Mindfulness

Coming Out of the Spiritual Closet

It’s time for me to admit something. I’ve been in the closet. I’ve been ignoring a huge aspect of myself, and I just can’t do it any longer. Maybe it won’t seem like such a big deal to you. But here it is…

I’m <cough> spiritual.

(this is a cartoon version of me wearing a black wig after coming out of the spiritual closet, in case you were wondering)

And I’m not just declaring that I’m now an “SBNR” (spiritual but not religious) person just because I live in Los Angeles and it’s the hipster thing to say.

Nope.

I’m talking about dedicating myself to creating a uniquely personal spiritual path rooted in mindfulness; I’m talking about opening up to learning about different spiritual traditions to see which practices might feel like a good fit to explore—and which ones don’t; I’m talking about deepening my meditation practice with the intention of connecting not only with myself and others—but also with the giant Mystery. Love. The Universe. Spirit. Whatever I decide to call that thing (or no-thing). And, although this is hard for me to believe—my staunchly secular mindfulness meditation practice brought me to this place.

Weird… Right?

Well, maybe not… After all, the Latin root of “spirit,” is “spiritus,”—which means “breath.” And the object of my meditation practice for the past 6+ years has been the breath. So there’s that.

But all nerdiness aside… I can honestly say that I’ve had enough transcendent experiences at this point in my practice to know that there’s more to meditation than it merely serving as a practical tool to help me manage my emotions and find a sense of inner peace.

Does this mean I’m losing touch with my pragmatic side? Nope. But I seem to have reached this new stage in my practice where I’m no longer interested in holding onto (and hiding behind…) the cynical, overly-rational, pseudo-intellectual arrogance that has kept me from seriously exploring anything considered remotely spiritual. I’m finally willing to let go of all the past judgments I’ve made about what it means to be a “spiritual” person.

And I’m finally willing to own up to the fact that I am one. 

So my new challenge moving ahead is to continue deepening and expanding my meditation practice while finding ways to feel safe and comfortable exploring what I’m referring to as “secular spirituality.” I have no idea what this journey is going to look like just yet. But I’m finally ready to admit that I want to find out.

Which is probably a great place to start. 🙂

The Mosaic of Life

MosaicWork-Trencadis-Gaudi-

A while back, when I was in the midst of the certification in mindfulness facilitation program at UCLA, I was asked to write a paper on the topic of diversity, and I noticed an immediate sense of dread when the topic came up—followed by some major resistance.

It’s a sticky subject for me—one I’d much rather sweep under the rug than examine. And, because of this, I’m going to share what I wrote…

When I think about the topic of diversity, I flash to my “sheltered” childhood—which was utterly devoid of it. I grew up in a predominantly-Caucasian, upper middle class, quaint, rural town in New Hampshire. Monochromatic white saltbox Colonials lined the center of town, offset by swaths of apple orchards and strawberry fields.

Every harvest season, a line of rickety, lime-green painted school buses would roll into town. And I remember staring at those buses, feeling this weird fascination with their “otherness” back then. I later found out they were packed with Jamaican migrant workers hired to work the orchards and fields.

Reflecting back on this now, I feel a sharp knot in my left side, just below my ribs. My breathing is shallow. My brow furrowed. I feel ashamed. Sad.

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Finding One Another (Through Vulnerability)

I have something to admit.

All those feelings Sharon Salzberg mentions in that quote featured above—I’ve been feeling them. Big. Time. I’ve been seeing (and experiencing) lessons in impermanence left and right. And it’s got my metaphorical panties in a wad. Sure, from a philosophical standpoint, I “get” that it’s the nature of things. Change is the only constant. Yada, yada…

But I’m still struggling with accepting this fact. I constantly find myself trying to dig my heels into some semblance of firmer ground, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that it’s all just sand slipping through the hour glass. And I’ve been avoiding sharing any of this with you because there’s this little voice inside me that keeps saying: “You’re a mindfulness facilitator. You should have a handle on managing your angst by now. The people who read your blog don’t want to hear about all the uneasiness you’re facing. Chill out, buck up—and get your act together!”

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Tight Spots

I recently had my first MRI (due to an infection in my arm from a kitten bite)… And the MRI wasn’t a fun experience. But, wow—what a great opportunity to observe my mind! It’s interesting how things that trigger me often prove to be my biggest teachers.

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The Courage to Be Gentle

THE COURAGE TO BE GENTLE

It takes a lot of courage to be gentle in the face of things I find challenging.

Embarrassing…

Humiliating…

I want to harden

When I’ve made a mistake…

All I want to do is ROAR.

It takes a lot of courage to be gentle.

Now I soften.

I often find myself wanting to harden when life feels difficult, or when I’ve made a mistake or feel embarrassed in some way…. My body automatically tenses in these situations—and so do my emotions.

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Being Mindful of “Good” Judgment

EncouragingWords

One of the biggest things I’ve recognized on this path of mindfulness is how judgmental my mind tends to be. It judges people, things, experiences…. Whatever it encounters (especially if it’s something new), my mind tends to slap a label on it. And I’m not talking about objective labeling here…. I’m talking about the reactive deeming of whatever the object of my mind’s attention is as “bad” or “good.” “Wrong” or “right.” “The worst” or “the best.” Or some variation in between.

Basically, I’m talking about labels that judge.

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Mental Noting

thinking

One mindfulness technique I often use when meditating is called “mental noting” or “labeling.” Science has proven that noting or labeling a thought as it arises regulates the emotional circuitry in the brain, creating a calming effect in the body and giving separation from the thought. I find the technique quite helpful. Perhaps you will, too! 🙂

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Personal Space

space

(image from http://www.toonpool.com)

I’ve been thinking about the concept of “personal space” lately… How it’s not just a physical thing—how we can also experience personal space in an emotional and mental way, too…. I’ve come to realize how important it is to my well being that I get hefty doses of all three varieties. When I’m getting “enough personal space,” I feel comfortable and at ease.

And when I don’t get enough of it—I feel edgy. Suffocated. Compressed. Panicky.

I’m a tall woman (6’0 to be precise). So, I’ve always been acutely aware of my personal space in the physical sense—especially not having enough of it….My pants and shirts are often too short, and the beds I sleep in—never long enough; cars rarely have enough leg room for me; tables are often too short to cross my legs underneath…. And the list goes on.

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Chasing Shiny Things

“When I sit down to work on a project, an idea comes to me that maybe isn’t completely relevant to the task at hand—maybe it’s theoretical or conceptual. And, it’s like this shiny thing off to the side. I feel like it’s important for me to examine it. And, so I do. But then I see another shiny thing, and I examine that. And, then all this time goes by, and the task I need to get done never gets done.”

Does this sound familiar?…

A client of mine was finding it challenging to stay focussed on a less-than desirable task she needed to do for work. She shared the above with me, and I’m sharing it here (with her permission, of course!…) because I think—especially for those of us who identify as “creative” folks—we’ve ALL experienced this at some point (if not, regularly). Heck, this giant, glowing orb of diversion caught my attention while sitting here trying to write this post:

If a blog post is on the internet, but nobody reads it,
does it exist?… 

[puts “serious mindfulness blogger” mask back on] 

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