideas. Rather they will wholeheartedly embrace that theory which adjusts with time, space, and person, and will continue to exist forever.”

He’s speaking about societal theories here, but I think the same principle applies on an individual level. I must discard old and outdated ways of being in the world. Handling uncertainty by clinging to a fixed plan no longer serves me. Dealing with ambiguity by forcing a decision before the answer is clear no longer works for me. The only person I have any agency over is me, and treating myself with gentleness, humor, love, and respect sounds like the best plan to deal with uncertainty that I could ever concoct.

I dream of a world where we accept uncertainty. A world where we realize nothing will ever go exactly the way we planned. A world where we embrace flexibility and adjustment while we move ahead on the path of our lives. A world where we allow all parts of ourselves to exist in peaceful harmony.

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

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