Tuesday, January 29, 2008

cycle of life

While there are many days I question why I live in a state where the temperature can be almost 60 degrees when I wake up and then fall to less than 20 degrees with high winds and snow by late afternoon, there are many more days I remind myself of the importance of seasons as a constant reminder of the cyclical nature of life. Winter can often be a very long, hard, difficult time for people--the brutally cold weather, the gray days, and early darkness can definitely take their tole. However, it's so important to remind ourselves that spring always comes.

I was making some connections with these ideas tonight while reading Wayne Dyer's book Change Your Thoughts--Change Your Life. Here are a few quotes to ponder:

"The 16th verse of the Tao Te Ching describes the value of being supremely conscious of the constant cycle of all. Rather than viewing change as a disruptive, unwanted occurrence, you can choose to view the variances in your world as valuable influences...When you see change as the only constant there really is, you start to recognize it as an expression of ongoing life that's a welcome clue to your own purpose and meaning...Embrace this nature of cyclical change and you'll thrive...The reality is that beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. So when you know that there's a constant beyond the present moment's disappointment, you can sense that 'this too shall pass'--it always has and always will. When you change the way your look at things, the things you look at change!" (pages 73-74)

So, on a very literal level when thinking about the seasons and change, I am definitely more than ready for spring to arrive. On a more abstract and metaphorical level, when approaching and going through changes in my life, I often find myself very apprehensive and sometimes even resistant. As I approach my upcoming life changes, I am going to do my best to try to remind myself of Dyer's statement about recognizing "change as an expression of ongoing life that's a welcome clue to your own purpose and meaning."

And, "Embrace this nature of cyclical change and you'll thrive," is going to be my new mantra.

At this point in life, especially if you're in the depths of winter, my hope for you is that "you can sense that 'this too shall pass.'"--Spring will arrive.

Peace be with you always.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

another perspective

The day after I wrote my last post, I was reading O Magazine and an interview Oprah had with the Buddhist Nun, Pema Chodron struck me. In the interview, Pema is describing how she went from being an "average mother of two" to a Buddhist Nun. She talks about an article she read after her second marriage broke up titled "Working with Negativity" by Chogyam Trungpa. Trungpa's article stated, "'We all experience negativity--the basic aggression of wanting things to be different than they are.'" Until that time everthing else she had read was essentially saying to look on the positive side. This article said, "'Stay with your experience.'"

Since my last post was essentially about staying positive and being grateful for the simple pleasures and blessings in life, I thought I would also explore the Buddhist perspective of staying with your experiences.

Pema: The problem is that we have so little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. I'm not even talking about unpleasant outer circumstances, but that feeling in your stomach of I don't want this to be happening. You try to escape it in some way, but if somehow you could stay present and touch the rawness of the experience, you can really learn something.
Oprah: When you tell people to touch the rawness and feel it, what should they do? They're already feeling pain.
Pema: Go to your body and connect with the physical sensation. It always feels really bad; it's usually a tightening in the throat or the heart or the solar plexus. Stay with that and say to youself, "Millions of people all over the world have this kind of discomfort, fear--I don't even have to call it anything--this feeling of not wanting things to be this way. This is my link with humanity." Connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world.
Oprah: What happens if you choose not to sit with the feeling?
Pema: It cuts you off from your compassion and empathy for others. That gives birth to a chain reaction that causes people to self-destruct or strike out and hurt other people. It's the source of a lot of the pain and destruction that we see in the world today.
Oprah: So what do you do to stay with it?
Pema: I think the most straightforward way is to breathe in very deeply and connect with the feeling, and breathe it out on the exhalation. I call it compassionate abiding. It means staying with yourself when, probably for your whole lifetime, you've always run away at that point...
Oprah: You also wrote in When Things Fall Apart that every day gives us an opportunity to either open up or shut down, and that the most precious opportunity presents itself when you think you can't handle whatever is happening. So if, in that moment, you can train youself to open up instead of shutting down...
Pema: That's exactly when you get a real transformation.

While I still believe it's important not to get sucked into the habit of negative thinking, but instead to try to make note of all of our blessings (both big and small) in life on a daily basis, I also realize there are times in life when it's hard to see the blessings through the obstacles and pain. I definitely appreciate this Buddhist perspective of acceptance during those times. Rumi's poem, "The Guest House" is an excellent depiction of Pema's description of staying with your experience and then getting a real transformation as a result.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

little things in life

In my mind, one of my greatest gifts from my parents is being raised to have a positive attitude and outlook on life. I'm not sure exactly what they did to instill this attitude in me, but I am forever grateful for it. I'm not saying I never have a negative thought or feeling, but typically, when I do, I recognize it, and I try to make sure that it ends with that thought and doesn't trigger the next and the next and the next. I definitely think some people get in the habit of thinking negatively, and because I believe we often attract life experiences from our thinking, those people then end up having more negative life experiences, and the cycle continues......

One of the ways I practice staying positive is by making the conscious choice, daily, to be thankful for the little things in life--noticing all the blessings in my life rather than taking anything for granted. So, today here are some of the things I am thankful for:

a good cup of coffee in the morning
a husband who makes a good cup of coffee in the morning
a good book to read
a fire on a cold day
being able to teach yoga
a hot bath
victoria secret's body lotion
deep, full breaths
a warm, soft robe and slippers

Truly, focusing on being grateful for the little things can make a big difference.