Love is…

Love comes in many forms. At times we do not recognize it. We feel as though it is hiding from us. But Love does not hide. It does not disguise itself. Love is always open, always available, always reaching for us.  Often we are the ones running in the complete opposite direction, away from Love’s embrace.  We scream and shout, “Love, where are you?  Why have you forgotten me?  Why do you not find me worthy of your presence?”

The irony of our plight is the simplicity of the solution.  Instead of running around shouting for Love to find us all we truly need to do is stop; be silent, present, and still.  Love will always find us no matter how far we run, how complicated we make things, Love will be there.  It will hold us in its warm embrace, as mothers have held their children for eons.  It will shelter us against the storm as husbands and wives have protected each other through the ages.  It will rejoice with us as new lovers have celebrated each charged moment of the fledgling passion.

Love is kind.
Love is gentle.
Love is eternal.
Love is daring.
Love is passionate.
Love is soothing.
Love is new.
Love is ancient.

But Love is never callous, never vengeful, never hurtful.  Do not blame Love for your pain, Love cannot cause heartache.  It is only our mistakes, our misjudgments, our lack of faith in the all encompassing Love that leads to devastation.  Love fights for us, never with us.

Stop running.  Stop screaming.  Stop searching.  Stand still.  Be silent.  Be mindful.  Love is ready to find you.  Here it is!

What do I do for me?

I want you to stop and think about this question for a moment. Don’t continue reading until you’ve pondered it for at least one minute.

As many of you know I deal with depression on a consistent basis.  I need to insert a caveat at this point – I do not walk around my life in a cloud of depression.  I am on regular medication and thanks to my father I take some herbal supplements that help as well.  But, from time to time those things aren’t enough and I become mired in my own thoughts that drag me into a depression.

My recent bout, however, left me more bruised than in past times and I made a dinner appointment with my friend/therapist, Liz.  There are two people in my life that I can count on to give me no nonsense advice without sugar coating it, one of those people is one of my best friends, Justin.  The other is Liz.  Where Justin’s advice is often a hard slap across the face, Liz’s advice is more gentle but still gets directly to the point.

While we were eating she stopped me from talking and asked me a simple question “What have you done for yourself lately?”  I opened my mouth to respond to her but then realized I didn’t have an answer to that question.  I tried to play coy, “What do you mean?”   She smiled at me and said, “You know exactly what I mean.  What have you done for yourself?”

The pause was palpable.  I racked my brain.  What have I done?  I’ve been reading, but even that was diminished during my time in Purgatory with my depression master.  What had I done for me?  The answer was, “nothing!”

She looked at me, that smile playing on her face again, “You know, I’ve noticed you are less depressed and more able to be at your best when you take time to do things for you.”

Could it possibly be that simple?  Was my depression lessened when I took time for me? How is that possible?  Doesn’t Buddhism teach us to do for others?  In fact, doesn’t all religion tell us to do for others, sacrificing ourselves in that pursuit?

Please understand, I am by no means a religious martyr.  But, as a teacher my job is to give of myself, as a friend my hope is to give fully of myself, as a brother and son my desire is to give fully of myself.  And, I do endeavor to do just that.  So, what is this about doing for me?

It was a logical and plain idea.  Many psychologists have talked about the need to refuel yourself emotionally and spiritually.  Even Oprah has touted the necessity.  I am loathed to admit it but my emotional and spiritual tanks are on empty.  They still aren’t nearly full enough.  As I looked back at the recent months I completely understood where Liz was coming from.  I’d stopped going to yoga, I was just too tired.  I’d stopped meditating because I wanted to  try to sleep.  I stopped writing because it was mentally exhausting for me.  I even stopped reading my spiritual books and put them aside for books of a more secular nature.  I wasn’t doing a damn thing for myself and my batteries were drained.

It’s been about a month since that meeting with Liz and I have made some positive changes.  I’ve been reading some great books by Pema Chödrön and Dr. Wayne Dyer. I’ve joined Weight Watchers, I started running (though found that my knees have NOT liked that idea).  I’ve also shared my love of yoga by teaching it at my school a few times to teachers and students.  (I knew things were bad when I gave up yoga.)  And though I have not started back on a regimented mediation schedule, I have been taking more time to stop and breathe and be mindful.  I call these my mini-meditation moments.  It works for me and as a former English teacher I love the alliteration.

Am I still struggling?  Yes.  Am I on the right track?  Yes, again.  Now, I want you to think back for a few moments.  What do you do for you?  Maybe you don’t feel depressed, but I know you feel stressed.  Stress attacks us on many fronts.  It could be the joyful stress of expecting a new baby, or a wedding.  It can also be emotional stress; the change of a relationship status, the loss of a loved one.  There’s also physical stress, feeling tired, overwhelmed, ill.  These things take a lot of our strength, often without us even knowing it. So, what do you do to make sure you are replenishing your batteries?  Take some time for yourself, each day.  Even if it’s just for twenty minutes.  I guarantee it will help.  It’s helping me.

Namastè
Matthew

New Musings On An Old Theme

When I first started this blog I had an entry called SilenceTruly Is Golden.  In it I discussed the importance of silence, listening, and not forcing others to speak if they do not so choose. In the post I spoke of my love of talking and hearing the sound of my own voice.

I recognize my challenges:

  1. Silence scares me.
  2. I speak to fill voids with friends and loved ones.
  3. I ramble and can’t stop myself when I am in the presence of someone I perceive to be “better” or more powerful than me.
  4. I speak to show off my intelligence (or better still my ego’s need to show off)

My inability to quiet myself is, I feel, my greatest weakness.  There are often moments when I clearly recognize myself spewing forth word vomit and I cannot stop.  It’s as though I am outside of my own body, begging myself to “shut your mouth.”

I often feel my inability to know when I should stop talking has hindered my career choices and the way my leaders view me.  I’m good for a “laugh” but I’m not always good for a different job choice or a chance to grow myself professionally.  This coincides with challenge #3.  My inability to stop talking when I am face to face with someone who is “more powerful” than I am.

This is also a problem in the “dating” world.  Not that dating has been an issue for me since I haven’t been dating, but, in the past, when I’ve been talking to someone I felt was more attractive than I, I can’t stop talking, trying/hoping to impress them.  I often go back and replay conversations in my head and can’t believe how stupid I sounded.  All to impress someone.  I often am disgusted with myself.  My fear is, if I quit talking they will leave and not return.

I will admit I am slowly getting better.  Especially with the principal of my school.  She is the strong silent type to begin with so my need to shut myself up is even greater with her.  I have learned to stop myself.  At times it may seem abrupt or rude, but I feel the brief oversight in decorum is far better than sounding completely inept.  I now find myself asking, “is this a necessary comment or conversation to be having?”  Ninety percent of the time I can answer, “no”!

I’ve also noticed, especially with my leaders, I talk to be noticed.  I catch myself trying to think of something, anything to say, just to get their attention.  It is another reason I hate silence.  I am afraid I will be lost or forgotten if I don’t remind them I’m here.  Remind someone I’m alive.  Some of you may read this and roll your eyes at the dramatic nature of this response, but many of you will read this and understand completely what I am talking about.

The Buddhist precept of “Right Speech” has always been the most difficult for me to abide.  I can usually avoid hurting others with my words, but I often cannot fight the damage I do to myself by not silencing my mind and my mouth.  It is a struggle I face every single day.

So, I continue to work.  I ponder my silence, or lack there of, on a regular basis.  When my meditation was more frequent it was a focus of my practice.  I have gotten to the point where I can step away from a situation where I won’t be able to stop myself from talking, but the fear of oblivion catapults to the forefront of my mind.  But, I remind myself that silence truly can be golden.