Relationships

Why My Relationships Will Never Be The Same

DucksAll of the sudden it happened.  After months of lazing about recovering from surgery I have found myself back in the workforce.  I now have emails to respond to, lessons to plan, projects to coordinate, and an alarm clock going off in the morning.  Of course I am grateful, but I have yet to experience a transition without growing pains, yet to feel completely comfortable with letting go.

This new lesson in acceptance is one I am beginning to navigate, but there is one lesson from the surgery that I’m still holding onto: I was treated differently, and still am over three months after the fact.

I found on the whole that friends, family, and acquaintances were kinder, more appreciative, and altogether more forgiving of me than I had ever experienced.

These changes in relationships could be chalked up to compassion during a difficult situation, but I don’t buy into that.  I’ve experienced compassion before, and it is beautiful and life affirming.  I also have a ridiculously loving family.  But the kindness I received during this period of my life carried an even deeper undertone that I’m sure few would ever admit, even to themselves.

People realized I was mortal.

I know how this sounds; am I ridiculously asserting that my friends thought of me as immortal before it turned out I had a tumor in my skull?  On the intellectual level, of course not, we all understand the reality of birth and death.  But one of the things that makes life less scary, more ordinary, and makes relationships easier to handle is that, in the words of my friend Mark, we temporarily assume we are all immortal.

Having brain surgery created relationships in which the fragility of life became more real.  And while this could sound grim, it was the most profound, loving, and fulfilling experience I’ve been blessed to witness in my short life thus far.

Now that I’m well again, what does this lesson mean, and why am I still holding onto it?

I saw that it is possible to love deeply, appreciate people meaningfully, and forgive people’s faults easily.  This can be the reality of all of our relationships and interactions.

Perhaps contemplating the unstable nature of all forms will be your catalyst toward this type of human interaction.  Or perhaps, like me, that is altogether too frightening an approach.  If that is the case, just love others, and be kinder than necessary.  Even if you haven’t been on the receiving end of this depth of kindness yet, you can be the initiator of a new way to be human together.

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Surgery

A Beginner’s Guide To Dealing With Fear

In The DistanceFear, like any thought or emotion, cannot be picked up with the hands and thrown away.  But despite its intangibility, in these days leading up to my surgery I am learning things about fear I never knew before.

The undercurrent of fear that we all experience to some degree is more difficult to notice and release than big fear.  The little things I’m genuinely afraid of, like bugs, a lack of money, or my plans not working out, seem so normal that I can hardly imagine what it might feel like not to be afraid of them.  But this big event I’m experiencing, a major surgery, is so unknowable and uncontrollable that the fear of it cannot be brushed under the rug.  Big fear either forces surrender or causes excruciating suffering.

Another aspect of fear that I’ve been noticing is that it lessens with an increase of gratitude.  I’ve been realizing that I’m so grateful I can even have this healing surgery.  I’m grateful that I can go to a hospital and have people looking out for my health and caring for me.  I’m grateful beyond measure for the love and compassion I’ve been shown in the wake of this challenge.  The generosity of spirit that those around me have demonstrated has softened my heart towards humanity in a new and deeper way than ever before.  When given the opportunity to show compassion, each person can reveal an infinite wellspring from within their being, an insatiable desire to help.

I have also noticed that no matter my fears, what is simply is, and what will be simply will be.  This doesn’t mean my mind won’t take me to the thoughts that are most potent for spawning more fear and subsequently more thoughts, but when that happens there is always surrender, there is always the “For This Practice” game, there is always gratitude, and when all else fails there is always one more chance for surrender.

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Life

A Seizure, Surgery, and Search for Peace

Story Of Your LifeTwo weeks ago I was walking down the sidewalk with my younger brother, and noticed I was having a strong experience of déjà vu.  The next moment I woke up in an ambulance with two handsome men enthusiastically declaring, “You had a seizure!”

The good news, as my brother told me, was that I came out of the seizure laughing. The hospital staff wasn’t even sure at first I had suffered a seizure; perhaps I merely passed out, because I was so very conversational after regaining consciousness.  But after several different tests, it turned out that I did have a seizure, and that it was probably caused by the 3.5cm benign tumor that has taken over a portion of the top left of my skull bone.  While quite a shock to discover, this “epidermoid,” as the doctors called it, could have been present since birth.  Even though it may have been pressing on my brain all this time, it has only just shown itself to be an issue.

Although you never hope to hear such news regarding your own body, there are many things I have to be grateful for in my situation.  The tumor is almost certainly benign, it is not in the brain itself but in the skull bone, and it is in an easily accessible area.  And come November 5th I will undergo surgery to have it removed.

So now what?  Where is the lesson in this?  While I do feel that my religious practices, spiritual study, meditation, Yoga, and the writing of each post here on Let Yourself Learn have been tremendous training for just such a life altering situation, I have been at a loss for insight.  I have experienced fear, confusion, mistrust of people’s advice, and even a small dose of self-pity.  Yet through all of those feelings I kept saying to myself, “I am on the cusp of acceptance, I am on the edge of peace.”

There is a deeper knowing that, even in a moment of fear, still faintly flickers as a beacon for the understanding and abundant miracles to come.  Sharing my situation with all of you helps to fan that flame.

In my last post I talked about the uncertainty in my life, the space being created, and what it was teaching me about living in the present.  With something like brain surgery looming in the future, the present moment becomes more obviously the only tolerable space to inhabit.  There is no more time for what-if scenarios; the suffering they create far outweighs the mild ego satisfaction of “knowing” the future.

Before this series of events took place I had planned to write about my acceptance into the Living Yoga Training program at the Satchidananda Ashram, where I was going to live the yogic lifestyle and be of service to their community for one month starting yesterday.  I thought I was finally going to get that push into present moment awareness I so longed for. Now sitting here, at my same old apartment in Chicago, I am learning what it means to be present in a way I never could have thought up.  It may not look like it now, but this is happening for me, it is part of the highest potential for my life journey, and I am right on the cusp of acceptance, right on the edge of peace.

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Peace

When To Accept, When To Change

SunriseI often find myself torn between attempts at surrendering to the present moment, and discerning my role in changing it.  This simple piece of wisdom from Sri Swami Satchidananda offers a higher vantage point from which life’s circumstances can be peacefully navigated:

“If we know that we are instruments, and nothing is in our hands, then accepting and changing are not in our hands either. It’s very simple. If you are prompted to accept, then accept it. If you are prompted to change, then change it. Even that will be prompted. Something will tell you, “Come on; go ahead and try to change it.” Then your answer should be, “Okay, God, if that’s what You want, let me do it with Your backing. You are prompting me, so I am doing it.” It’s super surrender, and life is really beautiful that way.

All you have to do is follow God’s lead. The brush never tells you, ‘Oh, touch here, touch there, use a broader stroke.’ It lets the painter use it. So, you simply be the brush, and let God paint whatever He wants. God is seeing the whole picture, and it will be a masterpiece.” Sri Swami Satchidananda

 

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spirituality

Note To Self

Tao of Pooh

When I find myself waiting for the present moment to be a certain way I think of all of the wisdom teachers throughout history in their infinite peace and joy.  I remember that the moment in which they experienced the profundity of existence in such magnitude is the exact same moment I am experiencing right now.  They are all pointing us toward the present, which regardless of form is the birthplace of all enlightenment, if only you let it be.

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Empathy

Mo Birthdays Mo Problems

Trees at RaviniaMy recent birthday was filled with well wishes for happy returns of the day.  But I discovered that even on a seemingly special day, like a birthday, I still carried old issues with me.  The areas of my life that I struggle with did not miraculously disappear.  In fact, issues can be magnified on days where you feel you are supposed to be happy and having fun but find that you still bear the burden of your own suffering. Special days can’t be created by events written on a calendar, rather they manifest from the experience of personal growth and expansion that proceeds from the faithful tending of your inner state.

There are times when faking it till you make it just doesn’t hold up, and liberation from the tumult in your mind is more quickly gained by just being honest about what you’re going through. So the day after my birthday I decided to ask my friends on Facebook what they would say to someone who was having a hard time.  Their immediate compassion was a reminder to me that when you allow yourself to be where you are at and ask for what you need you are infinitely more likely to receive it:

1.This too shall pass… (Madeleine)

2.If you want someone to listen, I can do that. (Steve)

3.I am here for you…! (Libby)

4.Keep the faith. (Jessie)

5.Everything happens for a reason even if you may not know what that reason is at the time. (Ryan)

6.Want some pie? (Greg)

7.It gets better. (Kyle)

8.That sounds hard. I’m with you friend. (Melina)

9.Stay strong, it’s only gonna get better from here. (Adam)

10.I’m sorry this is happening to you right now. (Sheila)

11.I brought beer and pizza. (John)

12.I might not know what you’re going through but with faith everything will be alright! I love you and will keep you in my thoughts. (Mari)

If you think someone is having a difficult time, say one of these things to them!  A little compassion goes a long way.  If you knew someone was suffering what would you say to them?

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consciousness

How To Know If You’re Being Present

RumiOn my walk home from work tonight I looked up at the moon and thought, “I don’t have to accept everything about my life. I only have to accept what I am experiencing at this very moment.” I then suddenly tripped over an uneven crack in the sidewalk and just barely caught myself from falling. This startlingly answered my initial train of thought: thinking about being present is not the same as being present.

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