Love Is Not Bound By Reality

Love is not bound by reality – 

But it is bound by infinity. 

Some moments it can be entered

and others it is like a slow, distant orbit: 

like planets around a sun – always warmed by a pervading grace 

but just distant enough to merit the mystery of the unknown. 

Love is not bound by reality – 

It is bigger than all that. 

Instead, it lives in quiet corners, 

surprising us with unexpected delights…

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Despair v. Intimacy With Reality

Some context: I’ve been searching for a new childcare provider for over seven weeks. During my last interview I told the woman (who I’ve since hired thankfully!) that the whole experience has been so uncannily difficult that I can’t help but believe in a greater force at work trying to teach me something. Again and again the women I’d lined up to interview didn’t show up nor did they call (I have had at least 4-5 ‘no shows’). Another called in sick 15 minutes before her interview. I offered the job to another who then promptly changed her mind the night before she was slated to start. Another woman didn’t speak English and asked me to chart out her bus route to my home for her interview. And yet another woman applied from Turkey (!?) and said she wanted the job so she could learn English. It had become a comedy of errors. Meanwhile, I desperately needed to find innovative solutions so I could get my job done. I maintained staff meetings while pushing a stroller. I worked while Braeden slept. I cracked open the laptop at 9pm. It has been *ridiculous.*

The overarching theme in my experience since the turn of the seasons: exhaustion and the feeling of an absence of adequate support to relax into. It isn’t that help isn’t offered (because it is – thank you, friends!) It is simply that I am seven months pregnant and my body is tired and my nervous system is frayed. No help seems enough. Again and again I greet my wall of challenge that has become a familiar friend since becoming a Mother. This time the situation is amplified by my trying to patch together child care amidst failed attempt followed by failed attempt. Some of it bad luck. Some of it perhaps divine intervention.

This particular period has given me the gifts of illness, injury and this strange karma with not being able to find adequate childcare help on top of the baseline of daily responsibilities.  Parenthood has gifted me with feeling my own profound confrontation with the limits of what I can often bear. It isn’t enough for me to just “survive” – and that is what many of my days have felt like as I’ve settled into balancing work, motherhood, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and generally maintaining Home and Family (amidst near constant bantering and rough-housing amongst brothers in the foreground). The responsibilities of being a householder and parent seem to augment as the months go by. There are food allergies to tend to. Emotional outbursts to sit with. Complex feelings and questions to tend to. Meanwhile, the laundry pile becomes the size of Kilamanjaro and dinner needs to be cooked… Then I ushered in a shaky, queasy stomach virus and a showering of vomit. It was a perfect expression of how I’ve been feeling. Nothing to relax into. No rest to be found. Behind in everything. And yet, I write knowing too that none of this is a problem. None of this is “bad.” I’ve little to complain about AND something about vomiting for the 20th time allows me the privilege of being pushed into a realm of choice: Despair (and the accompanying loneliness of that experience) OR Intimacy with Reality, Intimacy with What Is.

Which brings me to the essential question: What is there to relax into when support and safety nets feel frayed along with your own inner and outer resources? The answer: Reality.

Let me explain. The experience of loneliness/aloneness/lack of support/depletion while parenting presents two options.

1. Despair, depression and an exhaustion that annihilates, even pulverizes the capacity for joy and appreciation. Along with this experience comes the specter of moving functionally through life without joy and vitality.

OR

2. A pressing of oneself lovingly into deeper, more heartfelt relationship with Reality (or God/the Divine).

And this revelation is exactly what my recent life circumstance has pushed me to realize. What is there to relax into when all systems are bust? For me it is what I am pressed into  – forced into – when other mechanisms of support are thinned (including my own inner resources). It’s the reminder of the moment of imminent death – where the journey into that new form is mine alone. It’s a reconnection with my capacity to be in love with anything that is arising, and a reminder to stop looking for something “other” – particularly in the form of “help.”

Yes, there is the practical domain of needing help in order to work (not to mention cook, clean, take out the recycling and get some self-care in!). But regardless of “practical” or “external” factors at work, there is the underlying basic relationship with and in Reality/Being Alive: and that is what can truly sustain us. Those exuding the greatest sense of peace are ones rooted in an experience of communion with that which is beyond Self and Ego – an experience of divine submission to a Mystery called by many names. So it is here that I am driven by an essential force in my times of fraying sanity and when I feel alone in my role as a Mother – where body and soul are, yes, depleted, and still: the aches of parenting and all the associated work and emotions aren’t the absolute Truth. They are real and I feel the ache, yet each time I greet these hard places I dip in and out of the choice to become greater bound to Reality and Life as it is, with Love – or not, and suffer as a result.

The key is to move through the pendulum of these spheres with an awareness that the backdrop, foreground, interior and exterior are inextricably woven into the fabric of Reality (or God/the Divine). Despair, depression and annihilating exhaustion can be true – as is the specter of moving functionally through life without joy. If not awake to our experience, we can all of a sudden fall prey to a tendency of habit which marries us to misery and drudgery. Our own storylines can be interpreted as a truth which prevents seeing beyond our limited egoic experience. But, with careful attention we can peel away the layers of loneliness, despair or exhaustion that prevent joyful seeing and press ourselves lovingly into a deeper, more heartfelt relationship with Reality. This is the ultimate gesture of relaxation and surrender. And the beauty of it is that there is nowhere to go, nothing to attain – only Reality itself to greet as if settling into the presence of an old, supportive friend.

 

Dusk’s Perfect Moment of Disappearance

The Great Mother

takes us to the place of Quiet Wordlessness,

shows us how to dance in the realm of shadows,

moving like a lover in an exquisite Garden.

She shows us how to let words dissolve,

like wisps of cloud at dusk’s perfect moment of disappearance into night.

She beckons us to know (full bodily) the infinite wonder, just beyond the gate of intellect.

Travel beyond that place to the realm of the Heart, and find out what it means to Love,

not be in conviction,

but wonder – heart and body open and breathless,

like the orgasm just passed, still lingering

in breath and fingertips,

giving birth to the next great understanding…

Fall In Love Now

Bored?

How can you possibly be bored

when there are a

million

details

to fall in love with

in this moment

and this

and this

and this…?

I will tell you the antidote to Boredom.

Let the veil surrounding your Heart

break into a thousand pieces.

Feel the urgency of your

Death

and let yourself crack

at the recognition that everything you hold dear

will vanish

like morning fog in sunlight.

Look into the eyes of your Beloved and fall

fully

into the pain that breaks her heart

and wonder again and again

whether you are really feeling

anything.

I’ll tell you the antidote to Boredom.

Marvel at the curl of hair,

the splatter of light mixing with shadow,

the flash of eyes,

the memory of your most sublime moment

and how it passed.

There is nothing that is mundane –

only the mind and heart that hasn’t yet broken

in the face of the

vulnerable preciousness

of Life

Right

Now.

Know this:

You stay there because you are afraid of the

shaky

aching

vulnerability

that rumbles unknowingly

beneath the self-reliant story.

The antidote to boredom is to

Fall

in Love

Now.

Be In Conversation With the Divine

Maybe it is the third child in utero. (What? Yes!) Maybe it is the accompanying exhaustion and nausea. Maybe it the impending move next month and the uncertainty of next steps. Maybe it is the relentless house searching. Maybe it is the simple truth that the householder, parenting dimension of life absolutely devours you such that writing and reflection take a back burner to completing the necessary functions of daily life.

Whatever the truth, my practice of writing and reflection has been harder of late. I’m reminded of a post I wrote several years ago on Practicality and Practice, where I realized that the realm of the practical is indeed also the realm of practice (the words even share the same etymology). It isn’t that spiritual practice, creativity, self-expression or “realization” of any kind is any less important than it always has been and is. It’s just that the practical, logistical domain of life is so all-consuming at times it is difficult to see outwards from this place.

Subsumed. Consumed. Devoured. Annihilated. Submerged. Gone into temporary hiding. Practical life somehow has eclipsed me. It can sneak up on us, and all of the sudden a year (or ten) has passed. Instead, daily life practice becomes waking with some semblance of grace at 5:45am when the stars are still twinkling, making breakfast and school lunch, going to work, closing on the house, changing diapers, mitigating sibling conflicts, getting on the floor and playing legos and dinosaurs, cleaning the kitchen, picking up said legos and dinosaurs, making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, (oh, and dealing with the fruit fly pandemic), bedtime routines and then voila: wake up and do it all again! (Oh, and don’t forget to eat 65 grams of protein a day and take your folic acid, too).

The trouble is without something to come back to over and over again in myself (aka the ballast of a practice, the relief of clarity that comes through reflection and writing, or the act of creativity) I begin to feel groundless and unsettled, missing the restfulness and peace of living from a clarified center of intention and attention. In the midst of The Practical and The Logistical, there is the less rational and less logical realm of soul, psyche and spirit calling, where the home of my dreams is more wild – and I’m called to swim without goal in a vast, deep ocean.

My husband reminds me to “settle into the unsettledness.” There are no problems to solve. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with this iteration of our existence. Different than expected, yes. Exhausting, yes. How I imagined mid-life? Perhaps not fully…But regardless, when I finally do sit down with the pen and journal and ask the simple question, “Where to go from here?” An immediate answer arises: “Be in conversation with the Divine.” 

What does this mean? For me it means that it doesn’t matter what I do (or don’t do), where I live, how many hours sleep I get or how late I am for work or that play-date. It doesn’t matter that a month has gone by and the pen hasn’t hit the paper or the body hasn’t met the meditation cushion. What does matter in this light is to be in conversation with the Divine, and to be merely present with what is. Every ordinary interaction in a day, whether it be with dish-washing soap, the garbage can or my precious (but sometimes frisky) sons, can be experienced as part of an ever-present holy portal, always present, beckoning my full-bodied entry. I can be in relationship with this holy portal. I can stand there and feel into it. I can move swiftly to keep my son from tripping and still feel into it. I can clean the drain and still feel into it. Its not a conventional ‘dialogue’ but more a relationship through feeling, from the experience of the whole body. 

Being in conversation with the Divine means that I am paying close attention to what is arising, both internally and externally. And I am paying attention in such a way that my presence is surrendered to an awareness of a mystery at work greater than myself and beyond my understanding. I can choose to submit myself to the present realm of what is required as a mother and rest into a divine abiding with what is. Then I can reside in a truly non-discriminatory state of mind and heart: where bliss can blend in with moments akin to drudgery, and gratitude can dominate the landscape of duty.

Each of us can stake a claim to our own definitions of Divine. But be clear: move beyond the cerebral, beyond Merriam-Webster defining. Then, whatever the task, whatever the situation, we can feel full-bodily our participation in That. We can live fully in the practical, logistical realm of life, but rather than let ourselves be consumed by only this, we can practice making ourselves available to the possibility of being overcome by an experience of a Divine holy portal, always waiting to devour us into an experience of deeper Love.

What is Most Important?

A yoga practice in April led me to the following answers to the above question. My future sister-in-law led the practice and invited us to answer the question “what is most important?” The first glimpse of an answer that emerged was spiritual practice. Why? Because this is how I pay homage to Life. This is how I stay rooted in living my most revered state. Without practice I drain an essential life force. I have less to give. It is a foundation from which to move.

Which leads to Embodiment. As I move into a standing yoga asana I feel how the busy week and overwhelming experience of responsibility without enough nourishment not only depletes, it also makes living from a place of feeling, intention and love more difficult. My hands feel farther away. My legs feel more foreign. This contrasts with an experience of integration and flow: where hands and feet are expressions of intention and grace, gentleness and care.

Which leads me to Love. What fills the body/mind in my most revered state? What is practiced? Love. 

So what is most important? A spiritual, day to day, moment to moment practice of embodied (full-bodied) love.

What is most important? The expression of and practice of full-bodied love, even when meeting life’s difficult and sometimes depleting moments. Being love when the rubber hits the road and we are stretched to our limits. Being love when we are at the end of our proverbial ropes. What is most important? Filling our cups of nourishment and practice so that we can draw on vast reservoirs of love that will sustain us in times of need and serve as the primary offering that we give outwards to our families and the world…

Life Plucks Us When it is Our Time…

————-

Life plucks us when it is our time.

Like the solo

desert

bloom

amongst cactus trees:

we are called to open towards the heat of life

and then to close

at the perfect moment

of dusk,

into the cool, dark, expanse

of infinity.

There are never two of the same.

One precious imprint,

now traveling with a wild breeze

across rocks and space

into the vast crevices of the heart…

————–

What Remains? Heart. What is Constant? Love.

Rowan has been obsessed with dinosaurs. My brother asked me, “what is it about dinosaurs?” And then it struck me: the attraction is ultimately about facing his own mortality. “Where have the dinosaurs gone? Why did they go back to the Earth? Are they coming back? Why not? When do we go back to the Earth?” The questions slowly unfold over a period of weeks and months. We dance around the topic often. His teachers tell me he has taken to reading a book called The Day the Dinosaurs Died, over and over again. “Are you going back to the Earth one day, Mama? I don’t want you to go…”

We are in the Why realm of parent-child interactions. Question upon question. This week Rowan asked again, “When do we go back to the Earth?” Its a mystery, it’s a surprise, I tell him. This time, he isn’t consoled. He bursts into tears and says “I don’t want to go…I don’t want to turn back into dirt…I want to stay here.” Almost immediately I can feel my own reactions to death surfacing and I see him look at me intently, gauging my response. This is a moment when all beliefs and stories culminate. It is a moment of pause. How do I answer? What do I say? My own fear of death and resistance to the true finality of mortality surfaces. I try to relax. I take a deep breath and hear myself telling him that while his skin and bones may return home to the Earth, our hearts stay connected to everything – and that our hearts become bigger than ourselves and our current bodies. “We become bigger than our body, ” I say. “We won’t be alone. We become connected with everything else…” I suddenly see that ‘returning to the Earth’ is likely evoking a lonely, solemn image. Dinosaur bones, dirt, bugs, garbage? I wonder what he is imagining. I hear myself tell him the Earth isn’t a bad place, either: the realm of seeds and soil and the new life of Spring he’s been observing of late. “Our hearts stay, becoming like the sky. Our bodies are like transformers (insert smile) – one minute we are one thing and the next we can transform..Its like magic,” I hear myself say.

It strikes me that this is a moment of profound explanation I’ve known would come but that I didn’t prepare for. It was a spontaneous answer, and maybe one that will shift next time. “Who else is there?” he asks me when I tell him about becoming something different. I wonder to myself: what will I say of Heaven? And what will I say of Nothingness? What about the raw, painful truth of endings? And what if I am not there with him in his passing? I want to tell him I’ll be with him. I want to reassure him, but I find I can’t. Instead, I simply feel our togetherness, now. Our bond, now. This lifetime, now. And then I remember Death: it is indeed the great transformer, a holy surprise.

He repeats it back to me matter of factly, seeming a bit more satisfied. “But our skin and bones do have to go back to the Earth,” he says, holding his own arms. “Yes. And that is why we need to remember the gift of every day and of our bodies and each other,” I answer.

That very night I am up until midnight facing the specter of complications resulting from a routine procedure my dad recently underwent. The complications almost land him in the Emergency Room. I face squarely all my fears of loss, the resistance to change, the grasping for solidity amidst flux, he reticence to letting go of what has been. It all of a sudden strikes me that what I have said to Rowan is true, for me: What, then, if anything, is constant? Love. What remains? Heart. Love can find its way into any crack. Regardless of outcome, love can be present. And the beauty of it is that I can’t grab a hold of it. I can’t grasp for it. I can only practice feeling it. I can only relax into it.

It’s not that any of this erases my shaky anxiety. What if my dad is the one in one thousand who dies from this procedure? All of this is simply a reminder of what I can find at the bottom of grief and sorrow and confusion and uncertainty. It is what I can live into as the glorious backdrop of life. In a sense, it then doesn’t matter what is next or why. All that matters is the present moment experience of Love: and whether we can bring this to our most challenging moments. Can we bring love into our moments of fear and unrest? Can we bring love into our moments of unsettledness and resistance? Can we bring this even through the raw edges of death’s door?

————–

The next day I stumble upon this quote from Swami Vivekananda, the page open at a friend’s house. The missing words are “He believes that the soul is a circle…………….whose center is situated in the body.”

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—————-

 

Love Is A Practice

Braeden is 3 months old and I pause to take note of the threshold beyond ‘newborn’ that we have crossed. These months a “toss up” quality prevailed: rootless structure, flailing at times under a hot sun that broiled my new mama brain to smithereens. The combination of summer heat and light coupled with new family dynamics often gave way for disorientation and chaos to bloom, even with love simultaneously taking root. The frenzied moments of adjustment were like hot flashes in a pan. There were hard moments of truth to move through. Tears shed. Voices raised. Rowan reckoning with wanting to send his little brother back to the belly (“Mama, next time, could you please try to put Braeden back in your belly so I don’t have to feel so alone?”). Then, all of the sudden, a lot of angst and confusion was metabolized, burned up and giving way for something else to take hold. Staying with difficult emotions and not forcing them into underground shadows, suddenly we’ve turned a corner into a new realm of emergent fondness between brothers and an accompanying deep sigh of relief amongst parents.

Love is a slow and steady practice, particularly in these early days of family bonding and adjusting. As parents we can help foster this practice of love amongst siblings, even when love doesn’t always look as we expect it to. We don’t typically fall in love overnight. Instead, an experience of love takes time, weaving through peaks and valleys and often complex terrain. Can we love what we want to initially push away? Can we practice seeing a reflection of someone like ourselves in those we don’t like at first? Every time Rowan acts out towards Braeden, I tell him to look at his eyes; I say again and again “this is a person! He gets sad just like you!” Staying in connection, empathy begins to surface. Love begins to show a face that is more compassionate and less edgy.

The early days of welcoming a new brother for Rowan showed me that perhaps the practice of Love integrates everything. Love moves its way through the shadows and pain to emerge in a place of more integrated acceptance of what is, even with resistances still present. It is here that I find myself and it is this place that Rowan reflects too. Both of us do the dance of love and surrender and love and resistance in different ways, together. Me resisting the myriad expressions of his challenges and he resisting the presence of his new brother and all the implications therein. Family becomes the hard crucible of transformation that so many of us want to run from. Try as I might, I can’t seem to get away. Day in and day out I am up against the ever-present challenges of required guidance and patience. I slowly enter into a new realm of practiced love between family members, where I catch glimpses of Rowan smiling at his little brother in the rear view mirror. Like a slow blooming plant, the cultivation of love is underway. The key is to keep nourishing the roots of kindness and compassion, even when other emotions may be taking the reins.

So too with other situations in life: we can stay connected, practice love – watering the roots of slow growth into a familiar comfort of being. Rather than proverbially pining for some other thing or condition, we can let go into what is in order to radically transform.

Conscious Discipline and Planting a Compass of Love…

I wrote a few months ago on Discipline as an Act of Love and continue to muse about loving ways to share life lessons with a two-year old (and beyond). I came back to Adi Da’s book on conscious parenting, Look at the Sunlight on the Water, and wanted to share excerpts from some of his teachings.

  • Conscious discipline has to be grounded in a meaningful practice. There has to be a consistent ground to which we can return, and from which we can draw, in moments when redirection is required. A deep breath, a reconnection with intention, a slowing down of words as I speak…This is when I feel most content with moments of discipline and redirection.
  • Discipline can be an expression of bodily happiness instead of the more typical expressions of annoyance, frustration, anger, impatience. Instead of creating the conditions for shame and guilt and a sense of pervasive ‘wrongness,’ we can attract our children to behave with love and kindness as the root when we embody it ourselves (even when we are horrified that our child just pulled another child’s hair out!)
  • We don’t have to bind energy and attention around a behavior as a ‘problem.’ Instead, it just is as it is – and we can focus more on how this moment of redirection is an opportunity for growth.
  • Discipline can be a “bodily demonstration of forceful love.” This takes practice. How can we be swift, direct, clear and firm, while also embodying the vast force of love? Instead of anger rooted in resistance, how can we embody patience rooted in acceptance, while also being firm and direct enough to be heard?
  • We can make a positive calling for higher wisdom and maturity. Rather than moralizing or a ‘verbal attack,’ how can we make our moments of discipline an expression of a loving demand for greater presence? Without suggesting our children should be ‘more’ or different – how can we call them towards embodying kindness and patience? I ask the question because I am walking into the answer. Sometimes I find the mark. Sometimes I miss it miserably. This is part of my practice. Hold the intention and let what comes, come.
  • Our actions and our words can establish our children in a condition of equanimity.This means we also have to establish ourselves in an ongoing condition of equanimity.
  • Express a profound commitment to staying in relationship. Rather than push away or isolate, stay in relationship with one another just as you stay in relationship with what is. Talk it through. Slow down. Take time to step away together and have a teaching moment. A ‘time out’ can still be time with a parent at the side: time for reflection, talking over what happened, taking a step back to reflect on how we want to act moving forward. Before re-entering a situation there can be support, love, the re-assurance of not being alone, while also having taken time to go over what is expected in order to continue.

If the flow of our homes and relationships can be rooted in equanimity, then the ground of kindness can flourish. From equanimity grows the ability to truly serve others and feel outwards beyond oneself. For me, this is the aim of ‘discipline:’ the condition for a life of service and contentment, where one chooses what one does not because it is the status quo and not because “I told you so” – but because the thoughtful seeds of an inner and abiding compass rooted in love have been planted.