Thursday, December 16, 2010

How can any of it be wrong?


Carina,

I have had this feeling all summer and now into the fall. For the last ten years, I have completely, willingly, and with my whole heart supported, advocated, and provided over half of my services to The Jones Center on a volunteer basis. Granted I learned, grew, and was afforded a profession that prior to The Jones Center I didn't have. Nonetheless, as my contracted ended at the end of June, the Director, who meant the world to me and more, and I, completely dissolved our relationship.

Now, she says very little to me; if at all. Most remarks she makes are in the form of polite daggers which kill me even more. This has been a huge hurdle to overcome because as much as I feel "Rotten" about it, and as much as I try to accept the fact that someone who I looked up to, respected, admired, and cared for is settling with being a stranger to me, I come right back to the same place. I feel that there is a doorway...I don't believe that everything that I've learned, experienced, and all that I've accomplished was in vain. I just am burdened with understanding really how someone you trust with out question, has become someone who breaks your heart with out question. So, what do you do once you accept that you feel rotten about something that you can't change? LOL Jen



*****



Dear Jen,

Thank you for writing. It sounds like a mysterious situation.

I've been mulling it over for some time, and I want to focus on one angle: your experience of feeling rotten. You said, "What do you do once you accept that you feel rotten about something that you can't change?"

Jen, I can't say for sure because we have not been talking about this in person, but I suspect that you have not truly accepted that you are feeling rotten. Now wait. Before you feel that I'm shoulding you or placing more pressure on you when you're already struggling with feelings, know that's not the deal. In fact, I want to offer you space, permission, to just get into what YOU are experiencing.

There's really nothing else we can do anything about.

Even attempting to analyze the other people involved in the offending situation can't really be done with true understanding if we aren't fully experiencing, without apology, our present feelings.

So I recommend to you, my friend, that you just let that rottenness come when it arises. And get yourself quiet, still - even if it's just for a moment here and there - and drop into your body and feel the sensations of rottenness arising and doing whatever it is they're doing. This is a gateway that we rarely allow ourselves. It's a doorway whose key we don't realize we have.

See, 'cuz the thing is, we can't possibly know what's going on with the other person. And it sounds like your friend probably doesn't know either. We think we know why we do things or act certain ways, but we don't.

Which is relieving in a way, because then all there is left for us to do is experience.

So I invite you to take a little time and get still and quiet and let those feelings rise (arise? arrive? let it ride?), without any judgment on how you should be feeling or what you should be thinking. From the meanest and angriest to the saddest, most fearful or loving: they're all sensations that you can watch and feel move as waves, arising and always returning back home.

I'm curious whether or not you've talked with your friend about what may have gone wrong for her. Still, the most fertile ground is within the experience of your own sensations, without added stories.

It's courageous and a-typical and, paradoxically, so worthwhile.

I can imagine it feels pretty rotten, and I suspect there's some relief in there too. But don't take my word for it.

Thank you for writing and sharing your experience with us.

Love,
Carina

If questions arise from this writing, please email
carina@nowstayopen.com

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Benevolent Invitation

People have been coming to me with their heartbreaks. Mostly men the past few days, interestingly enough.

I'm not talking too much these days, and I have declined to get into much conversation. I see my role more as one of opening space within myself, feeling infinity, and knowing from here that the sad times are also filled with grace. They are grace ready to come out. When I'm riding the heartbreak waves, and I can remember this, it makes the experience very interesting.

What is it like to go through emotions that we call dark and at the same time feel light emanating from them? And how is it possible to have both?

It comes from a stillness of the mind. No thought can allow for such openness during heartache. The fire that burns as our suffering is fanned by our thoughts, playing out the story and its tale of woe.

And then there's a place deep inside that can actually contain . . . can hold you and your fear and your agony and the watery flow of sadness. For it is flowing. It is not fixed. Thoughts and emotions together want to lock something down, fix it as black or white, and hold to it. Only in letting our emotions erupt - with neither judgment of them nor of the catalyzing situation - can we experience this flow and allow everything to move.

This is a way to allow old emotions - I'm talking those that have been stored up since you were too young to remember - to arise and be released, leaving a door wide-open for the stillness that exists as our natural state to permeate the moment and, subsequently, our interactions with others.

Allowing.

We can't think our way into it. We just can't. Don't even try. If you find yourself doing it, just see it. Take a breath. Take a moment. And with that, you've used the futile attempt to mentally fix as a bell of mindfulness that brings you back to this. And this is it.

All of these situations are inviting us, sometimes subtly, sometimes like a raging storm, to awaken. It is a benevolent invitation. We needn't be afraid (see footnote).* Let the feelings come. Keep breathing. Feel the inner body. Feel infinity. Stay open.

I've been reading this Rumi poem for years, and I came across it today and saw it clearly. Can you find the knowing within yourself, when the head is bound with emotion and tragedy, that allows you to open your chest, relax your shoulders, breathe and surrender to this moment? Surrendering because you know deep within that there is grace in the sadness, and rich comfort on the other side of the woes . . .

I speak from experience. So does our beloved Mevlana (Rumi).

He Gives to Taste ~ Rumi (translated by Jonathan Star)

Do not despair
if the Beloved pushes you away.
If He pushes you away today
it's only so He can draw you back tomorrow.

If He closes the door on your face,
don't leave, wait --
you'll soon be by his side.
If He bars every passage,
don't lose hope --
He's about to show you
a secret way that nobody knows.

A butcher cuts off a sheep's head for food,
not just to throw away.
When the sheep no longer has breath
the butcher fills it
with his own breath.
O what life
God's breath will bring to you!

But the likeness ends here --
For God's bounty is much greater than the butcher's.
God's blows don't bring death but eternal life.
He gives the wealth of Solomon to a single ant.
He gives the treasure of both worlds to all who ask.
He gives and gives
yet does not startle a single heart.

I've traveled to all ends of the earth
and have not found anyone like Him.
Who can match Him?
Who can hold a candle to His glory?

Silence already!
He gives us the wine to taste,
not to talk about. . . .

He gives to taste.
He gives to taste.
He gives to taste.

***

* I wasn't sure about saying, "We needn't be afraid." Tonight I came across this excerpt from the Be Here Now blog project I've been participating in:

"The point is not to feel better; it is to feel. The depth of this moment is all there is and our folly is to attempt to escape this. We will never be away from the now. [This is how we must die. To every sensation but this moment. To past, to future, to thoughts that think past and future exist at all.]

Scary? Go ahead and be scared. There’s the paradox — having the courage to be scared. I mean, what did I expect, taking on a process such as this? And these processes . . . am I willing to look into that mirror? Whose face will I see back?"


If questions arise from this writing, please email
carina@nowstayopen.com

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On the Topic of Self-Esteem

Hi Carina,

We in the West are plagued with that critical voice in the back of our heads, telling us that we're not good enough, or we're bad. It is reflected in the fact that we are always told to "become somebody" instead of being somebody (implying that who we are now is somehow not good enough). And if we tell people that we're working on loving ourselves the way we are, people think it's narcissistic. How to combat this attitude? That's the tough part.

Steve



*****



Dear Steve,

I appreciate this topic. It seems to be one of the most common issues that people deal with. I'm seeing lots of pages popping up on Facebook that send out daily cheerful messages letting people know how great they are -- just as they are. These messages wouldn't be coming by the volume (and be being eaten up by the voracious readers) if the readers weren't convinced that self-esteem is something to be reaching for.

What if self-esteem and self-loathing are two sides of the same delusion?

Consider this: Having high self-esteem (in the way that our culture touts it) is as much a costume -- a role -- as having low self-esteem is. Both are built on foundations that lack inherent truth. That is, they are both passing, impermanent, in the world of form.

I know well that voice in the back of the head that says I'm bad. It's a specter that likes to hold my head underwater so I can't breathe and tell me that all of who I am is a failure. I'm happy to say that I don't experience it that often, but I do, and it is a convincing voice, to be sure. Here's the okay thing about it: none of it's true, nor is it fixed. It's a wave of energy passing through, and it can knock down everything in its path, or I can inhale, exhale, and surf it.

Neither is preferable nor better or worse than the other. That is, if you're being bowled over by thoughts and emotions, so be it. Can you consciously allow the knocking around? Surrender to the noise of the moment and just let it do its thing? You'll find in here the paradox of then being able to surf the next wave.

A thought comes in: "I'm so fucked up . . . I hate myself," and there are several ways the mind can go. It can join up with the thoughts like jumping on a box car and riding down the track with the train. Or you can turn around and face the thought, almost looking backward, to see what the source of the thought is. And then you see, it's nothing. Thoughts arise out of nothing.

When you are noticing thoughts coming up and rolling by, rather than running after them or trying to attack back (both actions are magnetic for attaching to your thoughts), you dis-identify with the content of the thought. And then it's just another ephemeral flower, bloomed and now dying. And we are still here.

In this moment, you are giving yourself access to true self-esteem, true confidence. In a non-dualistic sense, there is no such thing as a self to have confidence in. True self-esteem comes from stillness and a relaxed knowing of the deeper essence of consciousness, the field out of which all individuals and our corresponding egos and ego trips arise.

So when you're able, when you're sitting back in the spacious place of observation, and you hear, "I'm a horrible person," you can benefit yourself most greatly by taking a breath right then. Inhale, exhale, drop out of the mind and feel the rippling sensations in your body. That wave is moving and if you allow it, it will move on out, and there will be calm before the next one comes.



In this culture, so set on having us constantly striving and wanting, driving us to do more and shift more and change more and heal more and lose more and earn more, we are terribly misguided to hitch our wagons to stars with no foundation. True worth, which is ultimately neutral and spacious, comes from calming and quieting the external chatter and breathing with the waves that inevitably arise in any human's experience.

All of the experiences we have that seem negative -- and all of those that seem positive, too, for the excitement of good times and success is simply the other side of the despair and failure coin -- have within them the golden opportunity to come into that self-loving space, that tender space that sees the poignancy in human experience and opens and welcomes it, transmuting the fear of wrongness into the great space of awakening.

This has been great to contemplate. Thank you so much for writing.

Carina

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
carina@nowstayopen.com

Saturday, October 23, 2010

In the meantime, you can relax

Hi Carina,

I am a strong fan of Ram Dass and I try my best to follow his suggestions in Be Here Now.* However I have two questions. One is referring to my love life which is: why do I keep getting let down by people or am quickly disinterested once they are [interested]? And my second one is referring to my passion which is music. I am in college but my dream is music. What should I do?

Thanks,
Coen


*The writer mentions Ram Dass and Be Here Now because I've been writing on a blogging project related to Ram Dass's classic book. - Carina



*****



Dear Coen,

Thank you so much for writing. I'm confident that a lot of readers are wondering similar things in their own lives.

Relationships come when they come and stick around when they stick around. As does everything else. Surrendering ourselves to this natural flow comes, in part, from quieting the mind. Then we are present to the fullness of each moment, exactly where we are. When that happens, the desire or expectation for a relationship can relax. And I'm not making any promises, but they do say that when we're not seeking something is when it actually shows up.

A time will come when eventually you'll meet someone whose disappointments and affection don't drive you away. In the meantime, you can relax.

It could be, too, that you don't really want to be in a relationship right now. For ages I thought that I should want a relationship. It was liberating for me when I realized that wasn't something I was seeking at the time (even though it seemed like that's what all single people should want). With that realization dropped all shoulds and pinings and wistful wishings. So much space opened up and- lo and behold - who walked in but a pretty awesome man.

And now we get to see if we can live with each other's disappointments and affection. It's an on-going process, and it's a lovely gift for our growth as individuals. When you can receive genuine caring from another, and when you can observe your automatic responses to things that ultimately have no meaning but which we're convinced are offensive, you're given the gift of a heart that can relax, open up and breathe.

For now, don't make yourself wrong if this isn't where you are. I say, don't worry about it. We can analyze the heck out of ya and say you have a fear of intimacy or you weren't raised right or any other psychological avenue, but shoot, who doesn't have that fear? What was raised right?

Allowing nature to flow and to present us with opportunities in the exact right moments - because there's no other way those moments can be - leaves room to chill out, enjoy the ride, and watch with curiosity.

You can apply this to your school question, too. That is, go by your intuition, which is ultimately aligned with the flow of the universe. If you can't hear it, perhaps a little meditation, journal-writing, cleaning, walking on a trail - whatever shifts you out of your thinking - will help you hear. And remember, sometimes what you hear is nothing and so there is nothing to do.

If you find that you're in a situation that you really don't want to be in (i.e. school versus focusing on music), check in with yourself and find out what the natural next step is. Again, it may be to do nothing. It may be to continue on as you are and watch for the next message that directly guides you.

Surrender, man. It's not always an easy thing. But I know for sure that churning the mind around on such issues as relationship woes and career/inspiration path can be a dangerous and muddied road. Shoulds do their best to crowd out intuition. Nevertheless, what is to be will be, and there's no way around it.

See if you can relax. Then let us know what happens.

Thank you so much for writing.

Gratefully,

Carina

P.S. I would be remiss in not mentioning Julia Cameron's The Artist Way here. This book is a 12-week self-guided course that did heaps for me in sloughing off "shoulds" and getting to what I really dig, in a natural and fun way. This column came out of that project. Do it with a friend. (Thanks, Deborah G.!)

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
carina@nowstayopen.com

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I'm Curious to See What Happens Next

Dear Carina,

I’ve really appreciated, understood, and enjoyed your messages. Because of this, I thought that maybe you could offer me a different, more clear, or even rational meaning of what is lately a perplex issue within myself. My question Carina is, “How does one know the difference between what they’re responsible for (i.e. purpose, life, career) from what God’s in control of?” I consider myself a Christian; while not following a specific religion, I believe that there are things that “God” makes happen i.e. blessings, miracles, opened doors, ect. And then there are things that we as individuals make happen i.e. direction taken, choices, decisions, progress; thus creating perpetual cycles of us all fulfilling a natural purpose.

Having said that, we see in life “I believe” people who neither seek “God’s” direction nor make progress; thereby living in misery, sadness, maybe poverty, and hopelessness because they make all the wrong choices, give up, or become self defeating.

Granted, I’m not defeated, I seek to understand and persevere ahead all the time; but, I’m STUCK and have been for months. I have drive, passion, training, eagerness, and desire; I just don’t quite get the (For What) part. For years I have molded a career in autism services. But, since my independent contract ended with The Rich Center in June, I have struggled and been burdened about where I’m supposed to be.

Is my work in the field of autism directed by God or me? I feel really disappointed in the fact that I have not chosen or decided on what to do and because of that I haven’t worked for two months. But, I have a really big concern that because I like to be in control, I’m going to choose the wrong thing, “if God’s in control and I don’t let him guide me or look toward an answer.” And, is it responsible to look for direction to move in the right direction?

Please HELP!!!!

Signed, Jen



*****



Dear Jen,

Great question!

It sounds like you are divided between two worlds: that of asking for God’s help and that of your own will and intentional drive.

What if they are the same thing?

I wonder how there can be some things (“blessings, miracles, opened doors, etc.”) that God controls or makes happen and the rest of it is left to our human will (“direction taken, choices, decisions, progress”)?

I suggest you ask yourself these questions. The answers are as specifically yours as your specific scenario and questions are.

Westerners seem to have this idea that good and mysterious things come from God whereas rational and mind-driven occurrences come from something else. But I ask you, what is not mysterious? Even when thoughts arise and decision-making occurs, where do those thoughts come from? Who makes the decisions?

Here I sit on the couch at the coffee shop typing these words to you. Who is typing the words? Whose words are these and whose ideas? And whatever happens next, who guides that decision? Will I go to the grocery store? Will I go home? Will I stay here the rest of the day? Is this all already decided and set in motion and all my thinking, plotting and planning has nothing to do with it?

So I ask you again, is it possible to live both a guided life and a rational life?

I don’t think so. Then again, I think that it’s all been decided already, including us thinking that we have any choice in the matter, including us having this conversation now.

This seems almost too simplistic, and yet, there it is. Can you practice taking your hands off the wheel and allowing the flow of life to guide you rather than your rational, driven mind (that hasn't been getting you anywhere, I might add)?

The spiritual path is one that doesn’t make any rational sense. And I’m thankful for that, challenging as it can be sometimes. Very few things that I’m up to lately make sense according to the traditional, linear, Western-focused mind. I don’t necessarily recommend this to anyone, but since you were moved to ask me your questions, I might suggest that there is something outside of the linear and rational that’s calling to you too.

You ask if it’s responsible to look for directions to move in the right direction. Well, I don’t know from responsible, but I am a fan of praying for help and then letting it go. Prayer works for me because I believe it does. If you can surrender to the greater system beyond our limited human perspective and let it do its work, then your next move will be clear to you.

Remember, too, that the next move may be to do nothing.

Are you ready to throw rational out the window and truly be guided?

I’m curious to see what happens next.

With love and appreciation,
Carina

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
carina@nowstayopen.com

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Not in Action, But in Observation



Dear Carina,


I am 59 years of age, but I too am an angry little girl inside. My family was from Long Island, New York; a wealthy community where we appeared to be “normal and happy”. But, my parents were dysfunctional people who desperately tried to form-fit me and my brother to their fucked up standards. Neither parent grew up with an important father or mother figure in their lives, and as a result didn’t know how to be parents to us. My father was a success-driven man who worked, ate and slept with little time for anything but discipline for his children. My mother didn’t have a role model of a mother and was totally unequipped to show love or affection to us. I rebelled as soon as I was able to think and speak, thus becoming the ‘difficult, uncooperative and argumentative’ daughter. I grew up feeling that I was never good enough, didn’t deserve love and affection, and very self-destructive.

As an adult all of these inner feelings manifested into bad decisions with relationships and life in general. Now I realize that each and every thing that happened was meant to happen for my inner growth and evolution.

There is one thing I am wrestling with, which I need help with. I was born with a scoliosis (spinal curvature) and have been in physical pain since I was 24, and it just got worse (it’s a degenerating condition) with age and time. I am dependent on pain medication, as there is no cure or relief for my condition.

I find myself living in the ‘pain body’ literally and figuratively. I am always in pain, and it’s very easy to be in the present and watch the pain body, acknowledge that it’s there, but never can get past it. I am a survivor. I had to become that to get through life. There is always anger right below the surface. Most of the time I keep it in check, but when I have to interact with my mother the anger seeps out and I can get very ugly with my words. I know now that she did everything she could to be a “good mother,” yet she was a failure and I cannot seem to let it go.

I want to get rid of the anger I have inside, but everything I have ever tried never works for very long. I read Be Here Now when it first came out, and every book Ram Dass wrote in addition to many other teachers. Mr. Tolle’s works are very important, yet extremely heavy reading for me.

Do you have any thoughts you could share with me?


Debby



*****


Dear Debby,

Thank you so much for sharing your story and your question with us.

We all have some part that we manage to keep beneath the surface that sometimes just comes out, like it or not.

There are few situations that bring it out of me like hanging out with my family. It's such a trip to see. And that's what we're going to talk about here: seeing. That is, watching without judgment.

The way you describe your parents is familiar. So few parents were given workable road maps for parenting. Our parents surely stumbled - and continue to stumble - through the process and the role playing as most of us stumble through most of our intimate relationships: driven by righteousness, thoughts, emotions, and social constructs; unconscious, and with a weight from our minds telling us that either they or we should be somehow other than how we are.

My family scares me; they are such mirrors for me. When I'm with them my general laissez-faire attitude goes right out the window, and I just become one big ball of resistance. I wouldn't even know I was resisting if I couldn't feel it in my body. And Debby, I know you are acutely aware of your body, so you can notice the tensing of resistance right away. I tighten up because there's some other way that I want my people to be (even if I have no conscious vision of what any other way would be). Then there's the way I think I should be being, too. Then I need a chair massage.

We can't control our family members, nor can we rationalize our way out of feeling discomfort, resentment, sadness, fear or anger. And I'm quite certain that our parents had their version of this with their parents - not to mention with us, too - and that they feel badly - combined with justified - about their feelings. We all have this in common.

The good news is, nobody's doing anything wrong.

And, in fact, nothing needs to change. There is one small shift that we can make, not in action, but in observation, that can make a huge difference and can breathe space, freedom and movement into these situations that just seem like failures.

I watched myself go through it with my mom the other day. We were driving in the car, and she asked me a question that just flipped my automatic switch. Rather than being that comforting space of presence my boyfriend encouraged me to be (easy for him to say, he's in New Zealand, not in Ohio), I was just my mom's kid, offensive and offending as ever. Even as I write this, I smile. It's been such a mirror and such a lesson in just watching the waves of humanness.

We watch, as if from up in a giant oak tree, with solid branches to hold us and roots that won't budge no matter how we behave. We see the whole scene play out and have compassion and empathy for ourselves and each other. We have compassion because from that vantage point we see and know that these emotional moments, however minute or grand they seem at the time, are part of the natural arising and passing away of everything in this life. We can watch, without being lost inside of them. We can allow them to play out. What use is it to try to resist a wave?

And we have empathy because from up in the observation oak, we can see that we're all in the same boat. Unconsciously acting out our robotic roles and wishing that we behaved and reacted differently. Most of us think on some level that there's something really wrong with us. We have this in common with everyone: our parents, our siblings, everyone.

We can be grateful that we have any moments of consciousness at all!

I know in your heart that you want to forgive your mother and allow her to be. But it's tricky when your head is trying to do the forgiving. You write, "I know now that she did everything she could to be a 'good mother,' . . . " and you probably make yourself wrong for not being able to internalize that.


Remember, there's no should in spiritual growth.

What we are here to experience in every moment is what we are here to experience. That's just how it is and it couldn't be any other way.

So what you get to do is just feel that anger, notice your resistance, watch it all play out, and allow the moment to be. You’ll notice that the allowing and observation lets the air out of the tires of the situation.

We would do well to remember that we are spirit born into form to experience life through these specific forms. And along with these forms come emotions and weirdness and words that we wish we could take back. And if we can, however momentarily, get ourselves to the place where we can watch it all go by with a smile and a pat on the head, we are bringing the source of all life and unchanging peace into that moment, and the moment has infinite value.


I'm grateful that you wrote and that we're contemplating these experiences together.

Love,

Carina

P.S. You mention that Eckhart Tolle's works are heavy reading for you, and I want to recommend his amazing and almost unbearably simple new book, Guardians of Being. My attempts to describe the simple spaciousness do not do this book justice. My mom and I both relate to this sweet book, with drawings by cartoonist Patrick McDonnell. In fact the copy of the book I have now, my mom gave me. It is instant slicing through the noise of the mind, and is an usher into the present. I highly recommend it.

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
carina@nowstayopen.com



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Birth of True Compassion

Dear Carina,

How do I get rid/tame the angry little girl who lives inside me? She sabotages almost everything I do, holds my tongue to keep me from speaking up for myself which compounds the self-hate that I am trying to heal.

(Inner child, emotional and sexually abusive childhood)

Yes, I have "The Courage to Heal" and yes, I am in counseling, and yes, I am taking anti-depressants.

Ideas?

~ Annie



*****



Dear Annie,

Thank you for writing. A lot of times when I get letters from readers, I go through a time of feeling inept. I read about scenarios that I may or may not have experienced first hand and wonder what I can possibly contribute to the situation. I think this process actually helps because it gets me out of my mind and into a deeper inquiry.

I've been chewing on your question for some time now, and I went through that inept phase. Next I thought about automatic therapeutic answers: working with the little girl, nurturing her, asking her what she wants, working out a deal to give her loving attention as soon as possible. These can be useful practices, in part, because in order to practice them, we need to have a level of awareness that the little girl is activated.

All humans have some form of this. Eckhart Tolle calls it the pain body. What's beautiful about his distinction is that it depersonalizes the experience. In fact, it universalizes it. The pain body could also be referred to as our unconscious or automatic states of being. These are ways of being that are programmed into us, coming from many different sources: genetics, our parents, our culture and its own collective suffering, the great suffering of our ancestors, or simply being human and forgetting that we are the Divine itself.

These states are not personal, and they are not the depth of who we truly are. But, man, are they convincing, not only that they are us, but also that who we are is awful.

Right? Did I hear you say something about self-hate? So painful. So terribly painful. And on some level, all humans have this experience.

I found this written on a notepad next to my bed last night: "When the pain body is activated and in charge, we cannot choose," and I thought of you. It's not your fault nor even the angry little girl's fault. We are not conscious when the pain body is active. It's like sleepwalking.

So what are we going to do?

How about this, from Eckhart Tolle's Power of Now; when you are activated, especially if you can notice it coming on:

"Focus attention on the negative feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain body. Accept that it is there. Don't think about it—don't let the feeling turn into thinking. Don't judge yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you."

When you move into the observer position, even for a fraction of a second, you break the resistance and struggle with the situation, and the seed of peace is planted.

This is also where true compassion is born. As we stop associating who we are with what's happening in our mind and settle back into a neutral place of watching, our hearts soften at the poignancy of the human condition.

We see these tender hearts that long to be cared for, and in these moments when the upset part of us is driving the show and we fight against it, it can only turn and hit back. The paradox and relief comes through allowing it to be. So, we observe, as gently as we can. Oh there's that again. And here I go again. And [keep breathing] there it is again.

In doing this practice, the mind stream is interrupted, and a sliver of presence is inserted. Oh, here I am walking through the grocery store parking lot and the sun feels hot and so does the blacktop. We do not think these things, we simply experience this moment through our senses. It may be brief and fleeting, but these moments have cumulative benefits.

Just remember, you may not get relief in the very moment that you're practicing. Or you may. But even if you don't, trust me that any practice that brings us into the present over and over again - that is, interrupts the judging, judging mind - is ultimately beneficial and could very well begin to soothe that sad (and so acting angry) little girl.

I know that your question will be helpful to lots of people and I thank you again for writing.

Love,

Carina

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
carina@nowstayopen.com

Saturday, July 31, 2010

One of the Great Miracles Made Possible through Intimate Relationships


Hi, Carina~

I am wrestling with ambivalence about an intimate relationship~ whether I should stay or leave. It's not easy because I absolutely love this man, and he loves me, and we are faithful to one another endlessly. But we have some issues in our relationship, mostly what I think is built-up resentment. We argue often now, most of the time over perceived needs that are not being met and little things that trigger anger. There are insecurities on both sides, and we are both flawed and human. Sometimes I feel so unhappy and have a lot of sorrow and guilt because I don't want to make my beloved or myself unhappy. He has issues with depression, and I feel like I might be enabling him by feeding his complacency with my own energy because I feel like I've fallen into a rut. Sometimes my gut tells me to run and sometimes it tells me to hold fast. Anyway, it's very complicated and I am aware that I am whipping myself into a frenzy as my monkey-mind pathologically chatters on... I'm just so confused and weary to the point of feeling profound failure at times.

I'm going to start counseling for myself, and I'm hoping that if we go as a couple that it might help. I just want to do the right thing for both of us, but I'm not sure what that is. Any advice on how to proceed?

In Loving Gratitude,

~~~~



*****



Dear Friend,

I'm so glad you wrote. What you're asking about here is indeed a universal scenario; that is, ambivalence in relationships. Kudos right away for the level of awareness that you're bringing. This is the key.

You write that you know that your monkey-mind's chattering is perpetuating your spinning, questioning mind. That's brilliant. All you have to do is notice.

You can always tell the difference between when the thoughts and ideas are coming from the mind (sometimes called the ego or unconsciousness) and when they're coming from stillness and intuition within.

It's as if the noticing, the observation, creates a ribbon of space, like the thin line of the Earth's atmosphere. In this sliver of silence, wisdom can arise.

I am always saying the same thing, aren't I?

You're not always going to be able to quiet down the churning in the moment. And so your job is to observe it -- without judgment -- as best as you can, being a human being who's pretty much always judging and assessing, like the rest of us. Observe all of it, as gently as you can.

Another thing to watch for with our intimate partners is the inevitable arising of old habit patterns. I mean, we're talking ancient habit patterns, that are surely and perfectly instigated by our partners' own brand of the same.

I have experienced in my relationship moments when mine and my partner's stuff are activated and no one can tell who's went off first (chicken? egg?) but there we are, reacting. And so, if I'm really paying attention, I have the opportunity to recognize my own old habits (I get pompous!) without having to get on board with whatever story they're telling me about why there's a problem with [any] relationship.

Or if I think I'm seeing some unconscious behavior in my partner, if I'm conscious enough not to get swept up in my own old reactions and posturing, I can notice it happening and hang out in a neutral position that is ultimately one of tender compassion.

And this seems to be one of the great miracles made possible through intimate relationships: the ability to be still or have someone be still enough for you that the unconscious patterns that we developed eons ago are not taken for who we really are. So much healing to be found, universally, every time we rest in that compassionate knowing.

And we have to have that compassion for ourselves. It's the only way this works.

So, should you leave your partner? I don't know, and I don't know that it matters. You don't need to know either. Opening up space -- and using the difficult times as catalysts for creating those slivers of space -- will allow life to flow naturally and for each moment's actions to become obvious to you as they arise.

There is no right or wrong scenario. There is only the opportunity to shift from the sleepy game of the mind, to the peaceful space of stillness that is who we really are.

Love,

Carina

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
carina@nowstayopen.com

Sunday, July 11, 2010

You Have to Experience Your Own Connection

Hi Carina,

How do you deal with daily life coping with chronic pain, injuries, and trauma? Without self-medicating, getting lost in seemingly endless talk therapy, or shutting down emotionally? Since a car accident in March, I've exhibited signs of an adjustment disorder, and continued pain from the trauma to my head and neck. My prognosis for the head trauma is good, although it could take up to 1.5 years to recover symptom-free, if at all. The prognosis for my neck is uncertain, and I am currently undergoing physical therapy.

I've had many physical and mental setbacks on this road. There's not a period of time that rolls by without crying bouts, mood swings, and anger. I've had great support from family and friends, but I fear the challenges too great for any one person (or many) to withstand.

I thought I'd learned major lessons from this accident months ago: I had an unusual sense of inner peace, and perspective previously not experienced in my lifetime. I employed mediation, breathing exercises, therapy, self-help books, and mild physical exercise to assist me.

But now, it seems all is lost. My life as I knew it is still very limited, and I'm having trouble finding new, but healthy ways to cope. With the resurgence of pain, difficulty concentrating, and continued PTSD-like symptoms, everything has lost its former meaning, and I'm having trouble sustaining enthusiasm, hope, and energy for future endeavors, relationships, and happiness. This is particularly disheartening because my side job (as you well know) does, at its core, require me to provide inspiration and drive to others. But mainly, I feel cheated, scared, and embittered by this turn of events -- and I keep wanting to wish it all away.

How can I deal better?

I appreciate anything you have to say.



*****



Dear Reader,

I'm grateful for your letter and rather than pretend I know what it is you're experiencing, I'm going to defer to one of my teachers, who has time and again forged the path for the rest of us bumbling, stumbling, clinging and scraping along through this ever-changing life. As I write this, I'm reminded of this teacher saying that each person's path is unique and each person is here to play that unique path out. He says you can't go along with someone else's trip. You have to experience your own connection.

It seems as if this experience you are having - unacceptable as any of us would have it be - is now your specific path. I hesitate to say this out of not wanting to sound like I'm handing you a cliche. But there it is. Sure as I'm sitting on my couch, leaning forward and slightly straining my left shoulder as I type. Ah, see? Thank you for bringing my awareness to this moment. Now I'm sitting back. Less strain.

What we are experiencing right now is IT. There is no other way this moment could be. Our job is to find it in ourselves to open to that, again and again.

In the movie that I'm going to suggest for you, you will see stories of people who have been asked to accept the unacceptable and who have experienced major changes in their lives that didn't go along with the plans they'd created for themselves. And yet, there they are. How does one go on?

Our suffering is our path to God. And no one wants to suffer.

The mind (or the ego, the unconscious part of us, call it what you like) has such solid ideas about who we are, who we're supposed to be, how we're supposed to be, etc. And yet, like everything else in this ever-changing universe of forms, we are as we are. Right now. And that's it. That's the doorway.

This very moment is infinite.

You are likely going through a big challenge to the mind and the ego that knows you - or imagines you - in a certain way. Be very gentle to yourself during this breakdown, and do what you can to stay open. Feel the breaking down of the ego and, when you are able, observe it from the infinite space of knowing that rests behind everything.

It seems as if you have some strong tools already. And here is where I'll stop talking and give you a homework assignment.

Rent the movie Ram Dass: Fierce Grace. You can even stream it on Netflix like I did this afternoon. A good part of the movie is Ram Dass, once a thriving Harvard psychology professor turned yogi loved the world over, as he recovers from a stroke he had in 1997.

As I was wondering about what to write to you, I happened to revisit this documentary. And then I knew that was the offer I have for you today.

It is a gift from one of my greatest teachers. I bow to him and to all those who came before him. As Pema Chodron writes, "I feel gratitude that someone saw the truth and pointed out that we don’t suffer this kind of pain because of our personal inability to get things right." (Click here to read the chapter from The Places That Scare You - Fearlessness in Difficult Times.) And to the great teacher within, who leads the way if we are quiet enough to hear, my deepest gratitude.

You could very well be pioneering the way for the rest of us. For sure as night turns into day, we will all go through major changes and losses in our lives: physical, emotional, roles we play, relationships, etc. Our attachment to them is our suffering. Being with them is our gateway.

Thank you so much for writing. Stay in touch.

Love,

Carina

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
nowstayopen@gmail.com.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

You're in the Perfect Place for Expansion

Dear Carina,

I have recently had my heart broken. The man I was with ended our relationship because, "I was not a believer, and that his true path was to seek God and I wouldn't help that." Although I am not Christian, I do believe in a spiritual being or higher power. I am finding this difficult to deal with given the personal nature of it. I was truly in love and experienced wonderful things with this man. I am unsure of where to begin to pick up the pieces. Please help.



*****



Thank you so much for writing. I really feel for you.

It can all feel so personal, and our mental/emotional states - that we confuse with who we really are - have a field day churning over the stories and reasons and justifications and ow! and and and . . .

One temptation is to analyze why he does what he does. This can seem helpful at first. In the past when I had relationship woes, I used to talk with a therapist friend of mine about what might have been going on with my men. Our analytic conversations soothed me. They helped me come up with a theory of why they acted like they did and it depersonalized my feelings of rejection. So this can be useful for one level of relief.

After some time, however, I would find that the mental indulgence took the focus away from the deeper opportunity I was being handed.

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says that women tend to be closer to their spiritual essence, relating more to emotions and the body, while men tend to be further removed, being more identified with the mind (though they may purport otherwise, sometimes even criticizing their women for being unenlightened). Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but the good news here is that your heartache and willingness to stay open are access to your natural state: living continuously in the arms of the beloved, infinite divine.

And if you can't feel that right now, don't worry. You are still there.

There is always another layer of acceptance we can offer ourselves. If you cannot except the details of the current situation because it's just too painful for your mind and heart, you can open your heart to yourself and to the pool of confusion and sorrow that you're in.

Seemingly unsolvable situations ask for only one thing: surrender.



How in the world do you do that when your heart is broken and your mind is swirling with thoughts of defense and sadness and rejection?

You go inside. You get quiet. You see if you can sense, even if only for brief moments at a time, the infinity of who you truly are. Maybe you aren't your partner's path to God, but he may be yours.

Take very good care of yourself, quiet down when you can, and know that within you in this very moment is the capacity for all healing, all connection with the divine, all grace. You are none other than that. You're in the perfect place for expansion. I can feel it.

All love and spacious peace to you,

Carina

P.S. A longtime favorite book of mine during the hardest times is Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart. And one of my new favorites (especially if you're an animal lover) is the deeply simple and instant-space-connecting book by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell, Guardians of Being. Takes a person right out of the stories and into the comfort of this infinite space we inhabit. It's absolutely beautiful.

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
nowstayopen@gmail.com.

Monday, June 28, 2010

There is a Place to Rest Behind the Mental Drama

Carina,

What does one do when “sweet nothings” seemingly meant nothing?

When good memories are questioned?

When plans are left to wither?

When an exciting future is devastated?

When love is left alone in the cold?



*****



Dear Friend,


Thank you so much for your letter. I’m certain that many readers relate right away to your questions. Anyone who’s willing to be in intimate relationships with others experiences, on some level, this disappointment and confusion. My friend, I can tell that this is weighing on your heart and your mind.


When you’re broken-hearted, the only thing there is to do is be broken-hearted.

That probably doesn’t seem like good news, but that’s the deal. There is good news too.


The good news is that you can actually use this heartbreak to access deeper peace than you might have found had you not had this suffering. When life is going along swimmingly, we aren’t challenged to go deeper. But the desire not to suffer will have us knocking on doors that we wouldn’t have otherwise. And this can be a great blessing.


Some questions are unanswerable. These can be the most useful kind. Use the thoughts and the questions to access peace.


When you notice that you are on the painful thought train – which may be quite often these days – you can allow the noticing to be a bell of mindfulness.


Simply notice, “Oh, I’m doing that again.” No judgment, no assessment, no shame, no should. No trying to stop it. Simply notice, “Ah, there goes my mind again.”


Regular use of this very simple tool has a cumulative effect of opening up the space of peace that exists right in this moment, and we can experience it when our minds are quiet enough for us to feel it.


But don’t make yourself wrong if you’re not feeling it right away. You may not get instant relief. But you are training yourself to observe the mind rather than be completely consumed by it.


The next step is to get into your body. There is immense wisdom contained here.


So again, when you notice the churning mind, you can call your attention away from your mind and into your body. Then simply observe the sensations, and two things will happen.


First, you will have disidentified from the mind, however briefly. Anything that stops the relentless thought cycle is beneficial. This creates the room for space and peace to enter. Second, you are now in a place to observe the true nature of all things in the world of form: constant change.


In observing body sensations without labeling or judging or wishing they would go away (even though we do!), you can begin to train yourself, on the experiential level, in the wisdom of anicca, a Pali word meaning impermanence. As you notice, for example, that you feel a fluttering in your belly or a rushing sensation in your arms or a tightness in your shoulders, you can quietly observe, and you’ll notice that sensations that seem fixed are in fact constantly changing and shifting.


This is true for thoughts and emotions too. This teaches you that you will not feel heart-broken forever. But this is what’s so right now. And it is your access to deeper peace and connectedness.


Storylines are not real, and thoughts and feelings are passing. Do what you can, one moment at a time, to be the observer, watching the experience unfold. There is a place to rest behind the mental drama.


Now, let’s have some fun! As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been sitting back every few moments and blowing bubbles with my Thomas the Tank Engine bubbles that I bought for $1 at HEB. The tip of the wand has a picture of Thomas on it and the words “REALLY USEFUL!” I recommend that you find something similar for yourself. Play with your toys. Get into things that you used to love as a child. Get into things you’ve always wanted to get into. Get messy and dirty and creative.


Do the dance between being still and being with your sensations and escaping into silly delights. Sometimes when the heartache is so raw, we really have to force ourselves to reach out and start creating. But some of the greatest paths set out from this point. I first joined a gym in the midst of a broken heart. I first started meditating during another one. Some fifteen years later both of these habits are still serving me.


So take really good care and know that there is depth and beauty within this situation when you can give that mind a rest and allow the infinite calm and space within to soothe your gentle soul.


If other questions arise from this writing, please email
nowstayopen@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Willingness



In peace I write to you.


Yesterday I took my love to the airport to send him home to New Zealand after a long visit. When I got home from the airport, I sat on my bed facing the warm sunflowers in the back yard, my system shocked with withdrawal from the drug of love I’ve been mainlining for the last three weeks. It was a sunny, bright Saturday afternoon and the room was light and spacious and cool. Sobs soared through my mind and body.


And I said, I'm willing.


This is it, I knew. This is the work. Stay open.

I thought of you, my readers, and knew I am living this for all of us.


My chest rippled with waves from my gut. I let just enough thought come in to keep igniting the fire under the flame of heart ache. It didn’t take much. Otherwise I dropped the story line and felt. I watched the ripples rise, let the waves move over me, like lying in the surf on a beach in Maryland when I was ten-years-old.


I kept breathing. Sometimes I felt like I was losing my mind. Have you ever been gripped with heart ache? Yes, and doesn’t it overcome a body and mind? Everything seemed shocking and upside down. And the sunflowers smiled and waved warmly and their green stalks greatly matched the bright hot blue Texas summer sky. It was all happening at once. I craved my boyfriend terribly and at the same time I swam in the unquestionable perfection of the moment.


And I continued to be willing. I took care of myself. When I felt like I really needed it, I called up some trusted friends and went to see them. Another house where I could cry my eyes out and keep my heart open but not be lost to my mind in the solitude at home.


We ate good food, I cried some more, and we spoke of truth and allowed presence in. Trust allows us to settle back in its arms when we're willing.


Be willing. The emotions are not there to take you out. They are there to tear open the door, like Hanuman tearing open his chest: the Divine lives in there. Right there. It's asking you to trust.


Do what you need to do when it comes time to rest. And as long as you can, stay willing.


Be willing, in fact, also to rest.


I wrote the word willingness on my leg today in my car with a marker to remind myself to write this. An hour later I read an email about a conference call I’m on tomorrow. Each week there’s a different topic and the email told me that this week’s topic is willingness. This is what happens when we’re willing to feel our feelings. Synchronicities flourish through the cracks in “reality” that appear when we are willing to rest even in feelings of turmoil. Even when it seems like we can’t stand it, we keep breathing, we stay open. And our trust in Source rewards us with the ultimate gift: presence, which = love.


Are you willing to go in so that you can come out the other side? The "other side" really is within. Stay open.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Breathing consciousness into the unconscious

Dear Carina,

How does one keep the heart open after a man has been less than honest with her during a break-up, especially after trust has been established? My inclination is to close off to the possibility of romantic relationships and distrust men, although that is not what I want nor what I want to put out in the universe. If a man says I'm fabulous, but he can't be with me because of issues he needs to work through, and then it becomes clear that he just isn't interested in me and it isn't about his "issues" at all, how do I make sense out of all these mixed messages? How does one sift through the stories told to discern what is true and what is being told to hurt someone less, in order to make corrections during the next encounter? Put another way, if I'm so fabulous, then how am I suppose to change what I'm doing wrong in order to attract the right man? Am I attracting the wrong men? Maybe I'm not fabulous? Or am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and these "not-quite-right" men are just part of the path to finding a long-term soul mate/romantic life-partner? I'm sad, frustrated and confused and I don't know how to move forward.

With gratitude and love,
Michelle


* * * * * * *


Dear Michelle,

Thank you so much for writing. I love your letter.

What you're experiencing is so human! I could feel it! Let's go ahead and get some space in here.

What is clear to me upon reading it is the mental and emotional whirlpool you were sitting in in that moment. It's beautiful how clear that is. And all there is to do is to observe that, gently. We can use our churning mind like a bell of mindfulness. When you become alert to a familiar mental story line - freed momentarily from being identified with it - you come awake for a moment.

Any level of observation takes us out of the muck, even if we immediately slip back into it. The practice is in noticing again. And again. And okay, there it is again. And ahhh. And okay. And oh man. Lovingly. Breathingly. Gently noticing.

This is all there is to be done in these moments. The details can swallow us whole. I've been there. Every person has been there. And I'm pretty sure we all will again.

When we simply observe our mental/emotional trying-to-understand churning, when we notice that we're trying to solve or blame or figure out, we are breathing consciousness into the unconscious. And that is our true source.

I could go further into the details of your questions, but for this discussion, let's keep it very simple.

This practice is what will keep your heart open. It is what will allow you to know the perfection in each moment, in every relationship. It will allow you to be in your own heart. Because there's no other way any moment could be. You're not doing anything wrong. There's nothing to do but come into this moment, again and again. All heart arises from here.

Thank you so much for writing. Your generosity in asking benefits all.

Love,

Carina


If other questions arise from this writing, please email
nowstayopen@gmail.com.

Friday, May 7, 2010

This is a conversation with you and God.

Dear Carina,

I feel like I am really going through a "Dark Night of the Soul". It seems that I am releasing so much stagnant energy, frustration and rage - all of which I've bottled up for years. Now it feels like it's gushing out of me, and I can no longer suppress it or control it. It's a bit unsettling, but liberating at the same time. Do you have any advice on how to navigate these choppy and unfamiliar waters?

Warmly,
MM


* * * * * * *

Dear MM,

What a beautiful letter. Thank you so much for writing and for your absolute courage and heart.

You ask this question from a place of knowing, or you would not have come to me.

What could be more painful than not being able to access the peace that you've come to know, to feel disconnected from source. Dark Nights of the Soul are experienced by those who know the light.

Gosh, just a few weeks ago, I quoted Rumi on this very topic:

Listen to the story told by the reed,
of being separated.

"Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.

Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back."

And I said then, and will repeat now: this is the most basic of human experience. I think it is uniquely troubling when it's experienced by someone who has known her true essence. Who knows her true essence, I should say. Again, if you did not know, you would not have written to me. You would not be seeking ways to breathe through this experience, you courageous journeyer.

Friend, we are so trained to distinguish good and bad feelings. One being desirable, the other most certainly not. This is a mistake of human thinking. But the fact is, most of us have our reactions, thoughts, body sensations and emotions so tightly tangled up, we cannot notice the separate parts, and we cannot sit in neutrality as the experiences arise and pass away. Mostly we just resist the "bad" feelings (and cling onto those good times, a folly in and of itself), and that just plain hurts.

So what can we do to soothe, then, in this universal predicament?

Bump up your self care.

I like to think of going through a depression as sort of like having the flu. You need to rest, listen to your body, eat nurturing foods, perhaps tune inward. In fact, this tuning in is what's demanded in this heavy emotional time. This is a conversation with you and God.

Prayer works.

Supplication
works. When I can't feel the Beloved's loving arms, especially when I most need them, I lay a blanket down on the floor or the grass outside and I surrender my body to the earth and ask for help. Entreat the good Lord to help me. Because I know that this is really the only place to go.

Love is in the arms of the Divine, not in our thinking, judging, resisting mind. Still, we can turn our love toward that part of the self, too. It can't help it.

Drink lots of water. Get some exercise. See health care practitioners you trust to care for you. Let the Universe care for you. It is not separate from the hard times.

The other side of this is peace, and, in fact, it is there now. It does not matter that you cannot feel it.

You are not separate from the One, and you are supported from the inside.

Please take good care and thank you so much for writing. We are experiencing all of this together now.

Love,

Carina

P.S. One of the greatest books you can read when going through such hard emotional times is Pema Chodron's masterpiece, When Things Fall Apart. She radically and compassionately guides us first into and then out the other side of our suffering by teaching us what we fear most: to sit with it. Paradoxically it is all love.

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
nowstayopen@gmail.com.



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Noticing is All That's Necessary

Dear mk,

Thank you so much for writing. I like your language: "feeling a bit under the weather today.. kind of sad too.."

There's something so sweet and humanly poignant about those words.

I thought about you today and about your letter when I found myself ruminating on what seemed to be a problem in my world. I was into the details of it and into why I was justified in feeling stressed. And when I thought about your letter and thought about what I wanted to say to you, I got space in my own world. So I thank you for that. We are in this together.

What I want to share with you is simple: if you are able to notice when you are spinning your mental and emotional wheels in attempt to solve a situation, it's likely that you are simply caught up in the details of the situation. And noticing is all that's necessary. All enlightenment is right there.

These tiny moments that shift our perspective from the level of words, thoughts, stories, complaints, judgments, offense, defense, justification, . . . give our consciousness a chance to breathe, to come out and stretch. Just a momentary breath is access to infinity.

This noticing includes noticing when you're making yourself wrong for how you're feeling. This self-judgment is often such a natural place to go, we seldom notice it's happening, but it will take a person out like nothing else can.

A bit of faith and trust is useful here. And you can take my word for it. There seems to be a cumulative effect of moment upon moment of noticing, of coming back to quiet -- even just for a second -- out of the noisy conversation of the mind and emotional reaction, no matter what the topic. That cumulative effect is peace.

The trust comes into play because you might not seem to get relief immediately in the moment, but any moment that you are able to disidentify with the mind, you are giving yourself the ultimate gift possible in the human experience.

~~~

Now, regarding the relationships, I wonder if you are "trying to understand others' positions and allow him respect, space, etc.. " out of an underlying should?

What I see here is an opportunity to allow what you're feeling. Here's the trick, though: allow your feelings while still observing them. That is, when you are able, simply notice. Notice the feelings and the thoughts that are going along with them. Allow them, feel them, experience them, quiet down the mind for a moment so you can really feel what your system is experiencing, keep breathing, and allow it to pass through you.

And when it comes back, keep breathing.

This is the paradox and miracle of the painful experiences in life: heartbreak leads to divine love, if we're willing to bathe in those warm waters rather than fight them.

This all ties to your question about tucking into your shell and re-grouping. It's my experience that the quieter the mind and the more room we create for our deepest nature to arise and guide us, the more valuable that quiet time is. Or it may be that as we quiet down and let our deepest nature guide us, we no longer have the need or desire to reach outside of ourselves as much.

This does not make it so we no longer connect. In fact, we are able to connect most deeply when we are being truest to ourselves. You may find in doing so that those relationships that feel draining or feel like failures either transform with your own opening heart or they naturally fall away.

I like to think of people as 6.7 billion fingers on the hand of God, each one a unique and detailed creation. There is no set program by which any individual should live. In other words, my dear mk, your intuition and instinct know exactly how to live in the best way for you.

So if your shell is calling you, I say, grab some comfy blankets and a couple seasons of "The Office" on DVD, and get on in there. Your self-care benefits all.

Thank you so much. I'm grateful for your message.

Love,
Carina

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
nowstayopen@gmail.com.



* * * * * * *

Hi Carina,
feeling a bit under the weather today.. kind of sad too.. I try so hard.. my boyfriend from the middle east (on work assignment from Illinois) .....hasn't written for weeks.. he's busy and doesn't have inet at home..............but gosh, i want to be mad and delete the emails from the last year, .........but i can't nor do I really want to .......... trying to understand others' positions and allow him respect, space, etc..
For me, i am the kind of person who has a few really, really good friends and sometimes i try so hard to build that friendship when others just seem to have acquaintance friends (I guess)......I am frustrated that i try so hard actually, have tried everything... and now i just have to let go ... fine.. why do i spend so much energy on people?.. I bend over backwards in accommodation and now just feel like i put myself in jeopardy and am a bit exhausted and sad ....and somewhat pissed... (i can't expect anything).... just want to get into my own shell and re-group.....what do you think?.. monks-kolson

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Source has not left you. It is impossible.

Peace be with you and thank you for writing.

Let's step out of the details of the situation and look to see where some space might be opened for [your own] deepest wisdom and peace to enter.

You write, "although I try to stay connected to Source, I'm pretty freakin scared of losing everything." Of course one can understand this fear, and I empathize with you. It is persistent, at some level, with just about every person, whether the individual is attuned to it or not.

I want you to consider, if you can, that Source has not left you, even when you are wrapped in fear. It is impossible.

But I don't want you to try to rationalize this statement and try to believe it if you're not able to feel it. And please don't make yourself wrong for not being able to feel God's love and protection. This is the most basic human experience. The poet Rumi writes:

Listen to the story told by the reed,
of being separated.

"Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.

Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back."

That you are asking this question shows me that you are in a deep inquiry about how to move in this situation, to honor your relationship and to honor yourself, and also to regain a sense of safety.

I'm sure you know this and I am just here to remind you - as the writing reminds me - that there is nothing better that you can do than to quiet your mind down and disidentify from your thoughts and emotions.

This does not mean stop having thoughts (can't do it anyway!) or feelings. Rather, it means that when you notice that you're on the spinning wheel of solution-seeking, the noticing can be a little bell of mindfulness. You can use that noticing to bring you into the present, into your body, into your feeling, into the feel of your feet on the floor.

The cool thing is that you don't need to try to hold that quiet space. Even seemingly minute slices of stillness - without thought, judgment or resistance - have a cumulative effect of opening up space and wisdom over time.

Your deepest wisdom, your true nature, has all of the answers. Your mind doesn't need to try to figure them out. It can't anyway.

What do we want from our relationships? What do we expect?

I learned something profound through a relationship not long ago.

I was in a relationship that didn't look the way I thought it should look and didn't feel the way I thought it should feel. I came to a point where I felt that I *must* get out of the relationship because it was just too painful for me. I spent a few days crying, really grieving it, and then I went to church and asked for help.

I wrote on an anonymous prayer request form, asking for help. I said I had a relationship that I thought I needed to end but that I was really sad and scared to do so (I was frightened of my own emotions). I asked the question with faith that prayer works.

Later that day I came across an article about how we don't have any proper archetypes in our culture for intimate relationships. This article breathed so much space into my consciousness about my relationship, and the whole scenario was transformed.

I realized that all of the pain I felt came from my rejection and resistance to what is (or was). I was reacting from a very specific picture of what I thought relationships should look like. And if we look across our culture, we see a lot of people struggling to cram themselves and their partners into these rigid pictures that just don't work.

That relationship ended up being one of my greatest teachers and I'm really grateful I went through that process.

In Michael Brown's article, he writes, "The first step required to authentically enter an intimate relationship with another human being is to do so from the point of awareness that we have no idea how to accomplish this."

For what it's worth.

Now, none of this is to tell you to stay - or to leave - your relationship. I don't know the answer to that.

I just invite you to notice when you're spinning your wheels and, even if just for an instant, take the observer stance and watch it all happening. From there, there's really no action that needs to be taken. All can unfold naturally. We ARE Source, kicking back and watching it all go down anyway.

Rumi's reed flute goes on to say,

"At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing and grieving,

a friend to each, but few
will hear the secrets hidden

within the notes. No ears for that.
Body flowing out of spirit,

spirit up from body: no concealing
that mixing. But it's not given us

to see the soul. The reed flute
is fire, not wind. Be that empty."

And Source says, "Pass the popcorn."

I humbly thank you for your message.

Love,
Carina

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
nowstayopen@gmail.com.



* * * * * * *

Dear Carina,

I've been with my boyfriend for 13 months. Context: At the moment, I have less money in the bank than I have ever experienced and although I try to stay connected to Source, I'm pretty freakin scared of losing everything. Crazy part of it is that the work I get to do is my passion, it just isn't (yet!) meeting my income requirements I need to cover my monthly expenses.

This has been going on a year and up until a few months ago I had big savings, but that is gone now. He thinks I don't work hard enough, I don't try hard enough and that I should just get a job-job because well, obviously I'm not supporting myself (I've gotten little loans, sold some stocks and am banking on a Tax Return that will pay next month's rent.) So he has loaned me more than some people and he deserves to have a say in how I spend my time, I think.

Thing is that he says he's not sure he "believes in me" and that breaks my heart. I asked if I could move in until I'm "back to being self sufficient" to not have to struggle with rent, but he said "not a good idea." Is this grounds for letting the guy go or do I push through his lack of confidence and "prove myself."

My friends that are all about "you get what you put out" would say I'm attracting him saying that to me. Well, heck yea, I'm really struggling to believe in myself - myself. But, I'm doing lots of work on clearing limiting beliefs like not worthy, deserving or being victim. Unfortunately, in his mind that isn't helping me move fast enough.

Can a person stay in relationship with a person who doesn't know if he believes in them because he has to "see it to believe it?" Mostly we get along swimmingly. But, it's been a year and he thinks I should have had it all together by now or in his mind it's unlikely that I will. It makes me sad.

I'd like to know what information you get when you ask about this in your stillness. Thanks Carina!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Tiny Space Through Which Infinite Grace Can Be Known

Dear Sugar Magnolia,

Thank you so much for writing. Just in your asking, I see your heart opening. When you ask for advice on "how [you] could respond (instead of react)," I see you caring for your husband and for yourself and for clarity in the relationship.

In being willing to take ownership of your own reactions, and really just in noticing them, you are already bringing in some space.

And space is what we're going for here. When we are in situations that don't have obvious solutions, we need to get to a place where we are quiet enough and still enough so that the greater wisdom (that is our true nature) may arise. In that space, we know that there are no wrong choices or really any wrong moments or situations. It is simply our interpretation of things that has us judge what is ultimately neutral.

I spent some time contemplating your question and at times felt inept at answering because I got lost in the details (the words that are said, the reactions, the drinking, the cycles) and in seeking a solution on the level of details. I came to see, however, that bringing in space is the simplest and perhaps most profound contribution you can make.

One way you could describe our goal here is that we seek to quiet the thinking mind, even if just for a moment. I believe that the regular practice of quieting the mind and coming fully into the present moment with alert quietness has a cumulative effect on our general state of well-being, specifically on our experience of inner peace.

There are some very simple practices we may all use to awaken out of our automatic, reactionary states.

One way is simply to notice when we're being pulled into reaction. The key here, however, is that you not make yourself wrong for your reaction. You simply want to notice, without judgment. In that moment of observation, you are not lost in the world of reaction (typically carried over from the past). And even though, right in that moment, you may not feel immediate relief, you will notice, with practice, a cumulative effect of more space, more freedom and more compassion both for yourself and others.

Another simple practice is to feel your body. I like to feel my feet in my shoes or on the floor (or at this moment propped on an ottoman and buzzing with aliveness). In those brief moments when we're feeling the aliveness of the body, we are tuned in with the enormity of life, beyond our mental comprehension, and the mind quiets.

Similarly, when we notice ourselves going through a wave of emotion, we can do the same: we can breathe, relax our body, and feel the wave of reaction as it moves through us. Typically we want to ignore or push away feelings of discomfort. In the paradoxical exploration of the sensations, we come to find that we've created space.

You can allow yourself to be exactly as you are in the moment. And with that comes openness and quiet, through which our deeper wisdom, beyond the churning of the rational/problem-solving/wrong-making/thinking mind, can arise and reveal itself to us.

You are in great shape, my dear, and I'm humbled by your question.

One final thought for this letter . . . I find instant relief when I recite the following loving-kindness meditation:

Just like me, this person wants to be happy and free of suffering.

Thank you for reminding us all that even - and especially - in difficult times, we can make just a tiny space through which infinite grace can be known. And THIS is our true nature.

Love,

Carina

If other questions arise from this writing, please email
nowstayopen@gmail.com.



* * * * * * *

Hi Beautiful Sister Carina,

I would like some guidance regarding a situation in my life with my beloved husband.

It has become a recurrent reaction of his that whenever we have a disagreement or frustration, he blows up and says either that he is so tired of this( with exasperation and anger in his energy) or he threatens to leave.

Usually this threat of leaving deflects my focus from what the issue at hand is to that of "Oh my gosh, he's threatening to leave" and I cow-tow to this threat by telling him that I believe in him and our marriage and that I'm not ready to give it up and why is he so easily defeated? Why does he always want to cut and run?

Anyway, could you please offer some advice on how I could respond (instead of react)?

Also, on a side note, he is inevitably remorseful and sorry every time after a blow up and says he will not play the "I'm leaving unless I have my way" card again.

Also, on another note, for the past 3 months alcohol was usually involved with these episodes. The recent episode however did not involve alcohol has he has voluntarily decided to "cleanse or detox" for a period of time.

Thank you with love,
Sugar Magnolia