About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Month: April, 2014

How not to judge

Willing

A couple of experiences yesterday clearly reminded me how little I like being judged. You know how when you’re on a diet, you start noticing foods that are unnecessarily caloric? I think it may be similar when you’ve released a lot of negativity and judgment … when you run into it, it really starts to stand out in stark relief. It makes you uncomfortable, and it’s clear that it has no value or really, useful purpose.

I was on my way to a friend’s alumni association crawfish boil, stopped at a light, when a woman gestured to me to roll down my window. Generally when people do this, it’s to convey some kind of useful or at least well-intentioned information, like that one of my tires is low.

This time was a bit different. Based on my bumper stickers (“Hope, not fear”) left from the 2008 election cycle, she inquired about my support for the President, and then yelled, “I just wanted to see what stupid looked like!” She then closed her window quite promptly, clearly uninterested in (or perhaps afraid of) my thoughts on her thoughts. I shook my head and muttered to myself that I hadn’t wanted to see what ignorant looked like.

When I arrived at the event, even before I could park my car, I immediately noticed great enthusiasm for wearing the school colors of purple and gold. My friend hadn’t said anything about this, but since purple is one of my favorite colors, I happened to be wearing purple shoes, eyeshadow, lipgloss, and (known only to myself–and now you!) purple underwear. This, it turned out, was insufficient, and others at the table (also alumni of other schools, but unlike me, forewarned) let me know of their superiority in wearing the school colors. Ah, joy.

In the back of my mind for probably months now, I’ve been thinking about how I want to renew my own commitment to eliminating judgment from my life. These experiences were catalysts in helping me decide that the time to do that is now.

I grew up in a family and a church that absolutely prized judgment of others. Though my family read the Bible through each year, Jesus’s words “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1) seemed to register with no one. I remember puzzling over them, trying to imagine what that meant, how that would work.

I became really interested in releasing judgment from my life about 7 years ago when I read Wayne Dyer’s The Power of Intention (published in 2004). He mentions briefly the work of the late Dr. David R. Hawkins, who measured various vibrations, such as those of documents, books, people, and so on. Dr Hawkins’ work indicated that higher vibrations are very powerful, and that one person vibrating at a higher level can balance the negativity of many lower-vibrating people. I found this idea quite exciting, but there was just one problem. I knew I didn’t meet the criteria for the first level. This is what I read …

    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of optimism and a willingness to be nonjudgmental of others will counterbalance the negativity of  90,000 individuals who calibrate at the lower weakening levels [which basically consist of fear and lack of integrity].
    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of pure love and reverence for all of life will counterbalance the negativity of 750,000 individuals who calibrate at the lower weakening levels.
    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of illumination, bliss, and infinite peace will counterbalance the negativity of 10 million people who calibrate at the lower weakening levels (approximately 22 such sages are alive today).
    • One individual who lives and vibrates to the energy of grace, pure spirit beyond the body, in a world of nonduality or complete oneness, will counterbalance the negativity of 70 million people who calibrate at the lower weakening levels (approximately 10 such sages are alive today).

Here are two compelling statistics offered by Dr. Hawkins in his 29-year study of the hidden determinants of human behavior:

    1. One single avatar living at the highest level of consciousness in this period of history to whom the title Lord is appropriate, such as Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha, and Lord Jesus Christ, would counterbalance the collective negativity of all of mankind in today’s world.
    2. The negativity of the entire human population would self-destruct were it not for the counteracting effects of these higher energy fields.

As I read this, I felt I was doing fairly well on the optimism front, but I knew very well I wasn’t nonjudgmental. But I was willing to try.

I started writing in my journal every day my intention to be willing to be in non-judgment of others. I found that this really made a profound difference in my life.

I really love the “willing” part of this statement, by the way. It seems to open up a space where–just like thoughts during meditation–judgment may come up, and then you can meet it with the willingness to release it and be in non-judgment. And as with thoughts during meditation, with practice, judgments become much less frequent.

In my view, releasing judgment doesn’t mean that you’re not aware of what’s really happening … that you don’t understand it, that you don’t know when you’re dealing with someone who’s as trustworthy as a rattlesnake. My interpretation of non-judgment is that you do notice all of these things, and act accordingly–you just don’t feel the need to judge them. Two common responses of mine when judgment comes up is, “We’re all doing our best” (which is so often true) and “No one asked me to judge.” This is also quite true. No one with any moral authority has invited me to judge anyone else–nor will they.

Now I want to take this practice to the next level. I’m not sure yet exactly how I’m going to do that, but I’ve decided that when judgment comes up, I’m going to reiterate my intention then and there …

I want to be willing to be in non-judgment of others.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Willingness to be in non-judgment + personal Witness. This could probably also be considered a Waterbearer card. The water and water jug are meant to represent the life-giving nature of creating a higher vibration.

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How to be serene in the face of great provocation

Witness

Do you have someone in your life who irritates the living hell out of you? Someone who totally knows how to push your buttons? Someone you can’t ban from your life, or get away from, like a coworker? Or a relative who’s going through an awkward stage? Someone whose whole life, perhaps, is an awkward stage?

Your secret is safe with me.

I devised this little exercise, based on the work of Eckhart Tolle, a few years ago when I was in desperate need of it myself. It really made a difference for me, and I hope it will for you too.

  1. Find a quiet place that’s conducive to meditation.
  2. Visualize yourself in water … at one with the water, in your element, completely comfortable. Feel yourself weightless and transparent.
  3. Now visualize the person who irritates the living hell out of you tossing something unpleasant at you. It can be whatever you like–rotten tomatoes, hand grenades, cow patties, what have you.
  4. At first, despite the fact that you are now weightless and transparent, you’ll probably flinch, or feel some resistance, or both. That’s OK. Try again. The idea is to allow the unpleasant thing to pass right through you, making no impact whatsoever, not harming you in any way.
  5. Continue until you can allow the rotten tomato or what have you to pass through you without feeling any resistance. Excellent!
  6. Now, when you are with the person who formerly irritated the living hell out of you, call upon your new practice. Allow their unpleasant words to pass right through, while you remain serene and non-reactive. You can now respond effectively (or not–your choice), unhampered by anger.
  7. Tell me it doesn’t feel fabulous.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made tonight, Witness (one of the Transpersonal cards).

May all beings be at ease

Bronze Age hearth

When I opened my new issue of Shambhala Sun yesterday, I found this poem, which is also a prayer, and loved it. I hope you do too.

Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,

The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:

Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down,
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this mindfulness.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.

–Buddha, from the Metta Sutta, translated by The Amaravati Sangha

This post is illustrated by my SoulCollage card Bronze Age hearth and home.

The strength of the soul

Soulmate journey

Friday I had lunch with a colleague, and was describing the benefits I now experience after years of meditation–including the ability to lower my blood pressure and a mind that is often spacious, rather than stuffed to bursting with thoughts. He and I have discussed this before. (You can lead a horse to water …) It’s clear to me that he could benefit tremendously from a meditation practice, but he’s very resistant to it (as was I for years).

Yesterday he told me something very interesting–that he believes he can never have peace of mind because he’s too much his father’s son.

I responded that the soul is stronger than the body. While our relationships with the souls who inhabit the bodies of our relatives often transcend lifetimes, what we inhabit now is just one of many gene pools, one of many bodies.

The soul is capable of mastering the body–though it doesn’t always succeed.

In my own case, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that part of what I’m doing here this time around is learning to master a body with a tendency toward anger and resentment. Others are here to master a tendency toward addiction, or self-destruction. Many of us have accepted bodies that are challenging in one way or another. None of these tasks are easy, but they are essential to our growth.

Not only is it possible to master our bodies’ negative tendencies–it really is what we’re here for.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card The soulmate journey + Holding space.

Planting elfin thyme

Crown

Today, after the storm had passed, the weather was utterly perfect for gardening. Neither too cold nor too warm, not a mosquito marred the air.

The harsh, icy, on-again-off-again winter took out all but one of the lavenders in my front flower bed. The mint, of course, survived. Mint would probably survive an apocalypse. I’m not sure whether to be comforted by the thought that anyone else who survives can be assured of minty fresh breath!

Today I replanted the vacated half of the bed. Bowing to Mother Nature, I planted more mint–peppermint this time. Defying Mother Nature, and the original (heavy clay) character of the soil, I planted more lavender, which prefers excellent drainage. It’s Munstead lavender, which smells absolutely delicious. Perhaps because I’d just read about its medicinal properties, I planted rosemary, for remembrance–apparently it improves memory. And for whimsy, I planted elfin thyme, which I hope will spread into a lovely little carpet.

Gardening is excellent exercise, and I feel limber, muscles–including unfamiliar ones–stretched but not sore.

I can’t wait to do this again!

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Crown chakra + Toad totem.

How to look younger

Jacob's sheep

That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful. –Ninon de l’Enclos

Last weekend I had dinner with a group of foodie friends, including one I hadn’t seen in a few years, only once since he moved away. He immediately started trying to figure out why I looked different: “Your hair’s darker. [I denied it because it’s still its natural color, but he may well be right–hair does darken with age, and mine is less chestnut than it used to be.] You look younger!”

I immediately inquired what exactly he’d been smoking in New Orleans. I know for a fact that I haven’t been aging in reverse. In fact, it’s just in the past few years that I’ve gone from looking younger than my age, to … not.

But when someone else, who has seen me continuously over the past few years, said she’d also noticed I looked different, I wanted to know what it was they were seeing–and more importantly, why.

After dinner, when I stopped by the ladies’ room, I took the opportunity to consult the mirror. Indeed I did look younger. My face looked fuller, softer–relaxed. I realized the tension was gone from my face. What had I done, anyway?

Then I remembered.

My laptop had died the day before, and when I got home with my new laptop, I was looking for ways to enjoy its exponentially better Beats Audio sound. I decided to listen to both the evening and–for the first time, the next morning–the morning guided meditations on Doreen Virtue’s Chakra Clearing CD.

It turns out that while the evening meditation is great for winding down and processing a difficult day, the majority of the chakra clearing work happens in the morning meditation. Since time in the morning seems to be chronically short for those of us who don’t create our own schedules, I find a weekend morning is best for this meditation. (I like it so much, though, that I may well try to make time for it on certain weekday mornings. It’s about 25 minutes, slightly longer than the 15-20 minutes I normally meditate.)

I feel compelled to note that the meditations include a couple of moments that could be construed as cheesy, but I am all about what works. Considering how well these meditations work, I am completely willing to forgive those moments (and I’m certain cheesy is in the eye–or ear–of the beholder).

I listened to the meditations again last night and this morning, and today I found that doing the meditation really zapped the indefinable ‘crummy’ feeling I woke up with–I’m not sure of its source, perhaps the unpleasant storm that swept through with extremely high winds while I was still trying to sleep. The meditations had the same effect on my face as before.

I hope you’ll try these meditations for yourself. When you do, I think you’ll find yourself feeling better, more relaxed, and yes–looking younger.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Jacob’s sheep, some of whom are very young indeed.

The wisdom of many lifetimes

Wisdom

This is a SoulCollage card I’ve been wanting to make ever since I made my first Soul Essence card, which represents the essence of your soul that’s consistent from lifetime to lifetime, regardless of your current personality, gender, ethnicity, occupation, and so on. When I thought about what the lives I’ve lived that I know about have in common, there honestly wasn’t much. But one of the things that stood out to me was the idea of mastery–something that’s important to me in this life, and seems to be a recurring theme in other lives as well. I wanted to represent this on my first Soul Essence card, but there just wasn’t room for it. Most Soul Essence cards are quite simple, and the first one I made was no exception. Soon after I made that card, I read my 6th-chakra owl totem card, and that reading expanded on what I’d been thinking:

I am one who is wise–like you. Many different kinds of wisdom is what you’re developing over many lifetimes. The wisdom of nature, the wisdom of technology, the wisdom of writing.

I found this last bit very intriguing, as I hadn’t thought of what I do for a living in terms of gathering the wisdom of technology before. This new Soul Essence card is about that ongoing gathering of wisdom across lifetimes.

As I was finishing this card, I noticed its colors are mostly dull, making it unique in my deck in that it doesn’t feature the vibrant color (or else black and white) that I typically use. I realized that’s because this card is about a larger, broader ‘me’ than the me of this lifetime who passionately loves color. I considered adding a reference to the “wisdom of technology,” but couldn’t find any images that worked. Technology–even a sleek laptop like my new HP Envy– is, I’m sorry to say, just so ugly in comparison with nature and beautiful hand-crafted objects! I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Here’s an excerpt from my reading of this new card (I’ve rearranged the sentences a bit so that it flows perhaps better than the original) …

The wisdom of many lifetimes is with you. All is well.

I am one who has lived many times, and learned something from each one of them.

I am one who loves the water. I am one who loves soaring cathedrals. I am one who builds them. I love the little lambs–so tender, so sweet. I am one who loves to write, who has much to share with the world. [You will share it.]

I am one who is wise beyond my years. It is always there for me to tap into–the wisdom of many lifetimes.

I am one who is developing–slowly, over time, like a pearl.

The waters are still, all is well. That is all.

Have you done any exploration of your past lives, and if so, what do you think are recurring themes for you?

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