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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.

 

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.

 

 

NOTHING TO PROVE – NOTHING TO PROTECT

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“Long for that space where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect.” – Richard Rohr.

Through the years I have this feeling that she is ignoring me.  When we talk I could see the disinterested posture.  But I also see efforts at her end. Maybe my being aloof is quite apparent too.  There is something between us that makes me uncomfortable.

But as I aged I see this connection now for what it is and I have become willing to drop the drama. In life it is impossible to be friends and intimate with everyone. It is not obligatory to be friends with all. There will always be people with whom a smile and slight nod is enough.

In the past it felt like if someone is not friendly with me it means I am not good enough.  It makes me feel small and invisible. The rejection signal is up.

My discomfort with X is coming from a perceived threat which may or may not be real. Memories of the past may be influencing me. I cannot completely marked X with the past and even if this wavelength between us remains the same it is alright.  I always have the choice to step back and be aware of my own responses. We are simply not friends but we are not enemies too.

I wanted to write about this because of my need to remind myself not to cave in into this scenario again.

Growing up I now see that my need to be liked, approved of, accepted and all that feeling that makes me feel good about myself, dictates my serenity. Everything depended on how people around me behaved towards me. It doesn’t always show because I am good at pretending but I now understand how I lived all those years seeking for my peace in the eyes of others.

Do they show interest? Do they listen to me? Are they basically warm or nice to me?  Do they like me?

Bruised by my early experiences in life and human as I am, it is normal that I get hurt when there are situations that make me feel poor about myself but I now have a clearer mind to refuse to latch on those aches. I can nip it in the bud; let it go and refuse to make a drama.

In the past I rely on external circumstances to define the quality of my everyday life. Finally I have this inner shift. I see myself turning inward where true peace resides.

It is so freeing not to allow others to dictate my inner weather. No one outside of me can define me anymore.  Wanting to be liked, accepted and approved of is a basic human need.  I am referring to excessive and unhealthy needs here. Sometimes we can get ruined by a slight word of    criticism   or when others simply blocked or fail to approve our friend request in FB.

It is refreshing to finally understand that it is not compulsory, it is not obligatory that everyone likes me. The world owes me nothing. People owe me nothing. Not their time, not their attention, not their friendship, – nothing!

I know I will still get slighted at any sign of being ignored or being made to feel invisible but hopefully I can already cut it short and be mindful of the truth that what I can already give myself: A healthy self-esteem, a positive self-regard, a sense of calm and balance rooted in my own center and not on others.

Long for that space where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect.

I pray that I have already entered  this space where  there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect.  There is nothing around me that should make me walk on egg shells.     I don’t have to please anyone to feel safe, to feel good about myself.  On my own I am safe. On my own I am good enough.

And if I see others stepping back from me or not being warm with me, (for varied reasons I shouldn’t fabricate a story about) I will not to see it as an attack against me. I will try my very best not to equate others reactions towards me as due to my not being good enough. Most of the time, their reaction is about them and not about me. I am not the center of the universe. If people around me opt not to gravitate around me it is okay. I can lighten up, secure in this space of not needing to prove anything to anyone, not even to God. (He loves me just as I am was a cliché when I was younger, now it makes sense to me!)

The bottom line is: No one owes me anything. I am not entitled to anything. And it also helps to remember that people are intrinsically good. Except for completely warped personalities people are basically good and loving.  They too are just caught up with their own personal struggles and self-esteem issues.  Sometimes we can spend so much energy worried about what others are thinking about us when in reality we are not at all in their coverage area.  And those others can go through the same scenario: worrying what we think of them.

When we enter that space where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect silence sets in. Our need to uphold an image melts down. The need to define our everyday life as good and bad ends. We settle down. No more defenses, no more pretensions, no more stars, no more dots.

Silence, calm, serenity sets in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU ARE NOT DEAD YET

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“You are not dead yet, it’s not too late

to open your depths by plunging into them

and drink in the life

that reveals itself quietly there.”  -Rainer Maria Rilke

I just finished reading David Benner’s Soulful Spirituality and the poem he quoted on Rilke hit me hard. I am not dead yet, it’s not too late….

The other night I also finished Sue Monk Kidd’s new novel, The Invention of Wings. I could relate with Sarah Grimke.  Her character was based on the real Sarah Grimke who fought against slavery. It took her years to find what she’s meant to be and do in this life. It was not an easy journey but in the end she found her voice, she grew her wings. She soared and not just fly.

In my younger years I thought I have already found my path. Partially I was right. I came here. I stayed. But now I am asking myself if I am not wasting my life. What am I doing here? Is there someplace else where I can find more meaning?

I am not dead yet. I can still choose.

Is it really a question of being happy and serene?  What is contentment? What is a meaningful life?

This maybe the stirrings I am having now. After reading Soulful Spirituality and The Invention of Wings here I am asking myself if my life has a certain value, significance. Am I without focus, without a particular cause or project to devote my energy with?

At this moment what am I really passionate about?

How am I living? Am I living well or am I just bumming around seeking for this and that  and then eventually die of whatever sort of illness or accident?

What is my life about now that I am older? What truly matters to me now?

in creating this blog I am expressing my need for serenity. I want a peaceful life. But is this a self-centered peace. Just for me. Outside this need what else is there to live for?  What do I really want to do for this remaining second half of my life?   What direction must I take in this second half marker?Sometimes it feels too self-absorbed to have this kind of moment with the self. But this is my life and this where I am again.

I know I can only contribute according to my human capacity but I cannot entirely be in control with how my life unfolds. Looking back it was never planned that I will be where I am now and yet I am here. But from this end I can make choices to live a well-lived life. Like Sarah Grimke I want to know where to put my heart and soul clearly. I want to find what is truly meaningful for me.

Even at this age I have yet to find that one passion where I can invest all that I am. Writing is my way to it but what is that “IT?”  I feel I have something to do, something to give but I have yet to know what it is. Maybe this is a common angst  among mid-lifers – to redefine who I am now in a more relevant and realistic way, the actual me in the here and now.

I want to have a clear purpose, a direction I am fully committed to.  In my younger years I thought I had this. But there seems to be a gradual shifting. What I thought then was me and how I thought life would be is shifting or maybe until now I haven’t really found my own voice the way Sarah sought hers for a long time.   I am not dead yet. I can still listen …

“…to open your depths by plunging into them

and drink in the life

that reveals itself quietly there.”

It may not necessarily be a drastic change of the basic posture in my way of life now. Maybe it’s a shift in perspective, in focus, in where I invest my time, energy, my very soul.

I really want to do something that will give a me a sense that I am not living this life in a cocoon, –  sheltered, apart, unmindful of the real world.   I want to reach old age, or simply just to live my everyday life  with a sense that  I have found that  One Task custom-made for my unique life path.  This One Task, which most likely be unnoticed in the quiet corner where I am, is not about being satisfied that I hit it right.

It’s not just about wanting to succeed in this putting-my-life-in-order drama.  It is a response to a basic yearning, a primal longing: to live well, to be at peace with what is, to be able to come to terms with the truth that even if we were not able to do it all perfectly at least we tried. And I want to try living well, with all its ups and downs, gray areas and all – at least I tried. There will always be  inconsistencies and concerns which  I may not be able to fully managed or resolved and this too is accepted as part of serene living.

This may all sound too self-absorbed but in the end this is not just for me or about me. Every effort to be at peace with myself will be a gift to those whom I will come in contact with and even with those I will never meet in this lifetime.  The gift of positive energy.

And even if no one else knows about this,  it doesn’t matter. My very own self-awareness and desire to  be focused on how I want to spend the rest of my life is its own reward.

It’s true.  Midlife is the authentic beginning of the rest of our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

MINDLESS CHATTER: I DON’T WANT THAT ANYMORE.

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Silence. Being conscious of the way I express my thoughts. Paying attention to how I phrase my sentences.

I am back to this resolution. Some days ago I caught myself using small talk as a way to rubbed off uncomfortable situations, a sense of wanting to be acknowledged, seeking attention, approval, acceptance, etc..

It came to me that all these years I tend to use “talking” not to communicate but to make me feel better and to make myself at ease.

Small talks, mindless chatter. I would resort to gossip and pass around useless information to feel a sense of connection/belonging or plain “I exist” or “here I am notice me” mode.

I DON’T WANT THAT ANYMORE.

For some days I have been practicing this. The urge to open my mouth is lesser. There is no use to chat. I do what I need to do. I smile. I don’t act distant but I don’t speak.

This is good for me. This is a good way to connect with what is inside me. Before I speak, before I can phrase my sentence, it is important that I listen within. I want to change the way I talk. I want to change the way I relate.    I want to learn how to LISTEN.

As an extrovert talking comes easy for me. I can talk to anyone. I don’t find it difficult to initiate a conversation with strangers. It is not bad to be this way but I am simply aware now of this movement inside me: I want to be quiet.

Maybe this is a natural phase as I have officially landed in this midlife zone.

And I feel good about this newfound interest. It doesn’t feel awkward for me. I guess all along this is where I am heading. SOLITUDE.

I still communicate with my  friends. I do not intend to be a recluse but I know there is an on-going shift inside me.

I talk too much all these years especially with those I am most comfortable with.    I talked too much. Not that it is wrong but I am now drawn into paying attention to how I speak.

I am re-reading the book, What You Say Matter. I have started this book several times and hopefully I can really understand it now. The book talks about Speech as a Spiritual Practice. It advocates NVC or Nonviolent Communication.

As I hear myself communicate I know I am failing a lot. And this is not just talking but more about TRUTHFULNESS. What I say Matter. Am I telling the truth? Am I aware that how I speak affects   how I impact others, how I live?

The words we choose, the tone of voice, the way we express our words, these too is a Spiritual Practice according to the couple-authors of the book.

I don’t know why I have this attraction to pay attention to my words, to how I express myself. I don’t know why that one day I had an insight that I am using all those mindless chatter to seek acceptance and belonging.

Maybe it is just meant to be as I am aging gracefully. This is simply part of growing up. This attraction to listen within and end the chatter around me.