Tearing down my own big picture – #MatMoments

Your life should reach to others. Your blissfulness, your benediction, your ecstasy should not be contained within you like a seed. It should open like a flower and spread its fragrance to all and sundry–not only to the friends but to the strangers too. This is real compassion, this is real love: sharing your enlightenment, sharing your dance of the beyond. – Osho

A few Saturdays ago, I realized again, as if for the first time, that my blissfulness revolves around contemplating and dwelling in the big picture. And then on Sunday morning the “Flowering” tarot card reminded me why this is an important truth to honour.

When I’m contemplating life’s big questions — What is the authentic self? How does this impact the world around me? How can we have a more positive impact, and what can I create to help others see they can also have a positive impact? — I’m in flow; I’m dancing. And when I’m dancing, I know I’m spreading seeds joy instead of fear. But for some reason, I judge this part of myself. (For more on the inner life of big picture thinkers, check out 15 Struggles Only Big-Picture Thinkers Will Understand)

Then on that Saturday, I realized why.

Saturdays are devoted to a yoga leadership course at the Ayurveda Yoga Academy in Daegu, South Korea. Morning sessions are focused on learning and practicing various types of healing therapies, and afternoon sessions are focused on yoga philosophy and practice. In between sessions, a few of us yogis drove off for a rare South East Asian lunch, where we had a short, yet impactful conversation that would set the tone for the next twenty-four hours.

While waiting for phở to be delivered, we discussed our interest in practicing Family Constellations Therapy during a morning session. I mentioned my curiosity in using it to heal the polarizing pain that is being caused by the political climate, particularly in the United States and South Korea. I realize that this modality is related to healing personal wounds, but with all the turmoil I noticed in my Korean friends, and of course all the trepidation I see on social media around the Trump presidency, it seemed that many individuals in our group could use an intervention of sorts.

At this point my lunch partners noted how they saw me as someone who seems to be quite concerned with the world at large, or in other words, someone who sees the big picture first. My initial reaction was to get defensive — “Of course I’m concerned with what’s going on in the world! It’s horrible. We all need to do what we can to heal this.”– but I didn’t say anything. I decided to wait and listen to what else they had to say.

I expected to hear a “yeah but…”. I expected them to tell me to get real. I thought they were going to tell me I was wrong for wanting so much.  But that didn’t happen. Instead, they reflected the light they saw shining within me. They encouraged me to honour this truth that is bubbling up and see where it takes me.

I was relieved, and grateful to hear this. My shoulders relaxed, I smiled, thanked them for seeing my truth, and took another bite of my pad thai.

Then back at the yoga studio, during the afternoon demo-class, it hit me: the only “yeah buts” that were stopping me were my own. I’ve defended my big picture thinking many times in my past. I’ve been told I’m a dreamer and an optimist, and these never felt like compliments. I’ve been told to come down from the clouds and get back to reality. The thing is, I don’t connect having a sense of hope as being a Pollyanna. I actually believe, and feel in my gut, that this is the most realistic perspective we can hold.

But what I realized on my yoga mat that afternoon is that although those judgments may have come from other people, they were actually beliefs I held. I was buying into those opinions. Deep down I thought there was something wrong with my hopeful outlook. I thought I should tone it down, and only share it with people who can handle it. Otherwise, I’d have to put my “yeah but” defence gear, which includes an ability to tolerate cynicism and a heavy dose of doubt.

Maybe this is the case for all big picture thinkers. Perhaps the fear of being ridiculed and misunderstood for seeing things as they could be and not as they are holds many of us back. The sad thing is that when we worry about judgments, and fear not being taken seriously, we dim the light within.

But thanks to my dear friends, and my practice, I am starting to see there is nothing to fix; there is nothing to change; there is nothing to defend.

Being true to this part of myself is a constant practice. It requires honouring what helps me connect the dots to the larger picture: yoga, tarot, noticing beauty, noting synchronicities, and my studies of A Course in Miracles.

These practices help me paint my own big picture, and keep me from tearing it down.


You can find the #Truthbomb Card Deck pictures above at www.daniellelaporte.com.

Advertisements

Choosing Happiness?

“How can we be happy?” asked Wonjangnim.

“When we’re in the moment,” I responded. But that was only after I had processed a silent emotional roller coaster ride on my yoga mat.

Not long before he had asked this, I desperately raised my hand, wanting an answer no matter how silly my question sounded.

“How do we know we’re happy?”

“You just know. You’re either happy or you’re not. You just choose in the moment.”

A wave of sadness came over me. Tears started to well.

If he had asked me how I felt at the beginning of class, when he was asking everyone else, I would have replied, “Happily relaxed.”

But now the realization hit me in the heart: I so often seem to choose anxiety and disappointment.

Then, came grief. All the time I’ve wasted. All those moments I chose to over-analyze every.little.thing. All those moments: gone.

But then again, what was he talking about? Choosing happiness didn’t feel like a choice at all! How annoying that he thinks we can choose! Come on. Really?

And as that angry thought was crossing my mind, he asked, “How can we be happy?”

It was clear as day.

I raised my hand again, “When we’re in the moment.”

The sadness was gone. The grief was gone. The anger was gone. I came back to a relaxed, happy state.

“That’s right. You have to choose. You have to answer like that,” Wonjangnim remarked.

And this is why we come to yoga. This is why we do things we love: because before a certain, point we don’t really have a choice. We are led and directed by habit and conditioning. We can’t help it.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be different.

Keep feeling. Keep watching. Keep letting go. Come back. Choose happiness.


*I dedicate this post to my dear friend and yogini sister, Michelle D’Almeida. Not only is she a good friend, but she’s also a precious teacher. On this Friday I learned a lot about the power of feeling your feelings through her courage to feel, watch, let go, and come back. Thank you for being real and raw, my dear. Your courage is contagious. Never forget this.

*Also, a big thank you to HK Ku for translating during this Friday’s class at Ayurveda Yoga. These insights couldn’t have happened without you.

Making the mundane magical

Although the school year starts in March here in Korea, September will forever mark the new year for me. It could be the fact that my birthday coincides with the first days of school back in Canada, or it could be something about the cool autumn air cleaning away the heavy summer humidity. There’s something about September that sets the tone for the twelve months ahead.

I’m grateful for this because the tone of the last twelve months seemed to have been tuned to a low resonance with overwhelming treble. Last year, and probably for more years than I wish to admit, life was all about angst. Everything was all so serious. And I seem to slip into seriousness like a cold hand slips into warm winter mitts. It’s just too easy.

That’s why I need to be proactive instead of retroactive, or reactive, for that matter. I need to be proactive about bringing joy, play, and fun into my work, which the majority of time involves planning lessons, or giving written feedback to students. But considering the fact that this work sees me sitting at a desk in front of my computer, how can I be proactive in this way?

One of the ways I do this:

It’s all about making the mundane magical. (click to tweet)

Here are my favorite ways to bring magic to my work:

  • Taking a screen break by gazing at my favourite flowers or picture.

pink-roses

  • Typing away with my favourite snack by my side.
  • Slowly sipping a good cup of coffee, or if needed, a glass of wine (in moderation of course).

Cookies and Coffee

  • Bringing in color pens, candles, or crystals to add beauty to my process.

blown-out-candle

  • Pulling a tarot or oracle card to see what my next step could be.

perspective-card

After a while you’ll discover there’s nothing mundane about the cover of your spiral notebook, the cool breeze coming through the window, or the wisps of nag champa (or your favourite incense) circling your office chair.  There’s nothing mundane about the good work you are doing.

It’s all magic.

The morning Kali bit me

I wondered how long she was coiled up under my pillow waiting to bite.

She had an important message that morning, but I’ve only recently started to understand it.

Last summer, we had been seeing these critters scurrying across our floors more often than usual. Bugs are something you learn to live with in the Korean countryside. I must say, however, I never worried that this black armoured creature with her blood-red pinchers would ever find her way into our bed. But last July, I learned that from now on, we’ll need to shake out our sheets and flip our pillows before attempts at summer slumber.

Before getting out of bed to start my work week, I turned on my side to rest for a few more moments. I felt something hard and cold on my shoulder, but figured it was a pillow zipper. When I stirred again, I learned I was wrong. A sharp, swift pinch caught my shoulder! I quickly sat up, pulled back the pillow, and there she was: the familiar centipede with her recently triggered pinchers.

Luckily we learned this variety of centipede isn’t poisonous.  All I’d have to worry about would be a strong itch and swelling around the tiny vampire-like bite marks. Of course, I’d also have to worry about going to bed at night. But something else played on my mind: what was the meaning behind this?

When animals make sudden or unexpected appearances in my life, I enjoy learning more about their spiritual meaning. By doing a quick Google search of the animal + totem animal (or spirit animal), interpretations are easy to find. Of course there is greater depth to this concept than just a Google search, but I like using such spiritual modalities to help me understand the greater meaning that life is presenting at the moment.

But unlike animals such as the fox, bear, or crow, there wasn’t much on the obscure centipede. What I did find, didn’t speak to me at that time.

It wasn’t until I finally opened my new Shakti Coloring Book a few days before the eve of 2016 that I was able to make sense of my summer morning encounter. As I was skimming the explanations and Hindu goddess illustrations of Ekabhumi Charles Ellik, the word  “centipede” jumped out at me. I learned that each Hindu god or goddess has a vehicle (vahana), and that this vehicle is usually an animal. Ekabhumi writes:

Animals help both to identify a goddess and to give insight into how her power is expressed.

Okay. Interesting. So what was the expression of this particular power?

Centipede: poison, hatred, fear, darkness

Okay. Not so cool.

Skimming all the other vehicles listed, I didn’t see words that felt quite as menacing as the one’s which belonged to the goddess who desperately wanted to be identified. Hopeful words such as abundance, protection, playfulness, or immortality defined the other 23 listed vehicles. I guess I was in for quite a ride!

So who was this centipede carrying anyway?

Kali's centipede - The Shakti Coloring Book

According to Ekabhumi’s research, the centipede was considered to be one of Goddess Kali’s vehicles.

Who is Kali and what does she want from me?

The way we see Kali at any given moment has everything to do with where we are in our own journey. Whether Kali seems terrifying, fascinating, or loving depends on our state of consciousness and our level of both emotional and spiritual development. But she always invites us to a radical form of ego-transcendence (Kempton, p. 122).

It was starting to make sense. The week she bit me was halfway through the first (and now only) launching of the TESOL course I had put together (see the previous post Connecting, Reconnecting, and Disconnecting in 2015 for a bit of history on this). Many forms of doubt had slowly started to creep in. My confidence and even my joy was starting to wane. My ego was on high alert for sure: the perfect moment for Kali to present herself. It was time for an ego eradication, but I wasn’t ready to listen.

What did that mean for me? It meant my doubt, my need to be perfect, my fear of making mistakes, my desire to be liked — my ego — dug its teeth into me and didn’t let go. It dimmed my light and led me into the fog. The fog followed me into my first semester in the Department of English Education, a department I would have been happy to teach for in years past. And although I was grateful for this new position, I had an overpowering sense that the darkness was taking over.

She is a massive love-force that is literally death to the ego. When she erupts in your life, Kali will cut away whatever is extraneous, whatever is indulgent. She is especially hard on arrogance, including the arrogance that makes us believe prematurely that we are outside the rules, before our earned wisdom has legitimately  given us the right to set aside rules in the service of higher values (Kempton, p. 124).

Now that it’s winter vacation, and I have time to look back and make sense of how I was feeling, I see how I was easily led by my bad habits: perfectionism and the disease to please. I understand what Kali was warning me about that morning. She wanted me to look into my fears, my habits, rather than push them away. Although it’s hard to admit it, that’s what I did. I did my best to ignore my fears because facing them was too scary.

The biggest experience of Kali’s love always accompanies those moments when we have allowed ourselves to let go of our egoic agendas. As she sweeps away a layer of ego, the depth of care is revealed (Kempton, p. 126).

I haven’t let go of all my agendas or fears. I know I have a lot of work to do. But I’m starting to see the light of Kali’s care beaming through the fog. I see her vehicle coming down my path, and I’m ready to hitch a ride.

Shout-outs

  • to Anna Loseva for turning me on to the meditative world of colouring and for inspiring me (perhaps unknowingly) to finally buy The Shakti Coloring Book I’d been eyeing.
  • to Elizabeth Duvivier for organizing and facilitating The Goddess Book Club. Although I participate at my own slow pace, it’s so much fun to explore the Goddesses through her videos and questions.
  • to Sirja Bessero for telling me about Sally Kempton’s, Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga, and for leading me to Elizabeth’s book club. Most importantly, thank you for writing The Year I Almost Turned My Back on Teaching English and for helping me remember that the fog follows us all.