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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

LIVING IN TWO DIFFERENT PLACES

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I wrote this is January 23, 2011.  I still have PMDD but I am learning to catch it early. I feel I want to hug the person that is me that wrote this four years ago. Posting this is my way of hugging me. 

I live in two different places each month.

At first I thought it was just all in the mind. I thought the pharmaceutical industries were simply trying to  sensationalized a new medical diagnosis to sell yet another drug.

In my twenties I could already sense something was wrong with me. Years later my  Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) was confirmed.  Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)  was not yet known then.

I was never clinically or officiallly diagnosed though. But based on my patterns this past years  I know I have PMDD.

And it scares me….

This land of PMDD creates havoc in a magnitude that scares me more and more.

Most of the time I am already  flat on my face   before I can really accept that I am not myself anymore. Recently I again had a major conflict with my best friend.

A day before I “changed” everything feels normal. We were talking then all of a sudden I seemed to have instantaneously transformed. He said something that shattered my peace and immediately my moods went below zero.

It led to an ugly exchange of words. A fight.

None of us won.

It is DAY 22

I still feel “unsettled.”  I still feel  drained about that fight.  It is day 22. When the bleeding comes magic seems to happen. I go back to my previous home. Each month I live in two different places.

Self-diagnosing myself as a woman with PMDD does not excuse me from the toxic climate I am creating.  I am at all times responsible for the person I am becoming.

For now I just want to write and help myself  manage the symptoms and hopefully write less and less about it.

I don’t just want to write about PMDD. I want to write about LIFE.

There is more to life about this emotional roller-coaster.

I still believe in myself.   I just had a short conversation with my best friend a while back. I could sense  that my craziness is seen not as  all of me. I am still loved.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL

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Serenity begins with the choice to be mindful. This is about paying attention to where my awareness is lodged at this present moment. Being aware of where my thoughts and emotions go, in touch with my never ending stream of inner dialogue, able to observe and recognize what I am thinking about.

I’m done with the first half of my lifetime. I am in my late 40’s. I am now living the remaining half of my journey. It is bound to end. There is a finish line, an expiry date, that one big RED LIGHT called death. While I still have today – existing, aware, connected – I want to live the best life that I can have. Meaningful, serene, happy – in all its reality.

I cannot waste my time. I should not. It is extremely precious. This is God’s gift – this being here. PRESENT to what is.

Waiting for the result of my medical tests reminded me of this one great truth:   Life is beautiful no matter what we have and rather not have right now.

The idea of my possibly having a terminal illness, after recently seeing someone who died of CA barely recognizable in her coffin, shuts down everything for me. All I could think of is the beauty of being ALIVE every single day.

In the face of an imminent death an automatic shift inside us happens. We label a lot of things around us as petty.  Immediately I told myself that I should have written a book, say whatever I want to say. It will be my one and only chance. I’ll die anyway.

Everything pales with the thought that I might have cancer. There is great fear but I was also enveloped with immense appreciation of being alive. It was an experience of connectedness with the truth that I am gifted with life.

It was a concrete appreciation of who I am and all that I call my own life. I had all kinds of scenario about leaving my family, my good friend.    I saw that I have a good life.   It amazed me that more than regrets I have a deep realization of being blessed, of this good life that I have. I am not saying I am now ready to die. It’s more about I have grown in seeing life’s beauty and countless gifts. The very fact that I am here, alive – is an immense source of contentment and joy for me. There is nothing to resolve, nothing to fix, nothing to strive for, to grasp, to gain, to go to – I am just here. Alive. Breathing. Writing my thoughts. I am happy.

I am still basking in gratitude upon receiving a “no need for a biopsy”  result.    I hope I will not forget the lessons learned these past days, the beauty of   this PRECIOUS MOMENT, present to WHAT IS. I was scared as I was waiting for the result of my tests but I was also learning much. It was a taste of mindfulness in the midst of whatever it is that I might face ahead. I am grateful I will still be around.

SELF-POSSESSION AND SERENITY

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Change in the workplace.   If I am not careful I can sulk in a corner and let the energy of this transition pull me down. 

I have only one life to live and it will be a huge waste to passively allow life’s changing mode to define who I am.

I am not a teen-ager nor a young adult anymore. I am an intelligent, self-aware, responsible, discerning and a self-possessed adult.

I know I will always have this intermittent need to be approved of by others, to be liked, to be accepted, to be affirmed, to belong, to be “wanted.” But I have come to a point in my journey where I understand, not just in the head, the meaning of self-acceptance, self-compassion and coming to terms with the IS-ness of life, of my life.

Richard Rohr’s words is very healing for me: To gently seek to be in a place where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect.

Insecurity traps me when I get caught up with the need to prove that I matter and when I need to protect an image or a sense of safety.  Even if others attempt to make me feel unsafe or ignored, out of their own woundedness and fears, I know and must always remind myself that  I am safe. I matter.  

I am not a teen-ager nor a young adult anymore. I am an intelligent, self-aware, responsible, discerning and a self-possessed adult. 

I have the inner resources to help myself  spend lesser time working on old, repetitive issues of low self-esteem. I am quicker now in catching myself when trapped on a need to be validated by others.

My love of writing connects me within where my refuge, anchor and sanity resides.  It connects me within and gives me this space of “nothing to prove and nothing to protect.”

I will STILL get hurt. I will STILL feel self-pity and feel being put on a corner. I will have bad feelings. I will have dark days. But all these will not define me.  I refused to be engulfed by negativities.     

 I am   in-charge of how life unfolds before me.   I help myself by being attentive with the thoughts and feelings I have and not to get hooked with its  toxic drama.  I have the choice to sift   through what is happening and choose to be  self-aware and mindful.  I cannot be fully in charge 100% because life has its own IS-ness which is beyond our control.  But for always I can choose to see things with less drama and pity party. 

And when there are times I falter and choose drama I can just re-set and forgive myself. I can give myself this gift of rising and falling, rising and falling. No one can stop me to always begin again.

This is self-possession. Self-possession is not having the perfect life. There is no perfect life. There is no imperfect life also. Life is. Period. There is no label.

Self-possession is a choice to be mindful and responsible about one’s own journey. It is a decision to be responsible about options taken and not taken. It is blaming no one even one’s own self. It is this inner surge of conviction that we can do something to make our lives serene and less issue or problem-focused. It is not to wait on others to solve our problems or be responsible for our inner peace. 

Self-possession is to take authority, responsibility, initiative and all that makes us our own friend, our own parent, our own mentor, our own life coach, our own true, compassionate and courageous self. 

Self-possessed men and women are waking up to the truth that the power to define our peace is within us.  No one outside of us can do that for us on a lasting mode. 

This is what I want for myself. 

I am not young anymore and I have a time limit  like everyone else.  We are not in control of the length or “quality” of our stay  in this side of life.  Sometimes  the end comes ahead before our funeral.   Dementia, stroke, aneurism, etc., can kill us long before our burial. We have no idea how our end will be. Nothing is certain. What is certain, right this present moment is this sense of being mindful, self-aware and serene.  

This is where I am now. This is where I strive to be. Serene and self-possessed. 

NEARING 50

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There is sadness.  I feel floating.   Not really lost but unfocused, scattered. I have no one to hold on to.

Is this midlife transition?

I don’t run after friends. I prefer to read a book, watch a movie, and be by myself.  I don’t go for connections. I am okay not to be in the know, not to be involved, not to be consulted, not to be a part of anything. I am okay to be just on my own.

I want to be quiet. 

My life is passing by. I am nearing 50.  

Is it also possible that my desire to retreat is out of fear of the pains of life and not out of love for life? 

Balance. This is where I want to be. How?

It is important that I come to terms with my own inner noises. I feel good learning finally to listen to what is most real and meaningful for me and not just let others define it for me. I don’t hold the complete picture but more than anyone else it is I who knows  myself  best.

As I near this 50 marker how do I continue living in this path of longing for that “space where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect?”

Serenity is what I want but I don’t want a pale, bland, so-so serene life.

I know by now that life is not as simple as I wish it is. 

Serenity is not an empty, shallow, uncomplicated  space. It is actually for those who dare to be brave. Serenity sounds   peaceful and quiet but it is not really like that. It takes self-awareness, commitment and a lot of healing of our relationship with ourselves and others.    

  • to hold oneself in the midst of darkness and alone-feeling
  • to consciously opt for what we have chosen in spite of its unpopularity  
  • to gratefully accept that this is the life that has been given to us and to let unlived childhood dreams go by
  • to let go of all that is already shattered and all that will never be due to circumstances we cannot and have no control at all

… These among others are what I believe makes a serene life. It is not easy. No one told us it will be. The choices we are making in our late 40’s, in our 50’s to be happy, to be serene is NEVER easy.

Nearing 50, I hope I can really “practice” in real life what I am writing about serenity. There’s a huge gap between knowing and actually living. Right now I am grateful and serene.

 

 

A MESSY HOUSE OR A MESSY LIFE

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I visited my mom recently. I came back drained and full of complains. She may not have told me but I know I hurt her by the things I do when I am around her.  I clean her closet without her permission. I forced her to give away old clothes and shoes. The times I should have spent chatting with her was spent cleaning and de-cluttering.

The house was messy.  

A friend told me: Be grateful her house may be disorganized but her life is in order. 

With all the difficult situations she went through as a young wife and mother she could have broken down and unable to start again.  Being disorganized is better than being a dysfunctional mother.

She is a strong woman. She might not have the eye for externals but at least she really gave her all  for her family. 

Losing two young daughters in her 20’s, struggling financially as a young couple, dealing with difficult in laws, having a husband who cheated on her, being a widow in her early 30’s, losing a son through suicide  are profound cave experiences.  

I may be complaining a lot about her clutters but I must also give her credit on how she survived all those horrendous experiences.  

Instead of complaining I can focus on being grateful.   

She could have entered into illicit affairs with young or married men who could have   made our lives  turbulent.

I can focus on being grateful that she was able to self-heal and move on  and did not end up in a psychiatric institution when my brother killed himself.

I can focus on being grateful that she has no addictions, a non-smoker and a non-drinker.

I can focus on being grateful that she is healthy and knows how to take care of herself.

My mother is a valiant loving woman but all these years I seem to be reeling on her shadows. It’s not fair.

I am grateful I have this moment to reconcile with her even if I am unable to share with her these thoughts.

I am sorry for all these times that I am insensitive and tactless with her.  Next time I am home I will focus on being kind than in being “controlling.” She will not be with us forever. In the remaining years that she is here I must try my best to be less critical and demanding.   

I am thankful for my Mother. I forgive her for not being the person I want her to be in terms of her not being organized. I cannot change her. And who am I to demand her to change anyway? Without her I will not have life. Who am I to demand her to be different?

Her house is hers.   She seems not at all disturbed with how things are around the house and I must leave her in peace.  I can only show her other ways but at the end of the day I must respect and accept where she is.

We are different and it can be okay. It IS okay.

 My friend is right. It is better to have a messy house than a messy life.