Shadow Boxing

In each & everyone of us there is a light & a shadow. There is the side of us that emanates joy and an easefulness of being when things are flowing. This is our natural state. But life presents us with many ebbs in addition to the flows. It’s in those ebbs where the shadow is often revealed.

Seeing our shadow side can be disturbing and outright damaging to our most cherished relationships. It can be triggered unexpectingly and manifest as a previous unrecognized type of behavior. It can cast doubt on the viability of a relationship. In my experience, it can also cause shame as we confront the difference between who we know ourselves to be and the actions we’ve taken.

In these moments it is helpful to remember that we are here in these bodies, here in these relationships, to heal & grow. And while being in the light & simplicity of things should be the rule and not the exception, we must also be willing to embrace the shadow within ourselves and within our loved ones. We are all humans, bringing into our relationships past hurts and coping mechanisms we’ve adopted for dealing with life.

Understanding this gives us the requisite sense of acceptance and compassion required to work with the shadow elements within ourselves and eachother. It can be scary. It can make us want to run. The triggering of one person’s shadow can easily trigger their loved one’s as well, leading to destructive forms of communication. But ultimately, this is about growing together in light. This is about our capacity to find forgiveness and to bring love to any situation. And it is also about our ability to make healthy changes within ourselves.

The paradox is that we are given very specific windows of opportunity to make these changes. And that window is when the shadow has been revealed. It’s then that we can bring it into the light and begin to understand it, feed it with love and release it for good. It’s ironic that it takes the darkness to arise in order to shift our internal relationship with these fear based emotions, but it also makes plenty of sense. Where else do we have the opportunity to stand head on in the face of difficulty, look it in the eye, and honestly confront it?

So while it may feel terrible in the moment, it’s in those very moments that we have the ability to clean out the junk drawers of our lives. In the context of relationship, this can be a fork in the road. It can be a point where what was previously just floating atop the clouds feels tarnished, causing us to recoil.

And yet it can also be a time where our heart expands to love the whole of our beloved- their shadow and their light alike. This is no easy task but I’m beginning to understand that it is the task of authentic love. And love is the power that heals, that forgives, that acknowledges the light even amidst, especially amidst, the darkness.

My first yoga teacher would keep us in postures for a very long time- partially so we could observe what would come up. In the midst of all the triggers: restlessness, judgement, discomfort, wanting to bolt, she would say, “The moment you want to leave the pose is when the pose begins.” I finally understand that she wasn’t just talking about yoga postures.

Our entire life is an invitation to widen our hearts. To expand our capacity to love and be loved. Our shadows are not detriments to our character. They are just the places that haven’t been met with love yet. And while they can bring up pain, they can likewise present to us the new possibility of choosing love & forgiveness and in so doing open to an experience of life that is infinitely more authentic, resilient and enriching than we ever could’ve imagined from afloat atop the clouds. The choice is yours.

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Keeping Me in We

Maintaining our sense of individuation in the context of romantic relationship seems to be one of the biggest challengs to living in an ongoing sense of Presence. The desire to be awake is a skillful desire. This desire compels us to recognize the need to observe the internal and external events that trigger a shift away from Presence. Perhaps we’ve done much work in regards to inward seeking and while we may have a deep understanding of the concepts of living a fully liberated life, the microscopic truth is that in certain aspects of our lives, those concepts have yet to be fully embodied. We can see clearly in most situations and possibly very clearly into other people’s patterns. When our sense of self is less emotionally invested, our awareness of Presence prevails. This keeps us feeling healthy the majority of the time. But we are most likely interested in feeling healthy all of the time. So when do we give it up?

In those moments of feeling detached from Presence, there is usually the presence of blame. When we are blaming someone we tend to feel either righteous and superior or rejected, incomplete and inferior. The use of justified anger isn’t as strong as it appears. It is an overcompensating response to feeling unwanted. So the deeper root, the common denominator, is feeling unwanted. So let’s look there.

If we hold a secret story of feeling unworthy or insecure then we will look to remove that feeling by receiving approval and acceptance from other people. The deepest validation of our worthiness coming from the person who chooses to make us their significant other. The misguided belief being, “I must be worthy if this person wants to be with me.” And thus we define ourselves as worthy premised upon another person’s approval of us rather than our own.

This is an unconscious paradigm to operate within because it makes you feel inferior to your partner because they represent the fulfillment of a need rather than a choice. It also means that if we don’t feel that emotional fragility around them then we most likely are assuming that if they have feelings for us then those feelings are also “need based”, which we perceive as a weakness in them. This keeps us locked in a cycle of unhealthy relationships. It’s impossible for someone to be fully themselves when we are more interested in having them meet the expectations of our own projections of what a relationship should look like.

We may tend to hold a naive idea of what it means to fall in love. It’s like we are still chasing the Hollywood story. Rather than placing a relationship on top of a solid structure of personal autonomy and self acceptance, we supplant our personal sense of me with a sense of we. We transcend and deny rather than transcend and include. This new expanded identity of an “us” with all of its wild chemicals leaves us susceptible to replacing our core identity with a new identity of us. It often imagines how it is perceived in the eyes of the world and the approval of another signifies its worthiness to the world. Since it is deriving its sense of self from how the world views it, it’s like giving an addict a drug when it receives this approval. This heightened state of ego fulfillment is often misinterpreted as love. When in truth it is tinged with clinging and attachment.

The shifting away from Presence begins with the unconscious giving away of our personal autonomy. It is experienced as anguish anytime there is the interpretation of being unwanted. I say “interpretation” because since feeling unwanted is a belief structure we hold (or are learning to release), we will mistakenly interpret other’s actions through the colored lens of our own conditioning. We will literally, on an emotional plane, manifest our own fear. What’s more, even if the interpretation of your partner choosing to not be with you is accurate, this is their free will and in no way acts as a referendum upon who you are or your value as a human being. But when your self identity is based upon their desire to be with you, and that shifts, your sense of self will crumble with it. The ensuing sense of pain is not the cause of your suffering but rather the experience of it. The cause resides in the false sense of incompleteness that gave rise to the giving away of your personal autonomy.

It’s through the practice of reconnecting with Presence in the moment of this recognition that we can fill the perceived void with our own self acceptance rather than seeking another to do that for us. Once that foundation is in tact, we have laid the groundwork to experience authentic love. A love that is based upon two whole people choosing to share their lives rather than two half people trying to make a whole one.

All attempts to find wholeness through the acceptance of another is the ego’s false attempt to replicate truth. And truth, of course, is that we are inherently whole. We need only to connect with Presence to experience the absolute beauty and wonder of who we truly are. That is the practice. Connect with Presence. From that platform we can connect with eachother without the risk of losing ourselves.


Authentic Power: Week 6 2015

Power is a loaded term. Perhaps more confusing and misunderstood than any of the other virtues I’ve contemplated thus far. We tend to regard power in terms of having power over something or someone. This sense of personal superiority is distinct from true power. It’s very life force is premised upon needing someone to be inferior so it can express its power over it. This, of course, is the ego’s method of overcompensating for its own sense of inferiority. Truly authentic power knows no comparison. It is not derived from being more than anyone else. It is derived from knowing ourselves at the depth of our being.

I’ve chosen to write about authentic power because it’s something that in all honesty has been somewhat of an internal struggle to fully realize. And I feel compelled to share this because it’s when I’m unabashedly honest that I feel most powerful, most real. It would be easy to write or teach yoga from a false platform of pretend power. I can say something wise or invoke charisma to seem powerful. But I’m not interested in seeming powerful anymore. I’m interested in being powerful. I’m interested in being real.

And in it’s most real sense, power is a virtue I’ve had to discover through necessity. Through feeling powerless. What I’m speaking of is not necessarily powerlessness in my capacity to be productive or to affect change. I’m talking about the conversation we are having with ourselves. The one we are rarely bold enough to reveal to the world. I’m talking about giving more power to what I know as truth, within the very moments of emotional obliteration. It’s easy to feel powerful in the moments where I feel my life flowing. But I’m interested in bolstering my power in those moments I’m triggered emotionally, where my false story re-emerges and I feel panic or anxiety or deep sadness. To claim my truth in those moments- that’s my yoga practice. That is truly powerful.

And here’s what I’ve realized: for so many years when I’ve felt that silent anxiety begin to rush through me and waves of darkness take over, I would believe it was real. I would derive my sense of self from my depleted emotional state. And I would become guarded- even if no one could tell. Concealing our sense of powerlessness is something we can get good at.

But what I’ve come to see is that guardedness never fulfills it’s intended function. Guardedness does not protect- it stifles our growth. The true force that prevents us from being overcome by powerlessness is truth itself. It is standing in the remembrance of who we are beyond our bodies, our possessions, our jobs, our roles, our beliefs and our emotions. It is standing in the remembrance of Self, of being, where power flows naturally not from us but through us. If we dig deep enough to know who we are at a root level, we will come to know the true meaning of authentic power.


Autonomy: Week 5 2015

I think of autonomy as our individuated sense of self along with the personal responsibility we carry for our emotional states. This is a biggie. On a personal level, learning to reclaim my autonomy has been one of the most liberating practices I’ve encountered. And my sense is that it’s a biggie for many of us. Precisely because we give it up so unconsciously. Once we’ve realized we’ve lost it, we come to see that we’ve been operating in the pain paradigm.

The tricky part is we tend to lose it in the “good times”. Like what we call falling in love. An often unconscious process of trading in our sense of me for a sense of we. For awhile there is the me & you stage but then comes the fully enmeshed “us” stage. And we feel higher than the clouds. At this point, we are trapped because we will cling to not losing that high (premised upon the affection of another) or we will cling to wanting it back once it’s gone (premised upon the loss of affection of another). Been there? I have. And it’s painful as you know. Ultimately we must come to realize that we are not defined by someone else’s love for us and likewise we are not defined by someone else not loving us.

We are responsible for our own happiness. We are responsible for our own lives. Each of us is a brilliant light. It’s up to us to claim it as ours. It need not be validated by anyone else. It’s yours. But you can share it with whomever you wish. And you can honor the light in others. But please, please do not unconsciously make your light dependent upon another’s feelings for you. Yes, the light shares a common source of which we are all a part. But our individuality remains in tact.

Spirituality is not a process of getting rid of our individual self. Rather, it is the process of experiencing your individuality from the expanded basis of an underlying unity. If the embrace of unity squashes our individuality then that’s called co-dependency.

A friend recently told me she exchanged the word relationship for the word relatedness. I love this. May each of is exist in relatedness to eachother so that our autonomy remains in tact. This will not weaken our bonds. Conversely, it will bring to them greater freedom, less fear & attachment, more peace and the possibility for truly authentic love.


Note to Self

I love you. Despite whatever you may be feeling right now, you are not incomplete. You are, within yourself, fully alive. Every decision you have made has been from love and from the highest consciousness available to you at the time. Life will not always be easy. You will experience loss, despair, sorrow, grief, guilt, anger, depletion, sadness and shame. You will experience joy, courage, resiliency, ease, fortitude, abundance, peace, love, and swagger. Sometimes, most times, you will have any combination of these feelings at the same time. This is the journey. Be on your own team. Be a bold enough spirit not to simply transcend all of it but to embrace all of it. Yes, it’s true, you are not your emotions but there is no spiritual bypass surgery. You are here, an infinite soul, experiencing life as a human being. This is your dharma. No one person gives you validity or your light. You are self luminous. You don’t need another to feel whole. But when you realize your innate wholeness, you may share your light & life with another who is equally & inherently so. The way this looks may not unfold to your personal preference. But in the end, this is about living a full life, your life. Risk pain for the chance to deeply and authentically love & be loved. Risk being judged. Risk being weird. Have the strength to be vulnerable. Be down when you’re down but when it’s time, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and reclaim your mojo. You got this.


Opening Presence

I am taking this time in my life to manifest presence. The power of presence transcends intellectual knowledge. It is a felt sense of strength that radiates love to all of existence. It is the overflowing of compassion, the radiating of light. It is beyond attachments and aversions to the coming and going of circumstance. It is rooted in source. It embodies integrity and uplifts all who surround. It is potential manifest and a calm self assurance. It does not strive or force. Rather it moves with the flow of life. It abides behind the change yet plays joyfully within it. It heals all it touches and sees each moment with new eyes. It holds the curiosity of a child and a subtle eagerness to receive the great mystery with open arms. It owns it bigness without trepidation or apology. It inspires others to do the same. It need not be sought after because it is nothing other than who I already am- Who each of us already are.


Humility: Week 4 2015

Week 4: Humility
When I think about the people I admire & who inspire me, they all tend to share a common virtue: humility. They carry a humble presence with them in their interactions. And while it seems gentle, it doesn’t seem weak. Rather, it seems wise. It puts me at ease and makes me feel welcome in their presence. There is a certain warmth to the spirit of humility that diminishes the ego’s tendency to proclaim any sense of spiritual superiority.

Living in the yogasphere is an interesting place to reside. For the most part it is amply supplied with positivity, love, inquiry & inspiration. But I do sometimes feel that tinge of the spiritual ego. That sense of, “I’m more awake than you.”

My guess is we’ve all encountered this in one form or another. Perhaps we’ve even heard that voice arise within ourselves. That “my path is the real path” voice. And it’s true that your path is the real path. For you. And mine for me.

We are all right where we need to be to learn the lessons we are ready to receive. Knowing this removes the unconscious tendency to feel more than or better than someone else- a thought pattern that ironically could only be produced by the ego. My wish for each of us is that we find grace in our challenges and be humble in our progress. Otherwise we run the risk of simply creating a new, separate self identity- the same underlying ways of being just adorned in a more “spiritual”
attire.

We can dismantle this tendency by cultivating humility so that we may move forward with a humble heart, truly connected in the ground of spirit. Where we are all equal. For there is no hierarchy in humility.