“The spiritual journey is the relinquishment—or unlearning—of fear, and the acceptance of love back into our hearts.” ~Marianne Williamson
Today has been a day full of messages about fear. The quote above was one that was in my morning reading from Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga (affiliate link), which was the way I started my day. The idea that fear is something that can be unlearned—and that this is the spiritual journey we are on—caught my attention in a way that would not let me go.
“The nature of conflict means you can’t set a boundary in your life and take care of someone else’s feelings at the same time.” ~Martha Beck
Setting (and sticking to) good boundaries is something that I really don’t do well at all. I think Martha’s quote has finally helped me to understand why this is the case.
I was raised to believe that it is my job to take of the feelings of everyone around me at all times. In fact, any lapse in taking care of others’ feelings was proof that I was undeserving of being loved. (No, those words weren’t literally spoken to me, but that was the message that was acted out.)
I just finished reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters this evening. This is one of the most engrossing and amazing books I have read in a very long time. Despite running to almost 600 pages in the version I have, I could hardly put it down. I could scarcely turn the pages fast enough to feed my need to know what happened to the two captivating heroines in this story.
The story is set in Victorian England and could best be described as rather gothic fiction. The settings are dark and depressing, but they spring to life in the author’s descriptions in a way that I suspect are true to the times.
Most of the characters are not very nice people in various ways. Even the two heroines of the story, Susan and Maud, have their own dark secrets that they are hiding. The many secrets in this story lead to a multitude of plot twists and turns as the reader (and most of the characters) discovers that nothing and no one are really who they seem to be. The complexity of the story and the way that it is presented is nothing short of brilliant.
“You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you. If you don’t have that kind of feeling for what it is you are doing, you’ll stop at the first giant hurdle.” ~George Lucas
I think he’s got the right idea. The path to any dream is filled with hurdles and challenges, and unless I love that dream enough to take whatever risks are necessary to make the dream a reality, I will never make it past the challenges in the way.
My challenge has always been trying to clarify which dreams I love enough to have that kind of passion for following. It seems like those should be easy to identify, but I find that (at least for me) the biggest dreams also seem to provoke the biggest fears. Fear then has this way of masking the dream even from my own view, so I can’t always tell which dreams spark the deepest love in me.
“I would prefer a thousand mistakes in extravagance of love to any paralysis in wariness of fear.” ~Gerald C. May (from The Awakened Heart)
I have several areas of my life where I am struggling to make decisions about where to focus my energy and attention and my inability to make a clear decision about any of these is causing me a good deal of frustration and paralysis. One of the biggest areas where I’ve been struggling is in trying to decide exactly how to focus my efforts to develop a clear path to be able to make a living on my own by the time my current grant-funded job ends in 18 months.
“As you become Lighter and your degree of consciousness rises, you’ll find you like fewer people and love more.” ~Susan Shadburne
Thanks to the challenging relationships I have with my many members of my family of origin, I have known for a long time that it is possible to love someone whom you don’t like very much. The highest compliment I can give someone is to tell them that I not only love them, but I also genuinely like them. Many people I’ve known over the years have been a bit mystified by this because they see “love” as being a higher, better feeling than “like.”
“Our first duty is not to hate ourselves, because to advance we must have faith in ourselves first and then in God. Those who have no faith in themselves can never have faith in God.” ~Swami Vivekananda
My first spiritual duty is not to hate myself? Wow! That’s the complete opposite of what I was taught growing up. In fact, I remember having a discussion about self-esteem a few years ago with my mother, and she claimed that she believed that whole idea of having any positive self-esteem was sinful because we, as humans, are so depraved that to claim we have any value is sacrilege. That sounds pretty close to the idea that my first spiritual duty is to learn to hate myself.
Unfortunately, I learned that lesson all too well, all too young. The older I get, however, the more I am convinced that Swami Vivekananda has it right. Learning to NOT hate myself is the first step.
“Live life fully while you’re here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself … and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You’re going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes: find the cause of your problem and eliminate it. Don’t try to be perfect; just be an excellent example of being human.” ~ Antony Robbins
It was only a few months ago that my friends were getting bored (and a bit frustrated) with my constant whining and negativity. (To be clear, I don’t blame them at all!)
I’m afraid I’m soon going to start boring them with my constant joyfulness at how good life is. Today, like yesterday, was another day filled with wonderful things, and I am feeling remarkably blessed.
Some of the causes of this joyfulness are purely circumstantial—the fact that it is spring, changes like leaving my last job, the joy I am finding in yoga—but the vast majority of it is coming either directly or indirectly from shifts in my outlook on life. One of the biggest of those is encapsulated in the quote above.
“The moment in between what you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really takes place.” ~Barbara De Angelis
So much of who I once was had died along the way of this journey through the chrysalis. I have vague glimpses now and then of who I am becoming, but that person is still a bit out of my reach, so she remains out of focus.
This process of letting go of who I was and moving toward who I am becoming is an ongoing one.
“You can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and you will not find that person anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
I had a great discussion with someone tonight about the idea that we are loved for who we are, not for what we do. Intellectually, I can accept this. I can completely see that we are lovable for who we are; there is nothing we do or don’t do that makes us more or less deserving of love. We are all equally deserving of love simply for the fact that we exist, and this is entirely independent of how other people may treat us.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get that intellectually on a theoretical level, but in real, practical terms? Not so much. That’s just not how this world seems to work, from the best I can tell.