Hello friends, hello October and the missed digests :-)
I have been traveling to my hometown for a few days. As I coincidentally opened the last page of my notebook, a short blessing by John O'Donohue came up.
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now,
to the self you bring along
Your more subtle eye watching
you abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home.
You want to take in
To where your longing
has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight.
That you may not waste the invitations
which wait along the way
to transform you.
A few reflection stirred up.
The first is Gratitude. Once the heart has been touched, it will not forget that The world loves.
and I am part of it.
How can I be grateful enough for the cool autumn wind caressing on my skin? To the sparkling eyes of people on the street? The breath that animates this thing called my self?
"What have I done to deserve all of this?" is not even a meaningful question anymore.
You didn't do anything, and you don't need to deserve anything.
You realize that while the debt is infinite, the loan is also unconditional.
You don't have to pay back at all, but you can choose to because you are grateful.
From gratitude comes an insight and urgency to find my own ways to love and care.
It's not simply that when you get to do more of what you love, you'll be happier. I'm not a big fan of "Follow your passion" in that sense. Rather, it's a spiritual practice, in the sense of "spiritus", the breath that animates life.
The spiritual journey often starts with the awakening of a deep longing. Often triggered by an external event, such experience connects the then unfamiliar inner world with a greater spaciousness.
For the first time, we notice that Love is truly universal and everywhere. Like an overflowing cup, we cannot help but tell other people how exciting and palpable it is.
And that's only the beginning.
Like the Hero's journey where The Call to Adventure is followed by a series of trials that calls us to the edge of ourselves, our spiritual identity get tested and refined over time.
This testing is where the universal gets personalized. Indeed, the task of the next phase is to remember that everyone has a unique way of remembering and carrying this Love.
Sometimes it's a prayer, a meditation or a tea ceremony.
Sometimes it's looking into the mirror and smile with tenderness.
Sometimes it is taking actions to create something that uplifts and sets free.
It's lonely, fuzzy and hard sometimes, this journey. I wish I could articulate what mine looks like, but maybe I am asked to be patient and diligent before it can be revealed. Before I can be free.
Which brings me to a DFS quote:
"The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day."
May you too be free in your own path,
Sharing is sprouting.
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The Courage to be Stinky
A friend of mine recently came for help. She recently went through a tough time in her relationship with her partner. In her therapy, she discovered a something about herself, a hidden dynamics that has caused a lot of pain. Despite her outward appearance of a free loving spirit, there is a shadowed part of her that is afraid of conflict, that wants to please. This fear of conflict discourages her from expressing many of her important needs, which leaves her with much resentment and pain.
I took the chance to share some thoughts about our relationships with ourselves.
Sen and the Stink Monster
Oftentimes, when one first discovers a new, uncomfortable insight about oneself, one feels wants to chase it away as soon as possible.
This dynamics of shadow revelation reminds me of the Stink Monster in the movie Spirited Away. He is so stinky that all the workers in the bath house have to run away. It takes the innocent yet determined protagonist Sen to bring him to the bathtub and clean him out, all while panicking and blocking her nose, of course.
All of us have that stinky, exile part that is waiting to be cleansed. Sometimes it takes that innocent yet persistent love — our inner Sen — to be with it.
The real reason to clean
After the bath, Stinky Monster left a herbal cake on Sen’s hand. It can heal the thorniest of sickness and dispel the deadliest of curse.
The gift is great, but it’s not why Sen cleaned him. She did it because she can feel Stinky Monster. She knows he doesn’t like to be so smelly either.
Similarly, we don’t do our shadow cleaning work out of an expectation of a high Return on Introspection. We stay with the stinkier part of us because we feel its dilemma. We see that it is so because we have been dumping all of our unprocessed negativity on it.
What our mind understands that there is no such thing as waste dumping in our psyche, our heart knows as a feeling of love and compassion to such stinky part. What it needs is not further shaming but acceptance, care and curiosity. What Sen gave to Stinky Monster.
“It’s true that you need courage, but perhaps for a different reason.” I said to my friend.
The word “courage” has its root in “cœur”, which means “heart” in French. To be courageous is to remember the heart, the nonverbal, nonrational way of knowing. When the mind is struggling with “Why can’t I” kind of question, the heart may know.
“What if the courage is needed not to express the part of you that wants to break free but to stay with the part that is afraid of losing your partner, of upsetting, hurting and facing the uncertainty of doing so?” I continued.
What if it’s ok to be afraid? What if in noticing, befriending and caring for the stinky part, we find a surprising answer?
Even if staying with it doesn’t directly lead into a solution to my friend’s relationship issue, her relationship with herself will heal, and something beautiful will born out of it.
In the movie, Sen doesn’t immediately know what to do with the herbal cake that Stinky Monster gave. She simply keeps it and brings it out at the right time to those in need.
After the explanation, my friend sighed. “I know what I have to do. I just have to sit with it more. I hope I will do it.”
Btw, I'm also offering a free conversation to chat with me if you feel like you are going through a trying times and need someone to accompany, clarify and keep you encouraged :-) Do reach out, please.
Quotes I'm contemplating this week
Religion "Religion is the concrete and creative response to the mystery of life." Thomas Moore in Personal Spirtuality, a beautiful guide for those of us considering ourselves to be Spiritual but nto Religious.
Relationship "Anyone can fly a relationship. It's the take off and landing that is tricky" - Anonymous.
WHY? Because it involves a lot of decision made in a short time that required you to know yourself well.
"A good friend is always inviting us out beyond ourselves. They’re always attempting to address the better part of us, hopefully through subtle diplomacy rather than coming at us head-on with our sins and omissions. But I often feel that, by definition, all long friendships are based on mutual forgiveness, because you will always trespass against your friends’ sensibilities." - David Whyte, in this beautiful poetic On Beings Gathering