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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Inspiration

Feel Your Way Out Of The Dark

Feel GoodA desire to feel better than you currently feel is itself an acknowledgment that your current experience has the ability to change.

When I was younger feeling bad took an eternity.  Now it is more like an alarm clock telling me that I want to feel better.  I may press the snooze button again and again, but the second I decide to wake up how I feel changes.

There may be many rungs on the emotional ladder between how you feel now and how you desire to feel.  Don’t try to jump all the way to the top and fall victim to gravity.  Take each step as a victory.  Feeling bored feels better than despair.  Feeling annoyed feels better than feeling afraid.  We all know how we desire to feel, and we all have the power to let how we feel guide us toward what we desire.

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Inspiration

How To Stop Time

TimelessWhat would you choose to do right now if you could stop time?  If the succession of time had a DVR and you could simply press the pause button, do you know how you would fill in the gap?

Now that the holidays are over, my family has returned to their various corners of the world, and I’m navigating life on my own again post-surgery, time has begun to feel like a thief robbing me of moments I wish I could get back.

Since racing against the clock is an invitation for disappointment and constant discontent, how can you find a way out?  Is there a way to stop time?

The ticking of the clock, of course, cannot stop.  But when time feels too fast, it isn’t clock time you’re fighting with, it is psychological time.  Thoughts of missing the past, and anxious thoughts about the future make time an undefeatable enemy.  The actual present moment that you are experiencing will never run away from you; it is the one constant in a life full of variables.

Instead of worrying about a future deadline, work when you work, and rest when you rest.  The end game will be the same either way.  This doesn’t seem as simple as it sounds to a mind running in circles trying to solve the “problem” of time. The mind will continue to spin its tales, but without your belief in them, the stories lose their power.

Stop time by bringing yourself back to the faithful now.  In the words of Eckhart Tolle, “Don’t let a mad world tell you that success is anything other than a successful present moment.”

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Life

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

PresenceAs December is coming to a close, I am writing to you in good health, as I now feel normal again over a month after surgery.  I could never have imagined the magnificence of simply feeling normal until now.  But while my body has a normal state to return to, my life situation has a completely different story.  Before surgery I was in the midst of searching for a new normal after my job of four years came to a close when its grant cycled out, and I was imagining new passions and opportunities that might emerge.  A seizure, concussion, myriad of medical tests, and brain surgery later, that new normal hasn’t yet found its way into my experience.

Have you ever experienced a transition that seems to be followed by still more change?  Have you seen uncertainty lead to greater uncertainty?  When life shows its true colors by unmasking the illusion of stability you are left with an important task.  That task is your reaction.

An easy go-to reaction is fear, but if you have had enough suffering you’ll bypass that one quite quickly.  Another reaction, which may not even seem like a reaction at first, is waiting. You can wait out the uncertainty.  You can wait to feel comfortable, at peace, joyful, and grateful until you have your new normal.  Of course waiting to be at peace until your outer situation looks a certain way is the ego’s best kept secret in how to never be at peace.

Without fear and waiting, how can you react to uncertainty and transition?  I have found that my favorite, most joy-filled, peaceful, hopeful reaction to such an outer situation is to allow myself to inhabit the present moment.

It feels a bit uncomfortable at first, and I always get the initial sensation that I have to distract myself with something.  But after I let myself be present through the discomfort it turns out that the present is a pristine, perfect place to be, that asks nothing of me but my awareness of it.  When I let myself place my attention on my sensory perceptions of the present, the mind, which is busy worrying and trying to fix various aspects of what it deems an unacceptable life situation, starts to lose steam.  Real life emerges.

While the future feels like it needs constant attention, life is always happening right now and no place else.  It isn’t waiting for you to notice it.  You could go your whole life unaware that you’re only living in your mind and missing the moment that living takes place.  But uncertainty will help you notice the living present if you let it.  Life is beckoning you through every situation you find yourself in.  This time let your life situation drive you home to the present moment.  You’ll be glad you came.

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Inspiration

Remember This On Your Next Bad Day

Sunset

Each day feels different, carries different thoughts, bears witness to unique events. Whatever your new day carries, don’t forget that being in awe of the mystery unfolding before you is a natural response in any state of being.  It is that wonder that heals wounds, and guides you faithfully to the eternal light of the present and all the joy concealed therein.

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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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Life

Where Your Friends Go When You’re Not Around

DesertI remember the dean of my high school most clearly for the two times I sat crying in his office, refusing to hand over the flip-phone I had long since usurped from my mother.  On both occasions a member of school staff had caught me in the bathroom hastily attempting to contact my older brother during what could only have been a five-minute break lest the teacher become suspicious.

My sophomore year of high school marked my older brother’s freshman year of college.  While he was still in Illinois, the gap between Highland Park and Urbana-Champaign felt as vast as the distance between the windows of my trigonometry classroom and the intangible clouds above that earned the majority of my attention that year.

For the first time I experienced the pain that came with loving someone who wasn’t physically present in my life. Even though my brother and I saw each other many times that first year of separation, I never quite shook the feeling that it was imperative to live near those I loved.  The fact that over ten years have gone by and I still live 45 minutes from my parents is a testament to that notion.

Over the years friends too have come and gone from the proximity that birthed our relationships, and to my surprise the world has continued to spin around its axis.  But I am now painfully reminded of the lessons I wasn’t quite able to grasp as a teenager who longed for her brother to come home, because I now have friends who live more than just a car ride away.

A couple posts ago I marveled at the overwhelming lesson I had learned from my travels in Israel: no matter where in the world, one can always be loved.  When such bonds of friendship are struck, more than just gratitude can arise. Any meaningful and joyful experience can also be a gateway for attachment.  I so missed my brother when he went to college, I long for my friends who have moved out of state, and I can’t fathom the distance between my newfound friends in Israel and my home in Chicago.

When attachment turns joy into sorrow a lesson is being offered in return; the joy and connection that you are pining for came from within yourself.  Right now I am missing my friends overseas.  But our relationships with other human beings are not outside of ourselves, as they seem from our physical experiences.  They originate within, and are born of the love each of us carry as our very being.  Our friends do not merely reside in our hearts when we are apart, they are an expression of our hearts, and are returning home to the space from which they came.

Next time you feel attachment gnawing away at your mind, remember that the love for which you pine has never left you, and will continue to reflect itself back to you in infinite, unimaginable ways.

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consciousness

The Story Of Your Life

The ProphetIn the center of fear, unhappiness, uncertainty, or grief there is a witness.  There is a silent space, so imperceptible that no molecule of pain can penetrate it.

In this space, the witness is you.  You’re in a soft comfortable chair, smiling, as you read a book entitled, “The Story of My Life.”  Even though you haven’t finished it yet, you aren’t worried.  You know that in the end, you turn out just fine.  After all, you are sitting there with the finished copy in your hands, knowing you end up completely whole.

In the thick of turmoil the mind may think it is unnatural to be at peace or to feel gratitude.  But there is nothing more natural, nothing more true, because that peace is you, and you are the truth: you, the silent smiling witness to the adventure of a life in the midst of being lived.

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