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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.

 

GROUNDLESSNESS

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Pema Chodron’s “groundlessness” is St. John of the Cross’ “dark night.”

When we experience groundlessness or dark night we are given the gift to awaken to the truth of life’s essential realities. What once gives us a sense of safety or peace is shattered, lost or acutely seen in its truth. Impermanent. Fleeting. Superficial. Unreliable. Undependable.   Groundlessness/dark night sets in.  This is universally labeled as SUFFERING.

No one will ever be exempted.

In our younger years or before we got interested to read spirituality books or have our “awakenings” – we go through life believing that all pain, difficulties, restlessness, uneasiness, conflicts – all that makes one ill at ease – has to be solved, fixed, do away with, before we can finally begin to arrive “there.” To that serene, peaceful life.

In my readings of Pema, which I find strong resonance with St.  John of the Cross, I am seeing more clearly that suffering cannot be completely removed from our everyday life (though there are  unnecessary, man-made petty sufferings which can be avoided.)

Pema’s words – befriending our personal demons –  speaks to me of facing our fears and understanding where they are coming from and learning skills to healthily manage them, instead of assuming that our fears are to be seen as enemies and “bad” parts of our personality.

I have met and sat with my personal demon countless times.  Psychology labels them as “weaknessness” or “learned/acquired dysfunctional reactions to life’s miseries.”  These are my autopilot response   when I feel groundless.  It is my common “escape route,” my complusive reactions to find safety, my habitual way of relating with insecurities.

Befriending our personal demons is the initial step in loosening its grip on us.

Pema’s echo of the ancient teaching of unconditional friendliness towards oneself is similar to Jesus’ “To love others as we love ourselves.”  Love of self is “maîtri – unconditional friendliness towards one’s self.”

The journey truly begins with one’s inner life and not on what is outside.

FEAR is always inside us. It is this fear, this sense of groundlessness, which makes us relate to life on a perpetual ill at ease-vigilant-alarmed mode. Fear blocks our path to “friendliness” towards our own self.

I will continue reading Pema, with focused this time. I want what she has understood and lived and is teaching as a Buddhist nun. I also want to continue seeing the pattern of similarities of my Catholic faith and the Buddhist lessons on putting order into disordered lives.

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. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

QUIET

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It is silent right now.

Right now there is no urgent issue or concern I need to “fix.” Yes, what if all along there is really nothing to fix but only to accept. It is not always like that though. There are real stuff we need to work on but I am thinking of our inner life, our angst, our patterns of getting hook. What if all I really have to do is to drop the stories in my mind and move on.

It is day 50 something and I am surprisingly calm. It is full moon tomorrow and I am still okay. It sounds strange but I often have a meltdown around full moon time. Right now I feel at peace. I am alone but not lonely. This is rare.

There are things I am beginning to accept.

Issues I would not insist anymore.

But I still feel nostalgic now and then but then I cannot really have both worlds. Where I am is where I am. The road not taken is a fact of life. I cannot be all over the world. I have to choose. I have already made my choice. I am happy where I am. Am I really? Should I say I have accepted, or is more accepting of where I am. When I was younger I surge to this space with much enthusiasm. Then I started looking back.

But I am more realistic now. Not that there is no more life anymore outside where I am now but I have this sense that this where I am supposed to be. I could be elsewhere and still have this kind of musing. Life is strange. We really never know how it will unfold. The idea of being in control of who will we be or where will we be ten, twenty years from now is unreal. We do not really know. We don’t even know if tomorrow we die.

I will relish where I am now. This sense of peace, of quiet, of rest.

It is rare that I am on this space: Not grasping, not waiting for anything to happen, not fixing anything, not wanting this or that.

It is rare when I don’t care about what people think of me. It is rare when it doesn’t matter whether I am liked or not. It is rare when there is no agenda.

What do I call this time?

I wish I can extend this to my tomorrow but it doesn’t really matter. I have today.

It’s beautiful to be alive and have this sense of peace. I am fully aware of the sad news around the world. CNN never fails to tell me and yet in spite of all the bad news there’s this part of me that can still find this quiet. There is so much pain all around but it is important that I still get in touch with this peace inside me. I also have my many days of inner battles but I am really grateful that today it is different.

I wonder how it is when life is over. What will be our consciousness out there, out there where there is no  body, no time, no gravity. What dimension will it be? What kind of silence? I think of death with curiosity and with fear too. The great unknown.

For now I will relish being alive. It is good, it is beautiful, it is full of meaning – this gift we call LIFE.

Whatever circumstance I have….so different from most men and women out there, this living in the monastery and still be so ORDINARY in my thoughts, feelings, angst…it is hard to define this life . I know that there is  so much myths, expectations, boxes…loads of boxes.

But I am grateful that I am able to write and that today I am quiet. Thank YOU, Lord.