On Being a Lighthouse

220px-SplitPoint_0072I believe in signs.  The Universe always seems to send me messages through objects that are around me.  Somehow my mind connects a person in my life or an idea about something that is happening to an object, so when I see this object, I immediately know that the Universe has my back.  The list just gets longer and longer.  Elephants, butterflies, anchors, and now lighthouses.

At first I thought the message was that I was supposed to be a lighthouse for others.  I was reading a book that used this lighthouse analogy when explaining love.  Sometimes people get lost.  If one person acts as a lighthouse for the other, the person can sometimes find his way back.  He can look for the light as he tosses on the storm of his own troubles.  Later that day, the movie Jerry Maguire ended with Bob Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm.

Then I went to the beach.  A large light house perches at the end of the cove in the center of Cape May.  I saw lighthouses everywhere I went and continued to believe that this was my sign that I am lighthouse for others.  My mom sarcastically reminded me that we were in Cape May, which is known for its lighthouses, but I just knew that there was a deeper message here.

But then, in the middle of one of my meditations, an thought arose: I am the lighthouse for myself.  My inner being is the light within that leads me.  It is my inner light that is guiding me through the darkness and tumultuous waves of thought.  If I follow this guiding light that exists in me, I can get through my storms.  How arrogant of me to think I could be this for someone else.  They are their own lighthouse to follow, their own beacon in the dark that guides them to the truth that can only be found inside themselves.  If my truth can only be found inside of me, why in the world did I believe that I was here to be that for them?  This is not to say that the light we shine from within cannot sometimes act as an awakening for others, but in the end, these tall, bright structures that sit at the edge of pain and despair our own connection to Source.  It is the individual’s job to search in the endless black for the glimmer of light that gleams within us.  Until we do that, we are lost.

amazing-lighthouse-landscape-photography-3Trust. Trust. Trust

Be in this world but not of it. -Jesus of Nazareth

bridgeI love this quote.  It has become my mantra over and over again when I feel myself getting tangled in the web of the world around me.  Sometimes the strings in my life have barbs and they tug and snare, and I think of these words and feel instantly calm.

I said them once to my father as he went on a tirade about some commotion with his family.  He was sad because after his mother’s death his family was squabbling about what to do with certain items, money, and property.  The emotions he was carrying with him were heavy, and I often have a difficult time in the presence of them.  I wanted a way to calm him, soothe his fears and anger, so I said, “Be in this world but not of it.”

He quieted for a moment, then asked, “What does that mean?”  I explained to him that it’s the thought that we are created to be in this world and a part of its manifestations, but as soon as we lose ourselves in the mastication of events, we are lost.

“Think about,” I said.  “We are physical beings.  We are in a physical reality much of the time.  There are events and things that transpire that we cannot control nor should we.  As soon as we start to believe that these events and things are who we are, we lose the thread.  We are spiritual beings living a physical experience.”  He looked at me like I had three heads.  He nodded and continued driving, no longer lamenting the affairs of his family. I felt generally soothed by the fact that he was at least mulling it over.

After a few minutes he turned to me, “So which one of your psycho babble new-aged philosophers taught you that idea?”

I laughed.  “Jesus,” I said.  He paused again.  His deep and abiding love for Catholicism kept him from going any further with this his derides.

“So tell me again what this means,” he said. I did, but I am still quite sure he didn’t get it, and truthfully, that’s okay.

The quotes I remember, the mantras that keep me going, the words of wisdom that help steer me in the right direction day after day are here for my journey.  The understanding that we are all here to learn our particular brand of lesson is never lost on me, and I try to remember that before I get frustrated by lack of understanding.  We are all on our own paths and we are shown constant signs to help guide us through, and perhaps showing others our sign posts help them or maybe it just helps us.  As we reaffirm an idea for another, it travels more deeply into the core of us, and there it becomes lodged and more of a truth than it was before.  Either way, it is good.

Trust. Trust. Trust

Wondering About the Nature of Love

heartWhen does someone know she is in love?  Is it just a level of caring that overtakes her softly and then sideswipes her over and over again until she wonders which way is up?  Or is love a combination of waves crashing on a beach, sometimes soft and lapping other times thunderous and raw? Does it matter if the other person loves us back?

I have read every relationship book ever created.  I have read The Rules, and It’s only F*cking Dating, He’s Just Not That Into You, Ignore the Guy and Get the Relationship You Want, Rory Raye, and Bruce Bryans, The Key to Getting His Heart, How to Be the Girl Who Gets the Guy…just to name a few, and I feel I have found the common thread that links them all together.  It is about loving myself first.  Unfortunately, this is the tough part, and these books aren’t entirely helpful in explaining how a person does this.  One suggests “circular dating”, and another is more keen on buying something that the person who is a successful relationship would own.  This way you are already materializing the good things you will have in the future. There are visualizations and experimentations, drawing clear boundaries, and feeling your emotions.  It’s all pretty exhausting.

A few months ago I went to the 2017 Flower Show at the Convention Center in Philadelphia.  I decided to go alone. I was going to take advice from one of my countless advisers: Just date yourself for awhile.  As I walked among the myriad flower displays, a cold loneliness washed over me. It was surreptitious at first.  I had fooled myself into thinking that I was totally having fun weaving in and out of the vendors, closely studying the beautiful displays.  It was right around then that I started to notice couples everywhere.  They were holding hands or kissing under arbors, snuggling up to catch a selfie, and I felt the bottom drop out.  I texted my mom.

Me: At at the Flower Show

Mom: That’s great, Honey

Me: I am on a date with myself

Mom: Oh, that’s wonderful

Me: I just realized something

Mom: What’s that?

Me: I don’t even want to date me

Silence.  It was at that moment that I realized I had run into a wall.  If the truth was that I could not even have a good time with myself, then what was I expecting on the other side of all of this.  I realized with sudden clarity that it was not love I was seeking, but a body to fill the void and keep me from me.  But why?  Why go to such lengths just to avoid me?  It would be in meditation that the answer was found.

In the silence, I remembered.  I remembered being that sad, little girl sitting in her room, ignored by the adults around her.  I remember my dad laughing and telling people that he could always hear me talking to myself. I was alone so much.  A child of divorce and a father who worked seven days a week…there wasn’t much time for me.  The thought of being alone catapulted me back to that moment if I wanted to go there or not, but then I remembered something Eckhart Tolle had said, “Our past is merely an interpretation of events.”  The loneliness certainly didn’t feel fabricated.  It felt very real and I resented those adults who didn’t care for me.  Either way the past was sitting in my lap during my meditation and I allowed it. I gave the pain and the loneliness space to be.  I did not deny that little girl the feeling of her loneliness, but I reminded the adult me, who was coming to realize that she was already whole.   I tried gentleness as opposed to an egoic tug of war with myself.  I allowed it to just be.  I wish I could say that it all dissipated and at that moment I was free, but any student of meditation knows that it seldom works that way.  My little girl self returns with a vengeance or sometimes a gentle tapping, but she always returns for the compassionate reassurance that she is not alone.

So going back to love…I feel that the best is on the mat, deep in meditation and silence.  I go within when I am overwhelmed with these emotions, even if going to the mat means I stop in a public place to catch my breath.   Currently, I am in love with a man.  I am trying not to let my white, hot loneliness take over, but I am filled whearts3ith fear. I want to nail this down, figuring it out, give it a title, know that it is all going to work out, but I have to go back to my mat.  I need to recalibrate and focus on what is real.  Love from Source.  Love that is already me.

Trust. Trust. Trust.

“When you look in the ashes, look well.”

tressThis morning I woke up with enough fear and anxiety to choke a horse.  I went to my mat to process it and try and accept and release the pain from my clenching stomach, but it was hard and sad.  It caused me to wonder about the nature of a pain so great that it causes me to rise from my bed in the early morning hours to start and try and meditate my way back to a grounded state.  Is this truly necessary?  Can one body contain this much angst? Can’t I just be happy all of the time?

This leads me to today’s blog and the above quote which is from a book by Deepak Chopra.  It is called The Way of the Wizard, and it is really good.  Chopra takes the reader through twenty spiritual lessons by creating tiny vignettes between Merlin and a young King Arthur.  As Merlin teaches Arthur, he also shows us the way of the Wizard.

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Lesson 14 contains the above quote and also a short story about Arthur finally realizing that there is death in in the world.  It is here where I moved very deeply into understanding the idea of gain and loss.  On a cognitive level I understand that there is a balance between what is acquired and what passes away, but I still seek to hold onto things that might be far out of season.  It is easy for me to understand that a peach may be past its ripening and toss it into the composite pit, happy with the idea that it will continue its journey there, but I am not so happy about it when it becomes more personal.  I cry when I get to the end of a really fantastic book.  I dread the deaths of people close to me.  I grasp at relationships with people that are far past their prime.  Merlin attributes these feelings and grasping to man’s ego, and that it is not until we “die to every moment” that we can truly get to the “gate of unending life”.

My favorite part of the lesson is when he talks about seeds of opportunity in the leftovers of our perceived disaster, like the beautiful Phoenix rising from the ashes. How many times have I just walked away from the ashes and assumed nothing good could come from them?  Merlin says it best, “Pain isn’t the truth.  It’s what mortals go through to find the truth.”

Again as I sit on my mat and the words TRUST, TRUST, TRUST whisper gently through the whirring of the fan blades above my head, I realize that trust and truth come in stages.  That these early morning risings to process heartache and pain are necessary to begin the processes of sifting through the ashes to find my seeds of light.  There are possibilities in me as there are in all of us, and when these possibilities are given light and the patience to grow, then it will be as it should be.  I can no more force a relationship than I can force a seed to become a tree.  I just need to rest in the knowledge that in every seed there is a chance for rebirth and life.

TRUST. TRUST. TRUST

Loving What Is

112592_a5614d42“Loving what is” is not mine.  It is from Pema Chodron, but I like it all the same.  She teaches us to accept those parts of ourselves that we struggle with.  She tells us to take ourselves just as we are.

This is so difficult for me.  Perhaps it is difficult because we live in a society that tells us we can always be better.  Perhaps it is difficult because I grew up in a house that told me I was never good enough.  Perhaps it is difficult because sometimes I feel like there is a tremendous hole deep in my guts that can only be filled if I perfect myself and someone loves me.  My meditation teacher constantly reminds me…”Kelly,” she says gently.  “There is no hole.  You are already whole.  W-h-o-l-e.”  When she says this in her calm, reassuring voice, I always relax.  I feel that part of me disengage and for a moment I feel free.

Pema Chodron tells us that meditation practice is not about throwing ourselves away to become something better, but I think I often treat it that way because I want to outrun the pain I feel or the anxiety that wakes me up in the morning.  I have sat with my “white, hot loneliness” once and again and again. I have felt it dissolve.  I have felt it reemerge hours later.  I have wished for it to just go away forever.  I have wished for the man who could take it away forever.  Neither of these things can happen.

So am I am back to hearing the words “Loving what is” and I am dedicated to sitting on my mat so that I can love myself exactly as I am.  Love my insecurities, jealously, vulnerability, feelings of unworthiness, pain, loneliness, boredom…the list feels untouchable, but yet, I continue.  These words feel ugly to me and unwanted.  Allowing them for even one moment to exist in me or through me sounds insane.  My inner child who was abused and hurt wants to scream that no one will ever love those parts of me, and then I hear a voice.  “Yes,” it says.  “You already are.”

Trust. Trust. Trust

Finding My Passion

landing-stage-sea-nature-beachYesterday I sat on a park bench on a beautiful beach in Cape May, New Jersey engaged in a phone therapy session with my meditation teacher.  I often seek her guidance when I cannot wade through my own personal mind fields.  She is always extremely helpful, and that morning was no exception. I am still reeling from my previous relationship, not sure how I am going to finally move on or continue to hope for something more.  Everything was going extremely well until she asked me what I am passionate about.

“Wait, what?”  The question threw me.  I was silent after she explained that I should dig deep and find the things that light me up and help me to feel happy and fulfilled.  My only answer burped to the surface of my mind: romantic relationships.  I instantly felt ashamed as I described that the push and pull of men and relationships have been my main focus outside of my two children, my job, and my own health.

“You need to go deeper during your meditations,” she said.  “You enjoy writing.  Is that a passion for you?”

“Yes,” I answered excitedly.  “Yes, I do love writing.”

“How often do you write?”  She asked.

“I have just started making myself write fifteen minutes a day.  I read somewhere if you do something that way for forty days you can make it a habit,” I answered proudly.  She laughed.

“That’s not very much time to develop your craft, Kelly,” she responded.  “If I only painted for fifteen minutes a day I would never accomplish anything.  Perhaps you are not passionate about writing.  So would you say you spent more time obsessing over your previous relationship than you’ve spent thinking about writing?”

So now, hours later, I am contemplating my passions.  I have sat in silence this morning and each time my mind wanders back to relationships and love.  Could I be passionate about finding out about love?  I do love to write despite the fact that I am only doing it for a few minutes a day.  I love reading and learning about the stories of people around me.  I also love cooking and traveling, but all of these passions take time and energy and as a full-time working, single mom who really just wants a beautiful, loving, partnership where does one find the time?

In addition to finding my passions, she also put my in charge of individuating myself and finding my soul path.  She insisted that true contentment can only exist in me and it cannot be found in others.  It is a message that has been repeated time and time again.  I don’t know why it is so hard to hear.  It seems too easy and too hard all at the same time.

If all journeys begin with a first step, I guess I am making mine.  I will work on staying present because true power is only in this moment.  I am asking the Divine to show me the way to my soul path because I think I am a bit out of alignment.  I am going to find joy in this minute instead of chewing on past decisions and plausible future scenarios.  This is a start.

 

Abuse and the Empath

loveWhen I was child, I was abused by my father. When I did anything wrong, I was beaten with either a hand or belt. I was most scared of the thinner belts.  They hurt the most.  My father has a “funny” story that he used to tell when we would be sitting around the dinner table.  It went something like this…

I was four or five and I had wandered around the block.  This was wrong. I was not allowed to go past the house with the big white pillars and the small porch.  This was a rule, but I had broken it.  Perhaps I was chasing a butterfly, maybe I just wanted to openly defy the rule. I don’t remember why I broke this rule; I just remember that I did.  As a cycled back around the corner, I saw my father’s angry eyes.  His mouth was twisted and I knew that he was furious.  I knew that I was caught.

“Don’t beat me, Daddy,” I cried as I put my hands across my behind to try and save myself from a subsequent beating.  My father’s face changed as he glanced at the few neighbors who were watering their gardens are putting out their potted plants.  He smiled and bent to the ground, supporting himself on one knee.

“It’s ok, baby,” he said soothingly.  “I am not going to hurt you.” I smiled and ran into his arms.  He hugged me as he carried me into the house.  I buried my tear-stained face into his neck and sighed.  I did not notice that we were walking back towards the house.

And this is the part my father always thought was most amusing, the part that he would chuckle while saying,

“So here she thinks she got me,” he would continue.  “She thought she could manipulate me and embarrass me in front of the neighbors, but I showed her.  When I got her inside, I spanked her so hard she didn’t even know what hit her, and I made sure she really knew I was serious because I really laid into her.  She never did that again.”

And I didn’t do that again…throughout my life, I don’t think I ever did that again.  How terribly did that scar me?

I find it difficult to trust men.

I believe all men lie to me or are going to hurt me if I give them an ounce of trust.

I fear men and the things they are capable of doing to me.

How does a person have an intimate relationship with a person of the opposite gender when this is just one “story” in a vast sea of abuse?

How long will it take me to walk away from these stories to find myself in the rubble of a broken childhood, a broken marriage, a broken life?

I know that dwelling on this past and sitting in these stories detract me from the present moment and feed my victim story, so I am trying to relinquish them to a time that is no longer here, but I do feel a sense of loss when I think about letting this story go.  I do feel like this story shaped me, but at the same time I also feel like it is keeping me small.  It is keeping me from freedom.

I am not that five year old girl holding her butt in front of her angry father.  There are no large men lurking in the distance waiting to beat me for my wrongdoings, but I still act as if I am.

How do I let go?  By writing it here in this sacred space?  Maybe by telling the truth about my past, I can let each story go with a touch of the “publish” button, shedding each layer of skin one story at a time.

And perhaps I need to be reminded of the following:

“You have to be larger than thought to realize that however you interpret “your life” or someone else’s life or behavior, however you judge any situation, it is no more than a viewpoint, one of many total perspectives.” – Eckhart Tolle