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Maitri May 10, 2012

Filed under: Balance — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 10:26 pm
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“This complete acceptance of ourselves as we are is called maitri, a simple, direct relationship with the way we are.” – Pema Chodron

I got myself a tattoo for my birthday last October. The most visible one yet. The next one’s going on my forehead. Just kidding. But there is something significant about the visibility of this one, and it’s not because I’ve learned to make peace with permanence and impermanence (because I haven’t actually). It’s on the inside of my left forearm and it’s a ball jar with a label on it: maitri.

I could go into the symbolism of the jar, but I think that’s a whole other entry. The focus of this right now is on the label, the word maitri. Maitri is a Sanskrit word that was shared with me by a very wise woman in my life a few years ago. It has a few different interpretations, including loving-kindness (Metta meditation) and friendliness, but the one that resonated the most with me was “unconditional friendship with oneself.” And this. This felt pretty important to permanently affix to my body. As Pema Chodron says, “complete acceptance of ourselves as we are.” Anyone who has ever tried this can most likely attest to how freakin’ hard that is.

So, in light of this, I ask you: is it possible to engage in radical acceptance of yourself, exactly as you are, warts and all, as they say? Accept the flaws and the beauty, trusting that they really are one and the same. Accept the things you wish were different, the things you’d like to change, the things that maybe keep you from being where you want to be. Accept it all, just as it is, just as you are, right now. But wait, that ‘s not all. The potency is not limited to accepting what is but also in holding space for a shift: radical acceptance while simultaneously holding the possibility of something else. For example, I accept that throughout my life, I have developed this pattern of retreating and guarding myself to keep people from getting too close. In this practice of maitri, though, my work is in accepting that pattern, witnessing it, holding it in non-judgment, and then asking myself “what else is possible here?” Is it possible for me to do something different this time? Is it possible to let myself remain open just a fraction of a second longer this time, thus ever so slightly changing the pattern? Is it possible for me to give myself permission to go fully into this guarding pattern, trusting that I am also capable of moving out of it?

When I say radical acceptance, I mean radical. I mean, all of it. I mean the demons and shadows and murky, muddy, dark places of yourself that no one has ever seen – that you have barely let yourself see. I mean holding space for all of the places in yourself that you judge, all of those places you have deemed shameful. You don’t need to love them (at least not right now), but can you hold them, can you accept them? Can you trust that they served a purpose in your life at one point, maybe not in a way that you can understand right now or not in a way that has any sort of story around it, but they did serve you at one point? In whatever way, they somehow contributed to you being present right now.

This is a big undertaking, I will be the first to admit that. But, I’ve got a proposal for you, if you decide to embark on this path. It can be really hard to trust that things can be any different than they are (or have been). So for the time begin, I’ll trust in that possibility for you. Because of this I am certain, we can all grow, we can all change, and we can all heal. And what that might look like, I have no idea (for me or anyone else), but I trust that there is always the possibility of something else. And I’m walking this road, too. And I know that the darkest places in myself only look this dark to me, just as the darkest places in you are only that dark to you.  So, what do you say? Meet you there?

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Dreaming in darkness December 24, 2011

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 6:55 pm
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This song came on during my flight this morning and this line struck me:

“If the night isn’t dark enough the moon won’t glow.”

It’s Christmas in the airport, a hub of travel traffic, a cross-section of the country (or at least those within the socioeconomic strata that can afford air travel, or even to live away from family), and I am making my way to the East Coast from Colorado. Trading bluebird mountain skies for the rich chill of the Atlantic in December.

Solstice was Wednesday night and so while that marks the official start of winter, it also means that from here on out the days start getting longer again. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the darkness and light of this time of year. It feels like there’s so much emphasis on celebrating and gathering and…consuming (let’s face it, shopping could well be considered the most pervasive coping mechanism we as a culture have developed), in part to make the light all the brighter in the midst of the darkest nights of the year.

But why? What is it about darkness that we try to avoid, try to soften with so much light? Is it the introspection that darkness invites? What do we find in those quiet parts of ourselves that don’t often get our attention during the rest of the year? Why is it only in darkness that we give ourselves permission for that self-exploration? Perhaps it’s security, in that darkness it’s harder to see the parts of ourselves we keep hidden. But, I think it’s more than that. And I think it demands a re-framing of how we interact with darkness. I think there is comfort in the darkness. I think it speaks to the dualities that we embody, a world of both/and rather than either/or. There is room for all of it, for the light and the dark. And at the risk of being cliché, they need one another. Just as any duality that we embody needs one another, darkness and light depend on each other in essence for their very existence. And within us all, there is room for both. The possibility of light makes delving into darkness a little less scary, and the presence of darkness allows for a turn inward – a move towards an inward process of self-exploration – before stepping back out into the light It reminds us of the impermanence and cyclical nature of existence. Darkness gives way to light; light gives way to darkness, and on and on. Every day in fact.

And so with Christmas, my intention going into this week with family and friends is to rest into darkness and marvel at the light, holding gratitude for both. In navigating the tricky territory of grief and allowing myself to move through loss, it feels important to keep a candle burning to help guide me out of the darkness, but not illuminate too much. There are lessons to be learned in the darkness, rich teachings and comfort even to be found in those moments when sight is dulled and instead the perception that comes from feeling must step to the foreground. There are learnings in even the darkest places of ourselves.

Wednesday night, as the snow came down, I stood on my porch marveling at the illumination of the sky. It’s that night sky that gets nearly as bright as daylight when it snows because of the snow reflecting off of the ground light. I stood outside as the moment of Solstice came and went and realized that this was the longest, darkest night of the year, yet here I was able to clearly make out all of my neighbors homes and yards. And it dawned on me, maybe darkness doesn’t always look dark. Perhaps in those places we are expecting to be the darkest, we actually find the most illumination.

 

 
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