Life

“We have to go back, Kate!” -Lost

Katie At The AshramThis time last year I set out on a month of adventure.  I am about to venture out for another August, but this story is very different than the one I was telling a year ago.

After returning from last year’s excursions I found myself jobless, and quite without a sense of direction.  The time seemed ripe to return to a place of great importance to me, the Satchidananda Ashram.

I had once sought the ashram as a refuge at the age of 20.  That period of time was one of great turmoil in which I found myself suddenly living alone, instead of with my partner, and feeling crushed by the weight of my own responsibility for my life situation.

The brief time I spent at the ashram was one of the most meaningful experiences of my short life.  But it was just that, brief.  Instead of the planned month of service I was to do there, I rushed home as soon as the voice in my head told me it had had enough.

The work was too hard.  I missed my family.  I couldn’t stomach the health food.  And God didn’t want or need me to worship Him this way.  These were the patterns of thought that I let drive me back home.

However, I never regretted my short stay.  I loved my time there.  I loved my roommates and the lifestyle.  I knew I would be back.  I knew there was some purpose in this brief introduction.

Cut to last fall, six years after leaving the ashram.  It was time to go back.  But the tumor living incognito in my skull caused a seizure, and the long road to surgery and recovery began.  I was okay with this, I was just happy to be alive.  And I knew my time would come.

Then it was February of this year.  I felt more myself again.  Now that I’m more recovered I can see how ambitious I was being, but I decided February was my chance.  I was finally healthy, and I had been looking forward to this since before my surgery.  Then the phone rang, and a job opportunity thrust its way into my life.  It was a blessing, but I felt let down.

Now all these months later, with many hitches along the way, I’m packing to leave in a week.  I won’t be back until September 8th.  I can’t really have any expectations about it now.  Just getting to be there will be a tremendous gift.  And that is one of the major lessons about life that I’m constantly losing sight of.  Just getting to be here is tremendous.

Life can easily feel like one burdensome situation after another, but I know it doesn’t have to.  If you’ve ever experienced a moment of inner peace, of the stillness of nature, of laughter with people you love, you too know life doesn’t have to feel like a burden.  It is as if a bright light is shining down on all of us, and if we shift just one step to the right we will be completely immersed in its glow.  My going to the ashram is taking that one step.  What is yours?

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Life

Why Not Knowing Is Not Bad

By Peter SperoEverywhere you turn the world will give you a piece of its mind.  Well-meaning loved ones, TV talk show hosts, commercials, and Yelp are all here to help you figure things out.  As we get older we add beliefs on top of beliefs until there are only a few corners of our minds left available to be filled with new understanding.

We are so accustomed to being able to figure things out that a lack of understanding can trigger fear, anxiety, and an immense amount of pain.  If life situations that leave you scratching your head are disturbing to you, that is a sign to let go of your need to know.

Letting go of the need to control life through your thoughts is not only liberating, but it is also your best chance for you to experience your best possibilities.

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consciousness

Older But Not Necessarily Wiser

QuailIt would be nice if becoming another year older meant you actually became another year wiser.  But I have not always found this to be the case.  As I approach my birthday I’ve noticed that I can look back at my younger self and learn from an understanding that I had once gained but later lost.  On a smaller scale, there are some days when I really feel in tune with the rhythm of life, and others when I am lost in the darkness of my own ignorance.

How is it that wisdom and understanding come and go so easily?  They are measured by the degree to which you are present.

When you choose to be the witness of your thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, environment, you inhabit the space where all knowledge and inspiration reside.  When you are strung along by habitual thought patterns, you step out of the flow of life.

In the moment you become aware of your breathing, of the beating of your heart, you are wiser than anyone could ever aspire to be.  May we all meet there together.

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consciousness

What The Trees Are Telling You

TreesDuring a storm a tree sees its branches whipped about by wind. Leaves fall off. Rain drenches its limbs. The sky turns dark, but the trees don’t go inside. They stand there bending, breaking, bearing the brunt of the weather. Yet not all of the tree is touched, not every part lives outside.

Inside, underground, spread the tree’s roots. And while storms rage all around it, the roots remain unscathed. The roots’ only experience of the storm is the nourishment that makes its way in.

Weather the storms of life like the trees. Bear witness to the force of the outer circumstances that shake you to your core. Feel their immensity. But remain inside. Be the roots; for part of you too remains untouched. And watch, as all the rain that pours on you becomes life-giving nourishment to your soul.

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Peace

How To Step Out Of Stress

DucksOn Friday night I was so stressed from my vision of the coming week that all I could do was cry about it.  Then just the next day, I got sick.  The negative emotions generated by the spinning of my anxious thoughts so quickly translated into physical illness that my choice became clear.  I could do my work with stress, or I could do it without stress.  The former was so obviously uncomfortable that I opted for the “without stress” option.

It did not seem easy at first.  My mind wouldn’t let go of thinking about the end products and panicking about how I would get there successfully.  I wasn’t going to find peace of mind from my mind.  That was the stress trigger itself.  I knew that to make the decision to go about my tasks stress free I had to surpass the mind’s attempts to help altogether.

It then became all the more clear that the uncomfortable state I had been experiencing wasn’t due to any task I had to perform, but rather, by my thoughts about their outcomes.

Focusing on the fruits of your actions instead of the actions themselves creates stress.  If you’re feeling like I was last Friday, look at your situation and notice if you are thinking about the end product instead of just dealing with the task at hand.  That slight shift in perspective may be the step that takes you out of stress altogether.

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Peace

When It’s Time To Stop Talking

HowardCan you recall a moment in your life when you were at a loss for words?

For many of us, that is a rare occurrence. Yet, the power of silence in the thick of a busy and loud life experience has the possibility to achieve more towards your goals than even the most well chosen turns of phrase.

I often try to cope with the instability of life through logical thinking or comforting sentiments.  But the unpleasantness I am trying to withdraw from dissolves more quickly, and of its own accord, when I allow the experience to run its course.

There isn’t always a need to explain things away.  All things inevitably fall away on their own.

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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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