“Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone.”-Ken Chlouber

mountainsI recently read this quote in Born to Run.  Ken Chlouber was a Colorado miner and the creator of the Leadville Trail 100, which is an ultramarathon trail that goes through the dirt roads near the heart of the Rocky Mountains.  An ultramarathon is 42.195.  I enjoy running. I have even done a half marathon.  An ultramarathon, though interesting to think about, is not something I could ever see myself doing. But it is not running that draws this to me.  It is the idea of pain.

BornIf you’ve never read Born to Run, I highly recommend it.  Written by Christopher McDougall, it talks about a unique tribe of Indians called the Tarahumara.  It all starts because McDougall was experiencing a tremendous amount of pain in his foot.  Pain leads him to uncovering this group and their unbelievable ability to endure.

We all seek to avoid pain at some level.  Some numb it with drugs or alcohol or relationships, but there are others who dive right in.  They embrace physical pain and ride out the storm to obtain some higher sense of self.  McDougall writes, “And the mileage.  The sheer stress on their legs was off the charts.  Running one hundred miles a week was supposed to be the shot to a stress injury, yet the ultrafreaks were doing one hundred miles in a day.”  This amount of running is unfathomable to me.  This ability to ignore the bodies needs and demands to put that amount of miles between you and somewhere else…amazing. At this level that’s what it is all about: making friends with your pain.

I am trying to make friends with my pain, not so I can run through the Copper Canyons, but so I can finally feel whole and abundant while watching the pain pass through me.  Perhaps if the pain from my past becomes an amicable companion who is just there to remind me of how far I’ve come and how much farther I still have to go, I can have a shot at loving unconditionally.  Pain does not have to stop me in my tracks. It does not have to be the red light to get off at the next exit.  It can be an asset and ally.  My god, think of how life changing that would be.

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

The Alchemist

moebius-alchemist-4Once long ago, a tarot card reader told me I was an Alchemist in a past life.

“You were very powerful and quite cruel,” she said as she turned another card over and looked at the spread with folded hands.

“What is an Alchemist?” I asked, which is a bit weird because I was less hung up on the cruel part and more concerned about what an Alchemist did.

“An Alchemist was a shaman of sorts and believed that he could turn base metals into gold, the most precious metal of all.  Many of them were charlatans, but you were able to do very magical things.  This made you mean and cruel, especially to women.  You are still paying this karmic debt in this lifetime.”  At the time I bowed my head, a bit shamed that now I had even more to regret, more to lament, but now years later I realize that psychics and tarot cards are helpful, but they are only part of the message.

In fact, her telling me I was an Alchemist led me to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and the novel changed my perspective about life.  It is a story about a shepherd boy who falls in love, and dreams one night of finding a treasure.  He decides that he needs to journey out to see the world and find his treasure and then he can marry his true love.  He sets out on a boat across the sea.  During his travels he runs into many fine people and many ruinous ones.  You will have to read the book to find out the ending, but I promise, it is worth it.

The part that I want to highlight today is where a King gives him two stones: Urim and Thummin.  The stay in a pouch he carries by his side.  When he has a good clear question that requires only a “yes” or “no”, he is told to consult the stones.imagesstones3

One day he is told by an old man that when you want to achieve something, all the Universe conspires to help you achieve it. This fills him with hope, but it is quickly lost as terrible things befall him and he finds himself lost and penniless, so he consults the stones.  He asks if that old man’s blessing of the Universe helping him with all his desires is still with him.  He took out one of the stones and the answer was “yes”.  He put the stone back in his pouch and he asked if he were going to finally find his treasure, and as he stuck his hand back in the pouch, both stones fell out.  He remembered what the King had said, “Learn to recognize omens and follow them.”  The boy smiled as he picked up the stones and realized that sometimes one must make his own decision and that trust is as important as divination.

I have asked again during my morning meditation for my soul’s path and my greatest passion and again I am met with silence and a gurgling of the word TRUST.  I felt fear and anxiety rise in my stomach and chest, but it was met with the word TRUST again.  Perhaps the answers we are looking for cannot be given until the time is right.  Though the Universe is constantly a co-creator of our desires it determines the timeline and the way things will progress.  Maybe my job is to ask for what I want and then sit back. TRUST. TRUST. TRUST

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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

Day 3: Finding My Passion

Nature_ArtToday during my morning meditation I asked my inner being again…what is my greatest passion? A thought entered my mind: Don’t forget that you need to sign up for that conference Christine texted you about.  Teaching, I love my job.  I have been a teacher for fourteen years, but I was a teacher long before that.  When I was a little girl, I would create fake classrooms in my mind and I would be both student and teacher.  I would read a spelling list to my stuffed animals and then take each individual spelling test as the various students and then grade each one, closely checking for mistakes.

As I went through public school, I was inspired by the good teachers who made a difference and driven by terrible teachers who should have left the profession long ago, and I dropped my dream of being a writer to teach.  I wanted to make a difference. I knew that my love of teaching students and not necessarily the content was my greatest asset to offer.

I am passionate about finding ways to help my students learn. I have taken so many workshops, read so many books, and worked tirelessly on lessons and enjoyed it immensely.  This conference (that popped suddenly to mind this morning) was offered to me months ago, but the district wasn’t sure it was going to pay for it.  Yesterday I found out they approved it in the budget and that I need to sign up ASAP.

Could this be passion number 1?  It seems so simple. Could the exact thing I chose as my career be one of the greatest passions in my life?  Was I expecting a bolt of lightening and a burning bush to lead me where I need to go?  Like writing, I have lost the thread over the last few years.  As I tried to juggle my new life as a single parent, many of the things I love doing have fallen by the wayside.  Now that things are settling down, getting back to being a strong teacher feels me with excitement.  Creating new lessons and ways to reach my students have always been sources of great pleasure for me.  I have enjoyed the things that have worked out and also the ones that didn’t.heart

Perhaps this workshop in August is just the kick start I need before the new school year to start to focus again on my career.  Yes, this feels good.  This feels like a start and a positive step in the right direction.

Trust. Trust. Trust.

Day 2- Finding My Passion

hearts2As I sat in mediation this morning and listened to the singing birds outside my window, I deeply asked myself what are my greatest passions. I was met with silence.  Silence. Silence. Silence. My mind started to wander.  I started to think about which bathing suit I was going to wear, the text I needed to send back, the laundry that needs to get done.  I realized that I was way too much in my mind, so I tried to concentrate on my breath.  Breathing in and out and in and out.  I felt out of balance.  Out of wack. My mind started to wander again.  I concentrated on my asking again, what is my greatest passion…Silence. Silence. Silence.

Then through the stillness came the word trust.  I must admit trust and I have had a very difficult relationship, so to feel this word emerge when I just asked my inner being about my greatest passion was frustrating.  Trust in what?  I asked my inner self.  Trust was repeated.  As an English teacher we have addressed trust as a topic in the novels we have read.  We have diagrammed it, defined it, characterized it.  Many a thesis has been crafted around its purpose and greater message in many of the word’s classic literature, and now the word was being whispered to my heart.

So I stayed on my mat and felt the word trust and felt the frustration and felt the silence and I felt my one leg start to go numb and I was gentle with myself.  “Yes, trust,” I said quietly to myself.  I fought the urge to analyze the message and the word itself.  I tried to just soften to the direction to trust.

Today I will trust the process.  Trust in the fact that my answer is not immediate but that it is coming merely because I asked the question, but patience is required.  Trust in the Divine who is constantly working to bring about the higher good for all and that I am a part of that patchwork quilt and that when the time is right I will be shown my greatest passion.

Currently my youngest is laying on the coach beside me while I write this.  I am starting to wonder what his greatest passion will be.  I feel like looking for mine might in someway enable him to find his as he grows into a man.  Can I trust enough to know that I can help him find his way?   Trust. Trust. Trust.