Anyone on the path of self-realisation will agree with this - there comes a time when we have to step out of the box. I'm talking about our own, self-made limitations, which either hold us back, or impose unreachable standards on ourselves.
It is the latter that I'd like the focus on in this article. Many of us, especially those in spiritual circles, may have an idea of what a spiritual or self-actualised person may be like. Perhaps you imagine that this person in compassionate and confident. Perhaps they are always at peace, never getting angry or upset.
The problem with this mind-set is that, if we cling to these ideals we limit ourselves to certain states of being and certain behaviours. A great example of this is the 'love and light' identity bubble that many spiritual people carry around with them. If one is only love and light, then so much of life is denied. This may be true at the purest level of the soul. However, we are still living in a dualistic reality, with karma that needs to be played out. Therefore, how beneficial is it to us to deny the places we get stuck, angry or fearful? Isn't this the path to our self-realisation? Surely to be enlightened is to be self-realised through all experiences, no matter how dark.
My Own Exploration of the Box
Recently, I've been letting go of many limiting identities, most notably what it means to be a 'good father'.
I've carried this identity around with me for a long time now. I always imagined myself to be a very involved father, always there for my kids, whatever they needed. However, over the years this has caused me a fair bit of suffering, and I'll tell you why.
The idea of being a good father put me into a box. It was a self made casing, which dictated how a 'good father' should behave. For me, it was someone who had infinite patience, who enjoyed being with the children in whatever pursuits they were taking part in. However, I've come to realise that there are many aspects of this box that just aren't who I am.
I often butt heads with my daughter. She pushes my buttons and I push hers. This has, in the past, brought a huge sense of guilt. When I got into conflict with her I was judging myself for not handling the situation with serenity and unconditional fatherly love. But, now I realise that it's not about striving for this, but just seeking to be who I am in each situation. Perhaps this is real unconditional love, because there are no confinements put on the situation. What's really happening is that I'm now loving myself unconditionally. And when this happens, how can we do anything else but the same to others?
A Change of Question
So now, the question that I ask myself has changed. It is no longer, 'how can I be a good father?' Now it's, 'who am I in this situation?'
I'm learning that there are many things that I don't feel like doing as a father - and that's okay. For example, I really get down with messy play and painting. And, there are some times when I just won't feel like playing with the kids at all (my children are currently aged 6 and 3). My children do not always find this easy, but that is part of their path.
And you know what - it makes the time that I do spend with them more precious. Instead of focussing on quantity, there is more quality to the time.
Being Everything that you ARE
Readers of my articles will already know that I advocate getting right into your pain and darkness in order to expand through to the essence of who you are. This means, before anything else, that we allow ALL aspects of ourselves to come forth, including all the conditioned behaviours and fear and judgement. Only then with the question, 'who am I in this situation?' work. Give yourself the space to work through this stuff.
Once you've come closer to a sense of who you are, then it's important to express this. In this way, you establish authentic boundaries. Situations will come up that you feel to say no to. Of course this doesn't necessarily mean you'll only do things that make you happy. It's more about feeling what is 'right' in the situation. Some less desirable things still need doing (for us right now, there are regular soiled pants to wash). However, there will always be a sense of the empowered choice.
In order to step out of the box of impossible standards, we have to change the question we ask ourselves.
Instead of asking ourselves, 'how would a good (fill in the blank) behave?', we simply have to ask, 'who am I in this situation?' Then it's just a matter of expressing that and watching what gets reflected back to you.
Finally, I'll leave you with this humourous video on self-compassion. Enjoy!
Hugging. It can be one of the most powerfully healing ways of connecting with someone, releasing oxytocin into our systems. It can help us to feel connected, release emotions and experience love. However, if you, like me, are quite sensitive to other peoples energies this can pose a problem. Empathic people often take on other peoples 'stuff' just by being in close proximity to them. It's part of the reason why they can seem overwhelmed by some situations, introverted, or just overly emotional. It is particularly an issue in spiritual gatherings, where the 'social norm' is often to hug one another. But, to highly sensitive people, what had the potential to be a loving connection can turn into a very uncomfortable and invasive feeling, which is difficult to recover from afterwards.
With so much pressure and expectation around hugging at spiritual gatherings, how can we establish boundaries, while still experiencing deep soulful connection with those around us?
I don't always get it right. The last time I attended an event where hugging was the norm, I came to a guy who seemed to have a very gentle energy. However, the hug spoke entirely differently, with this guy practically massaging me mid-hug. His energy felt extremely needy, especially when I tried to cut this contact and he practically clinged to me. Afterwards, I had to spend a few moments releasing some of his stuff which I felt within me, and re-centering myself, before I was able to commune with anyone else.
It takes some practice to feel what your boundaries are, and even more practice to express them. I find this especially true in gatherings where hugging is not just invited, but expected. You may not want to risk offending someone by saying no. Firstly, I would say that a persons reaction is not your responsibility. Secondly, a short explanation can go a long way. Thirdly, there are many less invasive alternatives to the full-on embrace.
Maintaining Deep Soulful Connection
The number one way of connecting deeply, soul to soul with someone, without taking on their energy, is eye contact! They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, and I really feel this is true. Not only does eye contact allow a non-invasive, soul to soul connection, but it also provides you with a mirror to your own soul.
There are many ways of compromising when you don't feel to hug someone. All of them involve eye contact. Here are a two of the best ways that you can do this:
Of course, there may be times when you absolutely don't feel to engage someone. That's fine - being clear about it without being judgemental is very powerful. Discernment is key. The people you come across will feel this.
Being open as a being and yet being clear about your energetic boundaries can sometimes feel like walking a blade edge. It takes practice and plenty of self-awareness. However, you'll find that when deep soulful connection happens, the authenticity of it will actually magnify the experience.
I wish you an interesting and rewarding exploration.
For me it's a song about being who we are. And I mean really being who we are, underneath all the fears and attachments to identity. It's a song about expressing and being empowered by the path of self-realisation.
Here are the lyrics. I offer a brief personal interpretation, but really just let them say whatever they need to say to you.
There's plenty of things I could do
Life is a house with so many rooms
And behind each door there waits concealed
A lesson to be learned, a secret to reveal
And the only way to know is to open them and go
Turn the sacred handle and walk on through
Great interpretation of the path of self-realisation. The only way is to step through the door.
Cos I'm the only one that's ever been me
The only one to see the things that I've seen
And though this body's bound to act
And this mind is bound to think,
There's something deep inside saying I am free.
The real 'us' is beyond the body and mind. Our essence is the quiet point inside which whispers to us. From this place comes all the aligned traits of the soul - freedom, compassion, will-power, etc.
I don't want to sit here entertaining myself
I want to get up and use these hands to help
And sing about Love, sing about God
Sing about who we truly are
Cos the only way to grow is through this path that I've been shown
And what's the use, where's the truth in anything else
Entertainment for the sake of distraction takes us away from our true self. And, to be our true self we have to express it in every moment. This will lead us into situations where we can most grow and become self-realised. There's really nothing else going on!
Cos I'm the only one...
So I'm going where I've never been before
And when I get there you're gonna be waiting at my door
See I'm crossing every ocean to reach the furthest shore
To meet back with the one
The one that I adore..
On the journey of self-realisation, to get 'back to the source' we have to dive right in, take risks and embrace change. If we're committed we'll surely get there.
Cos I'm the only one...
Finally here's the video to the song. Enjoy!
Wow, I just discovered this game. This could be of huge benefit to people. Not only people who are dying and their relatives, but also anyone who wishes to explore death and therefore come closer to life!
The game poses a series of interesting questions. It is designed to spark conversations about death between relatives who find the subject difficult to breach.
But, not only is it great for this purpose; it can also be used for increasing self-awareness around death. Therefore, it can be used by anyone.
This is a practice I developed a couple of years ago. At first it was just a bit of fun, designed to see how far I could go with it. However, I quickly realised that this exercise could help me to confront all my fears about uncertainty in a relatively safe environment. It challenged me to literally step into the unknown. Even though I knew that I was safe doing so, the exercise brought up my fears very quickly and I was able to confront and soften into them.
The great thing about this exercise is that even though it’s safe enough, it will still challenge you very, very quickly. It will bring up all your fear about stepping blindly into an unknown situation, but without any major consequences for your life. It also provides a very effective way to deal with the fears that arise, so that when you do need to step into the unknown down the line, you are already hard-wired to be able to cope with it.
The other great thing about this practice is that it is so simple and so flexible that it is possible for everyone to do. It can be done alone, in pairs, or in groups. I do it mostly alone, but it can be very powerful in a pair too, especially as an extra safety net. It can be planned or spontaneous, for example when out for a walk in the countryside.
So here it is:
This exercise, when done fairly frequently, will give you a great tool for dealing with any situation which brings up fear of the unknown. Feel free to go at your own pace. You don’t need to complete all 9 steps each time. Feel free to make your own alterations to the exercise. Be creative, and have fun with it.
One of the hardest things in literature, and especially children's literature, is to portray death in a way that invites a less fearful or condemning attitude towards this phenomenon.
There are a few children's book that have sought to introduce children to death. How to breach such a sensitive subject to minds who are innocent and not yet understanding of the impermanence of life? It's tricky for sure.
However, I would say that 'Cry, Heart, But Never Break' has managed this in a magnificent way. While portraying the character, death as gentle and understanding it also does not shy away from the realities of death. This is especially great for kids who have or are experiencing the death of a loved one and don't know what to make of it.
Written by Glenn Ringtved and illustrated by Charlotte Pardi, the book is a masterpiece, and highly recommended for parents who have grieving children or who simply want to teach children about this delicate subject in a gentle and sensitive way.
One of the things I especially love about the book is the emphasis that death is needed and that it makes life all the richer.
For more information and another great review of this book, check out Cry Heart But Never Break: A remarkable meditation on loss and life.
It's quite a bold statement, 'Healing is possible for everyone!' Many may be sceptical, but bare with me and I'll show you how this is true. I think we can agree that all of us want to be healed in some way. There may be moments in our lives that are wracked with both physical or mental illness, when healing is really all we can think about. Or, there may be old wounds, festering in our subconscious that just won't go away; that affect our daily lives in many ways. I think you'll also agree that a journey of healing can often be demoralising, frustrating and downright confusing at times.
So let me try to set the record straight. In this article I will seek to debunk some of the myths around healing. I'm also going to show you how you can heal yourself, but maybe not in the way that you expect to be healed. By the end, I hope you will come away with a clearer picture of what healing means to you, and how you can heal yourself in your daily life.
The First Step: Unlearning
The first thing is to forget all your preconceptions about what healing actually is. At this point I'm not going to give you a definition of healing, because I fear it would either be far too broad, as to not really give you anything, or too narrow. Healing is one of those things that will be different for everyone - it will simply be what they need at the time (not necessarily what they want.
This forgetting of preconceptions is not only important for the flow of this article, but also on any healing journey. Most people go into a journey of healing with an idea or goal of what their healing will look like; no more cancer, being able to walk again, being able to function in society, going back to work. Or, when they realise that there's no hope of these things, there's the feeling that healing has somehow eluded them, that it's no longer possible. However, healing can be found in the most unlikely and unlooked for ways.
Here are a few of the major false expectations that taint a healing journey:
And here's the number one, bestselling myth out there, that almost everybody will believe at some point in their healing journeys:
'If I don't beat this illness, I haven't healed'
It can be a huge blow for people when they discover that they won't recover from the illness or infliction that they have. They will likely experience some form of grief and likely some loss of identity. However, healing on some level is always possible. You may even find that through accepting and even embracing your illness, you change in a very positive way. Thus, often the illness is the tool used for healing.
Stephen Levine recounts in his book, 'Healing into Life and Death';
'A friend very ill with advanced cancer, visited a highly respected Zen Master, hoping for some answers to her questions about healing. After explaining her circumstances, she asked, "Do I need to take on some spiritual path in order to be healed?" The Zen Master smiled, leaned forward, pointing directly to her heart, and whispered, "you are the path."'
What this means is that whatever illness or infliction we may have is just a tool on the overall journey of you. It is another stepping stone on the journey towards knowing yourself and being able to accept who you are and what life (and death) is. No matter what illness we may have, no person who has experienced a deep acceptance of life and themselves as beings within it can say that they don't feel like they've experienced healing.
Is there a universal cure for all ailments? No. Is there an answer to the questions, 'How can I experience healing in all circumstances?', or, 'Is healing possible for me?'
That answer is LOVE.
Love: The Ultimate Healing
I'm not speaking about romantic love here, though of course that can play a part in healing too. I'm speaking about love as an unconditional acceptance and embracing of life as a whole. Not just the good parts, but everything. The physical and emotional pain, the illness that prevents you from doing the things that you want to do, the friends and relatives who just can't seem to understand. They're all to be loved because they're all a part of your journey to self realisation, to true healing.
I'm sure there are many now thinking that this is a pretty tall order. Well I'm not saying it's easy, but blimey, it's worth it! Can you imagine the peace that this will bring?
But, How? Here's How!
Firstly, we need the commitment. This will not be an easy journey.
Secondly, we need a blank slate. As stated earlier in this article, we need to forget about any preconceived ideas about what we want out of our healing journey.
Then, we need to tear open our heart. Yes, it's brutal I'm afraid, but in order to get to that place of peace, we need to go through all of our darkness, all of our unexamined fears. We need to look them straight in the eye and accept them as a product of our thinking up to this point.
Thus, a process will follow. Gradually, all the fears that hold you back will be brought to the surface. It is important that we ask ourselves why we have these fears. What have we got to lose?
Then we ask, how can I honour this fear without getting caught up in it? What aligned aspect of myself wants to come forth? An example of this would be a fear of losing a part of your identity; as a person who is a carer, a parent, a fit person, a sociable person. Then you can ask, if one of these roles is taken away from me, then how can I still express it within myself? Well, we can care for ourselves, with understanding; we can look after what physical functions we still have, without being attached to keeping them; we can get getting to know ourselves as there are always more stones to upturn, more explorations to be had.
In doing this we learn to let go. We learn to embrace change. We learn to forgive ourselves and others. We learn who we are at in our essence. We learn to deal with physical pain. We even learn to embrace death, which in turn enhances life.
This, my friends, is true healing. It is never attached to a particular outcome. However, it is the cultivation of a way of being. It is the understanding of life and, more importantly, yourself as a whole entity, and loving all of it. For without the darkness we would not appreciate the light.
If we can commit ourselves to this journey, then we may find that we begin to experience miracles.
For more on the spiritual aspects of healing, check out this article from Trinity at Openhand: The True Nature of Healing
A while ago I wrote an article about channelling sadness into beauty. It's about taking your grief and creating a beautiful expression from it. Now, I've come across this amazing video of a new father singing 'Blackbird' by The Beatles to his new born son.
The sad story is that his wife died in childbirth, and his son died 4 days later. I can't watch this video without crying, its so beautiful in its tragedy. Tragic events like this take us closer to the meeting point of life and death, thus making everything more profound and intense.
Life becomes a thing of fragile beauty, just like the blackbird in the song.
We may have even established a meditation or mindfulness practice, but it begins to dawn on us that we are not really ‘living’ what we are talking about. The problem is that we are still, to a certain extent, identified with our body, emotions and mind. We know ourselves to be beyond the body as we’ve had glimpses of the magnificence of the soul, but we still get stuck sometimes in addictions and comfort eating. We still seek distraction and entertainment in order to numb our awareness as we recognize how painful enhanced awareness can be.
The Pain of Existence
'The Pain of Existence' is a term coined by Open at Openhand. It's a term to describe the fact that sometimes our very existence seems like pain. It is the original pain which comes from this paradox:
As souls we have a continual movement of two flows of consciousness within us. Firstly there's the flow out from the source (which we could call God). It's the flow which set the events of the big bang into motion. It's what causes our experience of being an individual, in a world of relativity. Then there's the flow of consciousness which goes 'back to the source'. This is what I have based the name of my website on and more information can be found on my home page. It's what causes us to give and seek love and to seek greater awareness of who we are. The pain of existence is born from the paradox that no matter how close we come to the source, there is no direct way of experiencing it, as to experience is to be in separation (relativity). This causes us to experience a great pain and this is the reason why we seek comfort and distraction in our lives.
You can read more about the pain of existence in Open's article.
Yes, this part of the spiritual journey, when we are beginning to realise this, is not an easy time. We are beginning to see that we are, in actual fact, pretty messed up. It seems so overwhelming. How to confront everything? Well there are a number of simple steps we can take to work with all of this so that we become the true spiritual beings that we have always dreamed of being.
Switching from 'Doing' to 'Being'
This is a fairly simple step, yet it can drastically change your perspective on life. If persisted with, there will be a hugely heightened sense that you are a soul having a human experience. It will no longer be a mental concept but a liveable experience. Here’s the difference. When we are ‘doing’, there is a tendency to try to control and manipulate our surroundings according to our own desires. Its a sticky trap to fall into. How many times per day do you find yourself saying ‘what should I do now?’ Or perhaps your day is already crammed with planned activities. Yes, having nothing to do can be very disconcerting as it forces us to look within.
But what is it the Gurus say? Ah yes, the outside world is just an illusion. Our inner world is the true reality. Consciousness creates our reality and the ‘law of attraction’ configures the world to provide us with what we need (NOT necessarily what we desire). You would not feel drawn to these teachings if a part of you didn’t feel them to be true. So why not live it? All you have to do is start, right here, right now. Yes, it will be painful at times as the universe conspires to show you where you are stuck – where your ego gets in the way. But, it will also be the most uplifting, profound and expanding experience you can have.
Here’s a couple of things we can do to enhance this change in perspective:
Let’s be clear. This is not the easy option. It is not filled with ‘love and light’. But it is a truly powerful way to unravel all your blockages and realize yourself as the divine being that you are. To be or not to be? THAT is most certainly the question!
This is Open's perspective on the pain of existence and how we can act from a sense of 'being' rather than 'doing'. I've included it here in it's original form rather than trying to put my own take on it as it's his concept and I really couldn't say it better myself. In it he takes this one step further and talks about how we can both 'be and not be' at the same time. Pretty mind blowing really:
So there is a place where there is nothing. Infinite stillness. Peace. It's a non-experience now dispersed throughout the universe, within the experience. You can be in this void, but as long as you still exist, you as an individual can no longer turn off the noise, not completely. And when you penetrate really deeply, through all layers of the cosmos, you might even taste the sense of bliss as an irritation!
But in the penetration of it, of the irritation, a sense of 'nirvana' can still be found through, above, below and around it. Then interestingly, if you stay connected to reality, then you can 'be' and 'not be' all at the same time. And when you're in this place, the very grounding of your beingness, just might change the physical material circumstances to something more favourable too. As long as you're not attached that is, as long as you don't need it.
To me, this Pain of Existence will never go away, but I'm able to work with it so it feels less and less like pain. You can become awesomely okay with it.
Ending on a Light Note
Of course, talking about entertainment and distraction, there is nothing wrong with being entertained as long as it is in a conscious way. Humour is a gift given to us to lighten the load and bring the light into darkness. So, here's a mostly irrelevant but none the less hilarious sketch on the subject of Hamlet.
To be or not to be, that is the question....
... and now for something completely different!
Now is the time of dark invitation
Beyond a frontier that you did not expect;
Abruptly, your old life seems distant.
You barely noticed how each day opened
A path through fields never questioned,
Yet expected deep down to hold treasure.
Now your time on earth becomes full of threat;
Before your eyes your future shrinks.
You lived absorbed in the day to day,
So continuous with everything around you,
That you could forget you were separate;
Now this dark companion has come between you,
Distances have opened in your eyes,
You feel that against your will
A stranger has married your heart.
Nothing before has made you
Feel so isolated and lost.
When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.
May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Towards what is difficult,
Painful and unknown.
May you use this illness
As a lantern to illuminate
The new qualities that will emerge in you.
May the fragile harvesting of this slow light
Help you to release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
Through all the fog of old unease and anxiety
Until you feel arising within you a tranquility
Profound enough to call the storm to stillness.
May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness:
Ask it why it came? Why it chose your friendship?
Where it wants to take you? What it wants you to know?
What quality of space it wants to create in you?
What you need to learn to become more fully yourself
That your presence may shine in the world.
May you keep faith with your body,
Learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
Which can bring this night-wound gradually
Towards the healing and freedom of dawn.
May you be granted the courage and vision
To work through passivity and self-pity,
To see the beauty you can harvest
From the riches of this dark invitation.
May you learn to receive it graciously,
And promise to learn swiftly
That it may leave you newborn,
Willing to dedicate your time to birth
My name is Richard. I love to write, and here you can find my general musings, observations and articles. Enjoy!
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