Monthly Archives: July 2015

Hello, Darkness

Real BeautyHello darkness my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted
In my brain still remains
Within the sound of silence
             – Paul Simon, The Sound of Silence

This song has been in my head for the last couple of days. I read that Paul Simon wrote these opening lines in his bathroom with the lights off. He liked the acoustics the tiled walls created, and he composed in the dark because it helped him to focus, to reach in and call up what was wanting to come out.

This verse feels like a metaphor for the times right now. Both inwardly and outwardly, the dark is presenting itself in strong force, and we are being called to engage with it.

Hello darkness my old friend…

Often we push aside our own darkness by focusing on it in others. Just as often, we sense our shadows but are so terrified of them, that we become obsessively active in the outer world to avoid them. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” But we can’t truly be the light if we remain terrified of the dark.

I’ve come to talk with you again…

Looking inward can bring us to our knees sometimes. The inner world is a dark space that we bring the light of our consciousness to. If we are feeling low in light (the world has a way of making us question just  how bright we are) then the inner terrain can feel dark indeed. But it is in those bleak spaces that our light can awaken.

Celtic priest and poet John O’Donohue says,

“In the neglected crevices and corners of your evaded solitude, you will find the treasure that you have always sought elsewhere.”

We evade that deep solitude (the kind that isn’t just removing ourselves from social interaction for awhile, but turning inward to the profound unknown) out of fear. So it takes great courage to go into the dark, for we don’t want to face what is waiting there. We find in those “crevices and corners” beastly buried fears, shames and wounds. This is hard to look at! But the more we train ourselves to look with light, those creatures morph right before our eyes. Frogs become princes. Demons become angels. And we discover the true treasure down there: our own divinity, our own light, our own beating heart of love.

Here is a poem I wrote several years ago, when the darkness pulled at me so strongly and taught me its beauty.

THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK
…and other such excuses
just won’t cut it today.Jellyfish
Today, there is a window into deeper worlds
cocooned in the fog,
and I don’t want to miss it
quibbling over trivia
or splashing about in shallow waters.
I don’t want to get snagged by duty right now.
 
I want to dive down,
be carried down,
down with the currents
into the black dark grappling
where creatures who’ve learned self-luminescence
will teach me, touch me,
call forth my brilliance.
 
In the dark I can see my light.
I can grow to own it.
I can practice sustaining it,
so that back up top where a different light shines
I can trust it.
I can beam it.
I can see it winking
in every eye.

Copyright © 2011 Angela Hite

Neon Consciousness, Candlelight Consciousness

Neon and CandleJohn O’Donohue, in his book Anam Cara, A Celtic Book of Wisdom, talks about the dangers of “neon vision,” which he describes as the harsh, analytical light we often apply to ourselves when we follow the call of our spiritual hunger. I have mistakenly done this for years. While the self-awareness gained through mindfulness has been extremely fruitful, and while I have developed a rather eagle-eye in the world of inner-looking, that eye has a fierceness to it that can leave my skin feeling raw! I know I am not alone in this. Self-compassion is a big lesson for almost every serious seeker I know.

O’Donohue offers up “candlelight consciousness” as the alternative light within which to seek. I truly love this metaphor! He says, “Candlelight perception is the most respectful and appropriate form of light with which to approach the inner world.” Can you feel this? The softness, the romance, the “beloved” within that phraseology?

This morning, as I sat on the patio with my journal and tea, a squirrel skittered down the overhanging branch of a tree a few feet away and began to chatter loudly, insistently. Eventually, I realized he was talking to me, so I walked over to the tree limb, and said, “Hello!” He looked me squarely in the eye and responded in squirrel language. I said “Hello,” again. He responded again. I asked, “How are you?” He said whatever it was that he said. (I don’t speak squirrel, but I felt like he said, “It is important that you pay attention to me!”) This went on for 2-3 minutes, until I pulled out my phone from my robe pocket to take a picture, and of course, then he scampered away.

I relate this a bit to “neon consciousness, candlelight consciousness.” When I just enjoyed the moment for what it was, we communicated. The minute I tried to capture and substantiate it with the photograph, turn it into something, it was if the doorway into that other dimension closed. I don’t know. I could be making great leaps here. 🙂

But I googled the Native-American symbolism for squirrel and though there was the obvious imagery about “gathering,” the thing that jumped out at me was the message of “play.” I definitely need more play in my life. That feels like candlelight consciousness, too, doesn’t it? It is time to soften up. Yes, do our gathering for the changes ahead, but don’t go nuts with it! Yes, keep being watchful, but do so in the warmly lit landscape of kindness, of enjoyment. We are on a grand adventure, not stuck in an endless curriculum.

I think this could become a mantra for me – “Candlelight consciousness.” What do you think?

Blessings!

Facebook Loving Awareness Challenge

I Am Loving AwarenessThe meditation practice I mentioned yesterday from Ram Dass, “I Am Loving Awareness” is really proving to be an effective and  gentle process of reconditioning my inner landscape. I wrote about the end-of-day exercise I tried, in which I scanned my body, mind and emotions through the lens of loving awareness, through the language of “I love you.” Mostly what I felt in that one practice was my own resistance…how much subtle, invisible-to-the-naked-eye, non-love actually existed as the backdrop of my thoughts.

But since then I have done this exercise many times –  five minutes here and there. I simply look at what is happening in the now of my life, both outwardly and inwardly, and I send love to it. I notice all my opinions and thoughts about whatever is happening, and I send love to those as well. There is something powerful in this! A palpable energy shift.

Then I tried it with Facebook. Wow, that is a practice, let me tell you! Try it yourself and you will see. Scroll through Facebook and bless every single post, whether you agree with it or not. Send love to every single person. Notice your emotions about each post and person. Notice your body’s response. Notice your judgments and opinions, both pro and con. Then become Loving Awareness about it all. Become a Loving God in those moments toward everyone, including yourself. Especially yourself! Can you separate opinion from judgment and emotion? Can you love and wish well those whose opinions you disagree with? Can you love yourself regardless of your success at this? And when you get caught up in a story or your opinion of a story and notice that you’re caught, can you just return to loving awareness right there and then? Laugh a little about it? Play with it? Keep it light?

I want to try this everyday for awhile and see what happens. I’ll report in. If you like this challenge, let me know your experience. I have the sense that it could be revolutionary!

Sending and Receiving Love

Sending LoveYesterday I read an article by Ram Dass entitled “I am Loving Awareness,” in which he talked about a meditation practice that can break the spell of ego’s perceptions. There are many such practices, but this one called to me.  I am going through a bit of a physical challenge (another bout of vertigo) and I have also felt a lot of stress lately (I am a world-class stresser), so as I went to bed last night feeling dizzy and trying to relax my tight muscles, I took his instructions to heart:

“I focus my attention in the middle of my chest, on the heart-mind.  I take a few deep breaths into my diaphragm to help me identify with it.  I breathe in love and breathe out love.  I watch all of the thoughts that create the stuff of my mind, and I love everything, love everything I can be aware of.  I just love, just love, just love…I am loving awareness… “

I closed my eyes, felt the slight tremor of dizziness and said, “I love you,” to my uncomfortable self. I paid attention to my breath and said “I love you” to my breath.  I felt my exhale hit bottom, which always feels abrupt when I pay attention to it…the space before breathing in again. I felt the urge to inhale quickly, the moment of brief panic that I sometimes feel when I pay attention to the spaces between breaths, and I sent love into that tiny panic. I felt my neck muscles, shoulder muscles and spine, and breathed love into them. I caught my mind skittering into thoughts, all kinds of thoughts, too many and too fleeting to name, and I sent love to the thoughts.

That was the most challenging part of the exercise for me. Catching my thoughts and actually blessing them, instead of trying to get rid of them, just loving my thoughts no matter how stressed they were, how quickly negative or judgmental they could turn. But I blessed my efforts at blessing my thoughts! I went to sleep in that mindset.

It may sound strange to say, “I love you,” to yourself, but I see that it is a wonderful practice.  It points up, first and foremost, just how much we DON’T love ourselves, because there is such an effort at first in being able to say it authentically. The idea of SENDING love to ourselves, though, gets us in touch with the One who is sending us love every moment of the day. And the idea of then RECEIVING our own love, gets us in touch with receiving God’s love.

In my spiritual community we have been working a lot with the vulnerability, the innocence of receiving. Can we receive our own unconditional love? Can we receive God’s unconditional love? Can we receive healing? Can we receive answers that are beyond our mental conceptions? Can we receive the beauty of this world?

Sending and receiving love. It is a huge, mind-blowing practice!

Blessings!

Kindness

Grief“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

Words can lose their depth sometimes by overuse, or simply by becoming too thrown about, too much a part of our daily lexicon. The word “kindness” can be like that.  But it is such a profound idea that the Dalai Lama uses it as the single word to define (not describe, but define) his religion.  We could spend a lifetime exploring its depths in that context.

I love this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. Notice how vivid the idea of “kindness” becomes in her expression.  It makes me weep!

KINDNESS
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Blessings!

Open Your Heart

Open Heart“The opening of your heart is the most precious gift you can give the world. It affects everyone, and in this way meditation is also service: it supports the whole of humanity and all of life. As you become more aware, more conscious, you blaze the trail for the rest of us to follow, and our paths become much easier because of the steps you have taken. Know this, in your unfolding, in your deepening: that your inner journey creates an easier way for all of us.” DIANA LANG, Opening to Meditation.

I am so appreciative of this instruction. I can often get way-laid by ego’s secret “unworthiness” message. I’m particularly vulnerable to it right now as I launch this website. “Who do I think I am, anyway?” ego blurts into my subconscious, making me trembly and weak. But when we open our hearts (a skill that can be developed), we discover that who we are is LOVE! That’s who we are! And God is LOVE! If we are LOVE and GOD is LOVE, well, that’s a pretty profound connection!  The ultimate identity.

So we return to LOVE, over and over and over again. Ego’s only power is that it stands in front of the gates of LOVE, constantly trying to take charge. And it succeeds quite often because of its mimicking capacity. We can easily get fooled into believing ego’s message of self-protection, but the litmus test is pretty straightforward.  Does the message feel like love? Way down in there, is there an inkling of something that says otherwise? Do we have the courage, and will we take the time to follow the trail down to that inkling?  Another of ego’s slippery whispers is how narcissistic it seems to spend so much time looking inward, right?

But when we can remember the above quote, that our open heart is the MOST PRECIOUS GIFT WE CAN GIVE THE WORLD, the time we spend looking inward becomes GOLDEN.

I needed this reminder today! How about you?

Blessings!

 

The Practice of JOY

Life's enjoyment

Life’s enjoyment

Today I want to talk about the practice of JOY. For weeks I have been teetering on some kind of brink in my meditation practice. I have written about this – the hard rock I have come up against inside that is angry, resentful, even hateful – a primal , dark place that I don’t have a rational explanation for, but its power has been my unwillingness to simply look at it because, “Hey, I’m a good person!  I don’t have hate!”

Now, I am being shown, not just theoretically but experientially, that we all have EVERYTHING in us. We have what Jung would call “shadow” selves, and those shadows have power because we don’t look at them, because they are hidden. In order to regain our wholeness, we must move the shadow into the light of our compassionate awareness. As I said, I’ve known this theoretically for thirty years or more, and have done this with other shadow selves (sorrow and fear are prime ones).  But hate?  Oh my goodness!  Hate was well hidden.

So I’m looking, and naming. Another tendency is to try to jack-hammer the rocks in our path. The teetering I have been doing is going back and forth between refusing to see/feel this hard rock and alternatively taking a jackhammer to it, attempting to violently blast it out of existence…neither of which has been working.

But today I am remembering the practice of JOY (and capitalizing it to call out its holy elevation beyond a mere emotion).  JOY is the river that will move the rock naturally. JOY is a practice and a challenge because we must shift gears to experience it, and there might be an initially uncomfortable, grinding quality in doing so, to allow JOY to touch us in those deep spaces. Why is that so? It may sound counter-intuitive, but the truth is  JOY is an even more vulnerable emotion than sorrow or fear, and certainly more vulnerable than anger or hate. If you haven’t heard vulnerability researcher Brené Brown talk about the subject of JOY, you can watch it here. She explains it so beautifully.

I have known this for years now, that JOY is medicine, that JOY is a practice… but I forget it all the time.  Today, I sat and looked at the dark, cool clouds that might very well drop some rain on our parched ground, and I let JOY grow inside as I appreciated the clouds just as they were. Then I clipped the dead flowers from my geraniums and let JOY grow as I saw the plants seem to smile at me in gratitude for helping them look their best. I wrapped a peach-colored shawl around my shoulders and felt its softness against my skin, and let its color touch my eyes and heart.  Simple things. Easy, available things, done intentionally, prayerfully, invitingly, receptively.

And guess what?  The rock moved a little!

 

Freedom of Thought

FreedomThroughout the holiday weekend, in the midst of preparations and celebrations, I pondered the subject of freedom, as we do on the 4th of July. We are blessed with so many liberties here in the United States, but there is one that is universal, no matter what country or political landscape we are in: our freedom of thought, to which we are often blind. We are free to think as we please, and our perception of the world (and thus our experience of the world) is the outcome of that thinking. Granted, the societies we live in try to influence our thinking in various ways and through various mediums, but ultimately it is up to us whether to believe all that input or not. This is what I think it means to spiritually grow up, or awaken. We learn to witness our own thoughts, and choose whether or not they are indeed true and valuable, or whether they are causing us unnecessary suffering and divisiveness. As we do this, through meditation, prayer and contemplation, we start to see the barrage of thought, the barrage of input upon our thought.

How many days have I spent lost in worry? How many hours have I spent held captive by blame turned inwardly or outwardly, held captive by anger, greed, small-mindedness, jealousy, self-righteousness, victimhood? These subtle but big-blanket thoughts are usually running underneath our consciousness, influencing our words and actions without our awareness. They appear less as actual thoughts and more like feeling-tones, inner landscapes. They are like tinted glasses we wear and forget we are wearing them.

We often think that meditation is all about having a peaceful experience, but I’ve learned that this is not true. We may be moving toward peace, but much of the meditative process is coming face to face with our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, and then witnessing just how much these experiences are calling the shots in our life. This can be painful, but it is a cleansing pain, a liberating pain, if it is done with compassion.

Freedom of thought is our greatest gift and our greatest responsibility.  It is the work of our lifetime.

Here is an excerpt from Pema Chodron’s book The Places That Scare You, that illustrates the basic choice we make in our thinking each day:

“When I was about six years old I received the essential bodhichitta [open-heart] teaching from an old woman sitting in the sun. I was walking by her house one day feeling lonely, unloved, and mad, kicking anything I could find. Laughing, she said to me, ‘Little girl, don’t you go letting life harden your heart.’ Right there I received this pith instruction: we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”

It takes courage and tenacity to look inward.  As human beings, we naturally resist what might hurt, and it can definitely hurt to see ourselves clearly. It can be quite challenging to let go of a thought, too, even though we know it is causing us harm.  Some, like greed, revenge, or even worry have an addictive quality, a magnetic quality. I can’t tell you how difficult I find it to let go of worry! It seems on the surface like a loving thing to do! But I know this isn’t true. Worry benefits no one and causes great harm.

As  you move into the second half of 2015 (I tend to think of July 4 as the dividing line), and as you catch yourself thinking thoughts that are not lifting you up, be kind with yourself, be forgiving. But right there, on the spot, to the best of your ability, liberate yourself. CHOOSE AGAIN! I promise to do this to the best of my ability, too. We are in this together!

Blessings.