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LIFE CHOICES

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I am done with my 20s, 30s and 40s where I have spent most of my energy grappling with childhood issues, with blame and lack of self-love. I can say that I know myself better now. The need to speak about the self with another person is not as strong as when I was younger.

At this age of my life I am aware that “CHARITY” is the highest objective. It’s not about the self anymore. More or less I have passed that stage of in-depth self-processing.   I already know myself  but as Saint Teresa wrote, “Self-knowledge  is a life long process.”

I am passed that stage in my life asking what do I want to be when I grow up. This is already the grown up time. This is the “future” I was thinking of as a child. Not that I thought of being a nun as a child but I often think then of my “future” life.  The mysterious twist came and I flowed with it but through the years I was swept now and then by doubts, confusion, guilt, sadness and all sorts of emotions that makes me think that I might have made the wrong decision in choosing this way of life.

We live only once and what if in this one life I made the wrong choice? What if there is another life where I would be happier, more contented and more of my own at ease self?

And yet what if I chose the other life and have these exact same questions?

No one really knows. It could be this, it could be that.  I have made a choice, a commitment. If I was married and felt I made the wrong choice would I decide to leave and begin elsewhere?

These are passing thoughts that I have but I notice that through the years they don’t really come to a point of a “crisis” or disturbance that makes me seriously discern. Maybe they are normal.

Maybe even married/partnered people have all these musings now and then asking themselves, “Am I trapped? Did I make the right choice?”

 

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EMBRACING THE UNKNOWN

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This morning I chanced upon the title of Pema Chodron’s new audio book, “Embracing the Unknown.” Something clicked inside me. This is what I need to do. Who I need to be. Someone who is willing to embrace the unknown, to accept the uncertainties of life, the unknown, the stuff of life that we have no control of.

I have been worrying for my sibling for the longest time.

What if I embrace the unknown and simply trust and be confident in God’s provisions for them? What if I let go of the role as the “helper, rescuer, messiah?”

Embracing the unknown is accepting the uncertainties, giving consent to a life which is unfolding in ways that we do not have 100% control of. Embracing is an act of openness, an act of letting go, of letting be. In embracing the unknown we allow ourselves to be present in darkness, in confusion, in in-between modes.

The unknown is a huge threat to our desire to be in control, to be in command, to be in charge. It is scary when we are helpless, when we are powerless, when we are not in control  of what is happening in our lives and the lives of our loved ones.  The unknown is the dark spaces in our lives that we struggle to make sense of.

Spaces that we cannot make sense of makes us suffer, it gives us tremendous pain and fear.

Embracing the unknown is a life of a thousand rise and fall in our effort to entrust our lives and the lives of our loved ones to God. Because what is unknown to us is fully known to him. Embracing the unknown can be scary but what better options do we have. Embracing the unknown is not without “faith.” I embrace it knowing God’s presence even if I don’t really understand it when bad things are happening. It’s a choice to surrender, to entrust, to believe that God is in charge – no matter what.

In desiring to embrace the unknown we are simply allowing God to be GOD and believing without a single doubt that we are his beloved ones.  Our journey is in his hands and that “All things shall be well, all manners of things shall be well”  as the mystic Julian of Norwich wrote for our peace of heart.

Be happy. You never know how much time you have left.

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An on-set of shortness of breath when climbing the stairs, a strange rapid heartbeat with a simple manual task, an experience of chest pain at night ~ all these made me extra anxious last night. In bed, I lingered on memories of people I know who were around my age dying without saying goodbye. Around this time last year, a 49-year-old friend, the husband of a college best-friend suddenly died of an aneurysm.

It was a different kind of impending doom last night. I was wondering if I would still wake up. Maybe this is a normal passing phase. There is nothing embarrassing about fearing death but I can choose not to let this fear consume me.

Last night before sleeping, my prayer was different. I surrendered myself to God in case I don’t get to wake up anymore. I asked forgiveness for all my sins and entrust all to his mercy. I slept less fearful. It was one of those rare moments of complete surrender.

The next thing I remember is hearing my alarm clock. Half-awake I smiled. I thanked God. I am still alive. I kind of see God smiling also, teasing me about uselessly worrying.

Musing on death at 50 when one has these physiological signs is normal. It’s important that I am in touch with my body. If I need to, I will later consult a doctor.

Pausing as I write is a way of re-setting my inner vault. I know death will come and it is something I have no control over although I can also try to eat mindfully to lower my cholesterol! 🙂 Knowing that there is a LIMIT makes me cherish life in a way I never did in my younger years. I feel a stronger nudge to use “wisely” my remaining years on this side of life. It inspires me to practice concrete loving actions, not to keep resentments, not to hold any prejudice, ill-will, or any other negativities around me. In the light of a limited life-span, what are those toxic energies for?

I will always have uncharitable actions and dark/ugly thoughts, words and feelings but in my desire to simplify and live in gratitude and serenity I will keep choosing to re-set by forgiving myself, others, situations (and sometimes even God).

“Be happy. You never know how much time you have left.”

I have no idea how much time I still have but nearing 50 I can say that I already had a long life. I have outlived Eugene twice over. My brother who opted out.

My nephews and nieces are now transitioning from being kids to their late teens. I am currently privy, especially with the girls’ struggles with self-image, self-worth, loneliness, break-ups and all other battles typical in their age. Thanks to their social media accounts, and their choices not to put me on restricted privacy setting, I am somehow given access to their lives. Witnessing where they are now, I also see my younger self in the 80’s. The blunders I myself did back then allows me to empathize rather than judge.

A niece in her 20’s is now in a relationship with another girl. She claims to be bisexual. The quiet one among my three older nieces, an introvert, she came to see me with her “friend” to “come out.”

Choosing to be loving rather than right, I hugged her as an assurance that I love her even if I cannot yet comment on her being bisexual. I would have wanted her to be a heterosexual and give long reasons why her choice will complicate her life but then she came to seek acceptance and not advice. I wanted her to be at ease with who she is, without needing to defend her choices nor feel unacceptable because of who she loves.

For now, I can only pray and beg for a miracle that one day she falls in love with a man. But even if she remains who she is now, I will choose to be at peace with that. I do not support same-sex relationships but it is not for me to decide who she should be.

I was thinking of all these last night and it came to me that eventually I will disappear from their lives and they will continue on their journey. Like me, I believe they too will have a beautiful life ahead of them in a packaging that God knows will be best for each one. It will not be without “dark-moments” but they will graciously survive as I myself did all these years.

I have been gifted with a long life, solid friendships, peace, contentment, gratitude, self-forgiveness, mercy – in a place, a home, a Community, I have never ever imagined nor expected. I fully believe that God will do the same for them because all of us are HIS BELOVED.

And these are my reflections after worrying of dying in my sleep last night. 

A LETTER TO MYSELF (and yourself, too)

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My dearest self,

We can make things happen. You are not alone. I am here for you.  Don’t run to people to help you get out of the darkness. It is our task to do that. Don’t blame a friend, don’t blame others if they cannot sit with you in your dark places anymore.

Find your clarity, your healing, your moving-on-choices. You are an unmarried woman. You have no one, in human form, you can really call your own. You were not meant for that. God called you to be his alone.

It is not true that you will not be able to rise above all these emotional turmoil. One day you will just realize that you are less hungry for connections. You will understand that true friendship defies space and time and you will see that all along it is about you and God.

Do not be afraid to enter this new life with yourself. Know your compulsions. Refuse to be enslaved by the terrors of your fear. Hold yourself and breathe as you self-soothe.  Recognize that   in all your tiny attempts to seek peace God is ever ready to supply all you need. At times the packaging is not according to how you would want it but He knows best. God gave you this part of yourself who is now writing this letter. I am your “sane” part, this part of you who carries the clarity of your every choices.

Well, you often do not listen to me but I am always here. I am this part of you who remains clear and trusting despite all that you went through in the past. I was unharmed by fear. God made it so. I was remain whole and safe within you.

I see you   fail again and again but I don’t hate you for that. I feel your every sadness and confusions but I never lost hope in you.  I know you didn’t know any better. You were consumed by your fears, and mainly by your mistaken beliefs about yourself.    I am grateful you are with me at this moment. Others say you can get in touch with me during meditation but it seems in your case we meet better when you write.

I am with you. I am yourself who will always help you get up and begin again and again and again. Let us both stand before your fears and see that you will be alright no matter where you are at this stage of your life. You are never on your own. Do not lose patience. I am here for you.    I am this part of you which was never distorted by your history of difficulties and false beliefs. I remain in God’s space of love no matter where you were back then. Unscathed. Protected. Safe. It was meant to be.  There will always be a part of every person which will not be harm by darkness.

I don’t know if you can call me your soul,   your higher self,   your essence. Whatever label won’t matter but what I want you to never forget is that you are never alone. No one has abandoned you even if your father died early, your mother left you for some time,   your “failed” relationships – these are not abandonment(s).   It has touched your life with pain but ultimately you were never abandoned because I have accompanied you all along the journey. You felt alone but in truth I was there. You couldn’t hear but I never left you. And I am still here and will always be here.

You have me already long before other friendships were given to you. Long before all the other “band-aids” were applied.   Try to use your remaining time wisely now. I can help you.

The struggle with loneliness will always be there but the intensity will change.   Trust yourself on this.  Remember that you have me. I am a spark of God’s presence in you. I have been taking care of you through the years and it will never change.

I hope you will always remember too as you enter another decade of your life that only when you find peace in “US” – yourself in me, in your true essence – intact, healed, whole, freed from fears and groundlessness – only then that your relationship with others can be really called true friendship. Empty of your need to be filled by them, to seek  refuge in them. There is no perfect life but inner peace is possible.

I can help you find that kind of peace.    I am with you always, 24/7.  Trust me with your tomorrow. Trust me with your today. Trust HIM who gave me to you.

 

 

 

 

WRITE

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I am still here. Wanting to write but still so unfocused in making this happen. Someday I want to be a writer but then I know there is no someday. Just today.

I am nearing 50 and I am beginning to seriously be afraid about not fulfilling my dream. Daily there is something I need to do that I keep postponing the prescribed writing practice. And most days I question if I can really write and if it’s worth my time. But then the desire never wanes. It is always here. Quietly nudging at me. Write. Write. Write.

What will I write about?

LIFE DOESN’T FRIGHTEN ME

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My 8-year-old niece recited Maya Angelou’s “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” for her English class subject. Her mom posted it in FB and I watched it in full admiration for her ability to memorize and say the words with clarity and expression.

Listening to her poem felt like entering a door inside me.

It was the first time I heard “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” and it came at a time when life seems to be frightening me more and more.

The ongoing war in Aleppo, Mosul, Yemen and other parts of the Middle East, the genocide in Myanmar, Trump rising, chaos in the government, a plane crashing killing an entire football team and their coaching staff and journalists because of lack of fuel, earthquakes in Italy, Japan, Indonesia and elsewhere, the appalling migrant crisis in Europe, human trafficking and many other tragic news seems to pull me strongly to be scared about life.

When I heard my niece recited the poem I realized how this past months fear has crept in heavily on me.  Some are saying its best to skip the news and stay unscathed by horrifying stories around us. Yet this is not how I want to live. I cannot not read simply to protect myself from the pain of knowing.

With the advent of the internet though there is a tsunami of visual bombardment of graphic information. Some are really way beyond what the heart can receive. The other night I deliberately did not look at the video of a teen-ager in Mosul whose body was dragged before a tank. The article said it crushed the boy’s head.

Apparently it came from the very same photo-journalist who posted the iconic picture of a young boy from Syria who sat stunned, bleeding and motionless in an ambulance which captured the hearts of global viewers. If it was the same photo-journalist who participated in the death of an Iraqi teen-ager and in bringing out the iconic photo of a young boy in Syria to blame Assad’s regime then it is truly frightening. The media may not be telling the truth also. I also think of Bana Alabed, the 7-year-old girl mom who kept posting with her mom’s help from the war-torn Syria since September. I also am confused how could they continue to have a Wi-Fi access when everything else was taken from them by the atrocious civil war?  It frightens me to realize that we don’t really know what to believe anymore. Propaganda initiatives is making a fool of all of us if ever even Bana from Twitter is a fictitious character.

Life also frightens me knowing that Trump will very soon take office. It frightens me that there were really people who voted for him. For real.

Life frightened me recently too when I heard that my brother needed to seek a specialist for a health concern.

Life frightens me as I hear news of my mother having  forgetful episodes already. I think of the possibility of her having age-related illnesses such as dementia. I pray it will never happen. I know what ravages Alzheimer’s can do to a person having lived with someone for the past ten years and counting.

Life frightens me when I see an introvert, shy-looking teen-age niece who is studying in a Catholic school, suddenly posting a picture of her almost naked self in a skimpy swim-suit in social media. 

Life frightens me when a once bright-eyed, bubbly and highly smart  nine-year old girl I know as a baby  drastically  changed into a  violent, extremely anxious, verbally abusive and depressive person. Her inability to cope after a bullying experience at school and her teacher’s refusal to acknowledge the incident shattered her not even a  decade old spirit. She now  refused to step out of the house for months already and never went back to school. This week she has to be restrained and brought to a psychiatrist.

Life frightens me whenever I am having a chest discomfort. ECG result did not show a need for further test and a doctor told me it could just be an acid reflux. But it still frightens me as I still have the pain now and then.  I read that at times the first sign of a heart illness is death.

Where were the years when I don’t have these morbid thoughts?

Where were the years when I read or watch the news and not really feel affected by it?

Where were the years of my life when cholesterol, triglycerides, SGPT were not part of my vocabulary?

Where were the years when death is seen only for other people?

Aging, maybe aging is doing this to me. Now I know more clearly that death is real and time here on earth is limited. When your young life seems to be forever.

But who have I become through the years?

Why does life frighten me  when I’m supposed to be a woman of faith and with a life completely surrendered to God?

Is it because of my regular reading of news nowadays, both locally and abroad  which I was not really doing in the past?

Is it because I have acquaintances and friends near and far who had sicknesses or some even died already?

Is it because a most beloved friend/mentor is aging and I know I am apprehensive about being on my own when she dies because of  her silent heart related health issues?

Conditions may not also be according to how I wish things are at the home front and I may also be having a quiet, pervasive and long-standing down time. I know I am going through a deeper sadness in my own life as I enter my 50’s and yielding, struggling to the re-shaping of a deep celibate friendship as his life’s work and geographical move has to be respected.

Am I grieving for the seeming loss of a familiar regular conversations which circumstances is asking me to let go?   Am I in transition as I realized more and more that ultimately I am and will be ALONE? Yet I know this is what is being asked of me.  It’s  my  path towards my own authentic inner freedom and emotional/spiritual maturity at this time of my personal journey, this what I call yielding mode.

It’s been many months too since my last period. I may also be in a pre-menopausal chemical imbalance mode. I can also be affected physiologically and it may be coming out in my tendency to dwell on life’s harshness and attachments to old ways.

I don’t know but the truth is it feels good to be able to name all this. To say fully that life frightens me ironically feels freeing at the same time.

I am not ashamed to name how I feel.

I am not feeling apologetic too  that this is where I have found myself now. In a space where  I am not supposed to be “seen”as dictated by how others expects who I should be. As a nun I am expected to be without fear. Only faith.

I call this a home-visit. This is me visiting my own self and finding her afraid and yet it is alright. I know I don’t even need to explain myself to anyone. I just wanted to write and acknowledge that life frightens me. This is my own truth. Right now. I am grateful for having come across Maya’s poem.

As I listened to Maya read her poem in You Tube it has a soothing, calming effect on me. Yes, I have fears but here comes Maya saying that there’s another mode of living. She’s not giving a list of assurances of a terror-free existence in her poem. She’s simply saying it doesn’t scare her at all.

And if she can live that way I know I can too.  Maya has Faith in God. She has Faith in herself. She has Faith in LIFE.  Without needing to convince myself the words of Maya Angelou quietly gives me hope and an abiding sense that I am safe and will continue to be safe and need not fear life.

In life and in death I belong to God.

LIFE DOESN’T FRIGHTEN ME

Shadows on the wall

Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Bad dogs barking loud
big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Mean old Mother Goose

Lions on the loose

they don’t frighten me at all

Dragons breathing flame
on my counterpane
that doesn’t frighten me at all.

I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
so they fly
I just smile
they go wild

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Tough guys fight

All alone at night
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Panthers in the park
Strangers in the dark
No, they don’t frighten me at all.

That new classroom where
Boys all pull my hair
(Kissy little girls
with their hair in curls)
they don’t frighten me at all.

Don’t show me frogs and snakes

And listen for my scream,

If I’m afraid at all
It’s only in my dreams.

I’ve got a magic charm
that I keep up my sleeve
I can walk the ocean floor
and never have to breathe.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Not at all
Not at all.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

– Maya Angelou

 

 

PEMA CHODRON’S MAITRI

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I continue to be still and sit twice a day. An Easter gift.  15 minutes, 30 minutes…whatever. The important thing is I am trying not to read but sit still as I gather “ALL OF ME.” This feels right. This idea of “everything belongs” as Rohr put it. Not rejecting any part of my past. I read a line that went like this, “When was the last time you visited yourself?” When I sit I call it home-visit.

Sitting still is not just really about the self but being with God within me, in the innermost silent part of my awareness. It is not self-preoccupation because when I am silent I know I am with God and not just with myself.   Pema might not be saying this in her writings but this is how it is for me, in my own personal experience of sitting down which I call prayer.

The purpose of sitting/meditating/centering/praying is not to go on a peace ride. It is not to feel good, holy or to escape from real life situations. Slowly I am beginning to understand that nothing will really exempt anyone from the “restlessness/big and small sufferings” of life. No meditation can make our lives problem-free but it can help us see things clearly.

According to Pema Chodron in her book, The Places that Scare You, seeing things clearly is one among the four qualities of maître we cultivate as we sit still or practice silent prayer or meditation.  The four qualities are:

Steadfastness

Clear seeing

Experiencing our emotional distress

Attention to the present moment

What is MAITRI?

Pema wrote that Maitri means unconditional friendliness or being totally relaxed with ourselves. It is relating with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception.  All that makes us feel ugly, small and dirty are now seen in a different light. Self-forgiveness begins. Unhealthy choices in the past towards others and the self is seen with a deeper acceptance and understanding. We realized more and more that  everyone is doing the best they can with the inner resources that they had and that includes ourselves.  It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves that  we can let go of harmful patterns in our lives and allow lasting transformation to happen.

Maitri is HONORING our lives, the choices we made and not made.  Maitri is freeing ourselves from our own self-criticisms and negative beliefs that make us shameful and feeling unworthy.   It is givin ourselves permission to be exactly who we are including all the blunders, mistakes, immoralities, weaknesses, failures and all that we see as wrong episodes of our lives in the past and even at present.

Another word I can use for maître is self-compassion. It is a relationship with one’s self where there is nothing to defend or to protect.  This idea of maitri or unconditional acceptance of ourselves embraces all that we are without excuses, without needing to explain, without taking issue with anything or anyone

Maitri is allowing the self to come out from the cave of shame, anger, blame and unforgiveness.   It is our awakening to the truth that all along our sanity and well-being depends on our being our own primary support and best friend.

This stance to life does not fix all our angst, restlessness and issues but it provides a sense of safety and acceptance to be just who we really are. There are no harsh expectations, no demands, and no conditions. There is no need to control.

We begin to be more patient and understanding with our own self as we continue to sit still (pray.)  It is a new experience of knowing our vulnerabilities, all that we believe is fragile within us, all that makes us doubt in our own and in other’s goodness, all that makes life fearful, groundless and unsafe and yet we can be calm, open and kind towards our own self and others.

Maitri is the spirituality of POPE FRANCIS. It is the essence of his “Who are we to judge?” statement.

Maitri is Mercy. God’s face is MERCY.

All along this is what Pema and all other spiritual teachers are telling us: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Jesus told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love others.    This love is a merciful, compassionate love and it starts with our selves.

I often forget this.

Hopefully I can begin again.