In last week's post, I spoke about being present, and how one of my silent retreat times along the ocean helped me understand and experience the gift of the present moment in beautiful new ways.
Here's another "awakened moment" from that sacred "time-in."
One day as I was sitting on a stone bench, tucked away from the eyes of the tourists who visited the Gardens daily, I settled into a state of "looking deeply." Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has written much about looking deeply and how doing so opens up awareness of our interconnectedness. For me, looking deeply draws me into a world of wonder, awe, and Mystery. Stilling one's thoughts, really looking at something's uniqueness—watching it, being with it—thins the veils, and we become acutely aware of how we "inter-are", as TNH teaches.
Considering that I have a great deal of aversion to insects, it was surprising to me that it was a spider who invited me to look deeply. Rather than recoil when I noticed him/her in a flowering bush just behind my shoulder, I was naturally drawn into wonderment. So I simply sat and watched the scene unfold. As I did, the spider taught me about life, and these are the words that came forth:
The spider weaves his web with glistening silver thread.
"To meditate is to look deeply," offers Thich Nhat Hanh. In truth, anyone can meditate on anything, even the minuscule movements of a spider, and become aware that there is so much more to life than we had previously imagined.
Selection adapted from Awakening the Spirit Within by Janice (Forrest) Lundy. ©2000, Heart to Heart Press.
I recall sitting on a bench in the Meditation Gardens of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas, CA in 1999, tucked in amongst giant palms and soft ferns, journaling these words:
Living in the present moment takes full effort and concentration.
I knew when I recorded them they were "a gift from beyond." I've carried these words in my heart for all the years since then and they never fail to point me back towards what matters most—to be here, now.
How easy it is for us to lose our way, to spend our energy unwisely, supremely focused on the past or the future. Granted, reflection on what has gone by is fine; reliving beautiful memories is wonderful too. Learning from mistakes, so wise!
Leaning into the future, exploring infinite possibilities, can be beautiful as well—the stuff of dreams—and we are definitely meant to dream.
But when we lose our equanimity and fall with misery into either camp (regret, worry, anxiety), we lose touch with the glorious gift of the present moment. This precious moment. This moment. This.
When I am able to stay attuned to this glittering jewel, fully embracing its one-of-a-kind gifts, the present moment holds everything—past and future, what's gone and what's yet to come—and in that generous holding, I am at home in the world. I can breathe. All is well.
The same can be true for any of us. For you.
Today, may you find comfort and ease in the present moment. May you be well, at home in yourself.
Photo courtesy of encinitastemple.org
The aphorism above became an entry in my book Awakening the Spirit Within. It's now out of print but used copies are available at Amazon.com.
In 2008, my book Your Truest Self, was released by Sorin Books. When it made its way out into the big wide world, I felt tenuous about it. This was my most visible attempt yet to share what I had come to know was true about the nature of the spiritual journey. The book offered 12 Transformation Truths that could guide and enable women to live more peaceful, confident and open-hearted lives.
The first chapter alone, "I Am Free to Live a Spiritual Life of My Own Making," felt especially risky, because in it I wrote about my non-traditional approach to the spiritual life. I had often described myself as "having Christian roots and Buddhist wings." But there was more, so much more that I was not ready, nor confident enough to share about the wondrously, unique way I had met up with, welcomed, and integrated the Divine into my heart and life. This was an interspiritual journey of grand proportions, and one I was certain would banish me from certain circles once I revealed it.
It's time for the next step for me. And a new story. In fact, one month ago a spiritual friend said to me, "When are you going to write your memoir? People need to know this stuff." Hmmmm, I thought, perhaps someday. It still feels risky to go "out on a limb" in Shirley MacLaine fashion.
What I do know is this. It is time for me to speak up again about "The Heart of the Matter", at least in my view when it comes to our spiritual journeys, thus the focus of this blog. As well as the focus of a new online offering I'm getting ready to launch soon. It's an interspiritual dive into Perennial Wisdom as a time tested trail we can follow to access the deepest truths about how to live.
I'm starting the conversation about this here on my blog, sharing scraps of a not-yet-written memoir to lend support to what feels like a sea change: a growing number of people globally who long to experience the Sacred in their own unique way. And to do as Rabbi Rami Shapiro attests, "work for the spiritual liberation of humankind."
I am not alone in this holy purpose. According to the Pew Foundation and their survey of America's changing religious landscape, a growing number of individuals do not identify with traditional religion:
• 22% claim to be "unaffiliated"
• 15.8% are "nothing in particular"
• 4% are agnostic
• 3% are atheist
Additionally, the Pew Research Center reports that as many as 40% of millennials do not consider themselves to be religious.
This is the "sea change" of which I speak. And it is swelling, not just in America, but all over the globe. Many seekers are out to sea, untethered from tradition, or have "one toe in the pond." Others are rooted in a religious tradition but "want more," as one friend said it recently. There is a longing for a heartfelt spiritual connection but after much searching, they haven't found their "perfect fit." Then there are those who appear to be "spiritual but not religious" or claim "spiritual independence." And what about those who see a deep connection between the beautiful truths at the heart of each of the world's religions ("Perennial Wisdom"), but are frustrated that they do not see these values played out in the world at large?
So, this is where I find myself this September, 2017, eager to bring this conversation to the forefront and, most importantly, provide "temenos space" ("safe place" or "sanctuary" in Greek) for people to explore their inner lives, including all of the confusion or conflict they may feel about religion and spirituality at this point in our cultural evolution.
There is a new story to be written and I hope you will join me for the writing of it. Your voice matters and I treasure your contribution to this conversation.
Where do you find yourself in this changing religious landscape?
Even in negativity, abundance is present.
Every less-than-desirable situation,
heartbreak, or loss is accompanied by a lesson.
Negative experiences may be a universal call
to wake up or take notice.
When we look for the greater lesson to be learned,
we can see much abundance,
though, at first glance, it may not seem to be so.
Ask yourself," What lesson am I supposed to learn here?"
Seek the gift in each situation.
Buried treasure may lie beneath the compost of life.
Seek to unearth the blessings within.
©2016, Janice L. Lundy
Self-compassion is not just about being nice to yourself. It's so much more than that.
Often we confuse self-compassion with pampering or indulging ourselves—like getting a massage or eating that extra cookie because we "deserve it," or taking a bubble bath.
While those activities are nice and they feel good (they relax the body-mind, decreasing cortisol while amping up oxytocin), they are only the bandaid for the hurt that lies beneath.
When I began my inner journey, I didn't know what self-compassion was. I thought it was "self-nurturing" or "self-care." I did a lot of that in my early years because my body-mind required it for stability. I'd done some real damage to myself because of harboring too much stress. I required gentle activities to heal. I received my first massage, got a facial, went on retreat, took naps and gave myself treats. What I didn't give myself was a break.
Meaning, beneath all of the stress and overwhelm (to which I applied band-aids) were stories I kept telling myself about who I was and how I was supposed to be. Lots of stories! Pampering and self-indulgence worked to relax me but they didn't release the stories that kept me stuck in what I thought I needed to do to be a worthy human being; to be loved; to be successful.
Self-compassion came onto my radar screen years later when I realized that many of my life choices had been based on what people told me when I was a child, role modeling, and old patterns I'd developed to stay "safe." Not until I was ready to take a good, long loving look at these was I able to begin to free myself of things like perfectionism, over-achieving, self-doubt, self-criticism, co-dependency and diminishing my own needs in difficult times, just to name a few. Many of us hold these stories deep within us. In fact, I believe most of us do!
Indulging myself, which provided temporary comfort and healing, did not get to the heart of the matter.
Good self-care could be thought of as "Self-Compassion 101." It addresses the basics and meets our immediate needs. And it's an excellent place to start! On a deeper level, though, there is a story to be uncovered: the story of why we don't care well for ourselves, or don't give ourselves permission to do so in the first place.
Self-compassion requires profound self-awareness and willingness to grow. It also demands absolute honesty and transparency. The path of self-compassion is a bold path. It requires courage and perseverance. It invites us to explore what keeps us in suffering (and sometimes self-neglect), deep into the truth of who we are in our essence. Self-compassion allows us to live more authentically with ourselves in good, loving, kind ways.
So while I do enjoy the occasional indulgence (especially taking long baths and eating chocolate chip cookies), what I really love is feeling at peace within myself, confident that I know how to, thoroughly and honestly, tend well to my whole self (body, mind, heart and soul).
Self-compassion helps me know that I am doing the best I can in any given moment to meet life head-on with courage and grace.
Dive into self-compassion—lovingly and gently!
Put yourself on the path of self-compassion with this directed retreat--a gentle "day in," learning to care for your whole self in nurturing ways. And to unravel a story or two!
"The Kindest Thing" self-paced, at-home retreat is a soulful exploration and experience of "Self-Compassion 101."
Through videos, audios, and self-nourishing activities, Jan will personally guide you through your retreat so you feel the transformational power of your own loving-kindness.
Learn more and download your retreat today!
As I continue to gather up and create material for my forthcoming book, Living Gently with Myself (the next book in the "30-Day Guided Journey" series), I periodically go back into my files to refresh my memory about self-compassion.
Reading someone else's thoughts often puts me back in touch with my own wisdom. I bet this is true for you too.
Today, as I looked into the SC file, I found this offering from Buddhist nun and teacher, Pema Chodron. I loved it the first time I read, even more so today. I'll explain why.
"We feel that compassion is reserved for someone else, and it never occurs to us to feel it for ourselves. My experience is that by practicing without “shoulds,” we gradually discover our wakefulness and our confidence. Gradually, without any agenda except to be honest and kind, we assume responsibility for being here in this unpredictable world, in this unique moment, in this precious human body."
It struck me that each line in this passage is a complete teaching in and of itself. It's so rich and full of wisdom it would take a lifetime to decipher and to apply to our walk through life.
Turning her phrases toward myself, I heard:
1. I often feel it is much more important to hold compassion for others. I am prone to put myself last on the list of those who deserve and need compassion.
2. If I let go of the "shoulds", I would be much more awake and aware. Regularly! I would also be more confident about my walk through life as my true self, not who others think I should be.
3. When I am honest and kind with myself, life gets much easier. (Big sigh of relief...)
4. When I take responsibility for my whole self (thoughts, words, choices), I AM more empowered to live in the world.
5. Embracing all of these, I can take a deep breath to enjoy and appreciate my life just as it is. Wondrous, amazing, a blessing—even when it's difficult!
6. When I can do this, life feels very different, and I am in touch with the miracle of my birth, my life, and life in general.
What do you think? When you read Pema Chodron's thoughts above, how do they affect you? What do they invite you to?
Greater wakefulness? More self-compassion? I hope so!
Thanks, Ani Pema for these reminders. I bow to you and your wisdom, as always.
I received a lovely gift from a spiritual companion a few weeks ago. I was struck by her thoughtfulness in offering me something so special. She knows my heart is rooted in the promotion of compassion, and especially the practice of self-compassion.
It's a Tibetan wall hanging featuring a powerful quote by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which reads:
Usually, our concept of compassion or love refers
to the feeling of closeness we have with our friends and loved ones.
Sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity. This is wrong.
Any love or compassion which entails looking down on the other
is not genuine, compassion.
Genuine compassion must be based on respect for the other,
and on the realization that others have the right to be happy
and overcome suffering, just as much as you.
On this basis, since you can see that others are suffering,
you can develop a sense of concern for them.
~H.H. The XIVth Dalai Lama
What strikes you when you read these lines? Is there something new or different for you about this understanding of compassion?
I was struck by this line: "Sometimes compassion also carries a sense of pity. This is wrong." As I read it, I felt a little stab in my heart and heard a soft voice whisper, 'Pay attention.' What I realize is that it is easy to confuse pity with compassion and sometimes I have.
What this line offers me today is a new touchpoint of practice, an attunement, to be more vigilant about my own response to people. If there is pity involved, I am not in compassion because I have separated myself out from someone, doing what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls, "otherizing." We do this often, don't we?
I invite you to spend some time today with this beautiful reminder from His Holiness about what it really means to be understanding of and empathetic toward others. And, of course, we must figure ourselves into the equation, for self-compassion is most certainly the bridge toward embracing others with tenderness and mercy. We begin where we are, extending the loving-kindness we need toward ourselves, because everyone suffers—even us. We are all on the path of healing and awakening to our true nature ...
My new book, My Deepest Me: A 30-Day Guided Journey, offers one month of short but sweet lessons in good self-awareness rooted in the practice self-compassion.
Have you taken a look at it yet?
Click here to learn more and read excerpts.
It seems many of us struggle with the timing of our spiritual growth. Like nearly everything else in society these days, we want it fast—now!—and easy. We want "instant enlightenment" and may not want to put in the effort it takes to let go, heal, and step into the person we know we can be.
Every spring when I think about this—the nature of our spiritual unfolding—I think about daffodils. I recall the first year I planted these bulbs, how excited I was to see them emerge from the dense ground of winter. I waited and waited, but they didn't pop. In fact, an entire season later they STILL hadn't emerged. What was a doing wrong?
What I didn't realize what that planted bulbs may take a number of seasons to grow. They don't always bloom right away. In fact, in gardening lingo, daffodils can have "sterile years" where they don't bloom at all. I'm thinking ... the same is true for humans ... or at least it appears that way on the surface.
As human beings, we may have to traverse months, years, of lived experience to feel the difference of growth in ourselves. It takes patience to be a "master gardener" of our inner life. Just because we want change (and blooming!) now, doesn't mean we'll have it. Wishing does not make things so. Embracing divine timing and doing the good "work of self" does.
You will come into fruition in your own season.
Just as the daffodils of spring unfold in accordance
with Divine Order, so must we.
Often, we find this process to be frustratingly slow,
but it is right and true to the higher purpose
to which we have been called.
Like the daffodils,
let us be gentle with ourselves
as we strain to reach out and up,
raising our beautiful crowns to the celestial light.
~ From Awakening the Spirit Within
Photos © Janice Lynne Lundy, 2014.
In an increasingly complex and frustrating world,
we long for Love.
We long to know the Sacred intimately.
We seek an all-consuming relationship with the Divine
because we have been thirsty for too long,
and we have sought sustenance from many dry wells.
It is time to drink from the cup of Spirit,
allowing ourselves to become intoxicated by its sweetness,
opening our eyes to limitless beauty
and Love beyond measure.
Excerpted from Awakening the Spirit Within
I love the idea of "falling into the arms of the Divine" where there is nothing else but Love. The best way I know to accomplish this is to nourish my spirit; to let go of the should's, stop pressuring myself, and surrender into Beingness. Work and "the world" can wait, for my spiritual connection is more important than anything. What about you? Is this something you long for too? If it is, I'd love to companion you on this journey inward. Learn more.
The heart broken wide open,
left to heal with cracks of light peeking through,
allows love to flow in and out to our fellow travelers.
These cracks also serve as direct conduits to the Divine,
enabling us to move forward on our spiritual path.
As much as we would like to patch the holes in our broken heart,
move quickly beyond the suffering and forget it ever happened,
the greatest lessons are learned through experience.
When the pain is too great to bear or our agony
veils the clarity that will eventually come from a broken open heart,
we can take comfort from the 12th century Persian poet, Rumi,
who wrote, "Keep looking at the bandaged place.
That is where the light enters you."
Excerpted from Awakening the Spirit Within
I'm getting ready to launch my most ambitious spiritual growth offering to date: "Creating Spiritual Health." It will roll out on Monday, Feb. 17. Prepare yourself by taking my "Spiritual Health Check-Up" here. Are you curious about the current state of your Spiritual Health?
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.