Category Archives: Service

Step by Little Step

Dex's snow feet

Service is your heart’s desire made visible. Service is the act of sharing what you most care about for the greater good. It requires no special goodness, thankfully. After our basic needs are met, we all yearn to make a difference and service springs from listening to that yearning – and taking action on it, step by little step. ~Jennifer Louden, The Week of Inward Looking

My most intense longing, my deepest hunger, my heart’s desire is to ease suffering, in myself and in the world. As I have been retreating and reverbing and unravelling and reflecting and contemplating and practicing this past month (year?), it has become clear to me that the “basic need” I still must meet is the essential requirement of self-love and self-care. I need to learn and practice radical self-acceptance.

I was naive at the start of this “life-rehab.” From the moment I first realized I had been in a long term abusive relationship with myself, I believed it would be an easy fix, that with awareness and mindfulness would come immediate and lasting change. I thought I could read a book, take a class, attend a workshop, complete a practice or project, and “presto chango” I would be transformed into a woman completely in love with herself, confident and strong.

I was so wrong. You can’t take years of self-abuse, self-hatred, self-loathing, and all of the self-soothing and coping strategies you’ve developed to counter those behaviors, to numb and distract yourself from all the hurt, and fix it so easily, so quickly. It is hard work to repair the damage done, to restore your self to yourself. Almost every single old habit, way of being has to be undone and replaced. This is slow, heavy work, and while so much has changed for the better already, there is more to be done.

loveapocalypse02

Kris Carr’s post The Myth of Finding Your Purpose is one thing that has helped me to see this more clearly. In it, she says “Your purpose has nothing to do with what you do…Your purpose is about discovering and nurturing who you truly are, to know and love yourself at the deepest level and to guide yourself back home when you lose your way.” She goes on to suggest a whole list of “what ifs” that precisely define what steps one might take to embody your purpose. She ends with saying:

Seriously, what if finding your purpose is about finding and nurturing yourself? Not an external to-do or accomplishment, even if that to-do or accomplishment is the most important discovery of all time. Because if you are the one destined to find the most important ah-ha of all time, you will probably find it quicker and easier if you feel good, loved and happy. Start there. It’s that simple.

This is directly in line with the wisdom of two of my primary practice traditions: yoga and meditation. Both used the term “warrior” to describe the practitioner, and in the lineage of Buddhist philosophy in which I practice, I train to be a Warrior, which is described as:

The Shambhala view of warriorship shares some of the qualities of earlier warrior traditions such as those from the Middle Ages that combined fearlessness with dignity and wisdom. The most important quality of the Shambhala warrior is being non-aggressive. The Shambhala warrior is defined by gentleness and fearlessness. As Chogyam Trungpa said it, “the first principle of warriorship is not being afraid of who you are.” ~William A. Gordon, Shambhala The Path of the Warrior

superhero earth necklace made by andrea scher, a gift to myself

Don’t be afraid of who you are. To be a spiritual warrior, face each moment with openness and fearlessness, because “the ultimate definition of bravery is not being afraid of who you are.” Susan Piver, who also practices in this lineage, defines confidence this way, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

If service is the fruition, radical self-acceptance is the path. Tara Brach talks about this in Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha, where she defines this practice, this awareness of radical self-acceptance as “the willingness to experience ourselves and our lives as it is.” She goes on to say that:

Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.

Stop Beating Yourself Up…Start Loving Yourself Radically!!, a video and blog post by Kute Blackson, explain the concept further, with great enthusiasm and clarity.

As one who practices radical self-acceptance, who is confident, a tenderhearted and brave warrior unafraid of herself or her life, showing up with an open heart, no matter how hard or how much it hurts, I can serve. I can embody generosity and love and confidence. I can manifest wisdom and compassion. I can satisfy my longing to ease suffering, in myself and in the world.

I’m still not sure exactly what shape that will take or what it will look like, how exactly it will manifest. Some of the possibilities are as a writer, a teacher, a therapist or coach, a yoga and/or meditation instructor, an artist, a mentor. Some topics I know something about are grief and loss, cancer, addiction, practice, writing, voice (both losing and finding it), mindfulness, and relationship with the self. I’m not exactly sure how those will come together into specific offerings, but I’m okay with not knowing. For now, I will continue to remember, as Jennifer Louden suggests, that “service springs from listening to that yearning – and taking action on it, step by little step.”

The view of the sky from my front porch, right now

I started writing this post in the dark of early morning, as I worked stringing the words and thoughts together the sun rose, and I am finishing with the sun up and out, the sky wide open and clear blue–something about that seems really, really right.

Wishcasting Wednesday

picture from jamie’s post

What do you wish to make room for?

Myself. I am outwardly focused so much of the time (what I have to do for my paid work, what I want to communicate on my blog, what my tiny family needs, what I want to share, what my body requires) that I forget myself, deny myself, abandon and reject myself.

Meditation practice. It’s the thing that gets cheated in a day that’s too busy, when I’m overwhelmed, but it’s the thing that is medicine, a cure and comfort to those conditions.

My hungers and core values. This is an ongoing shifting and clearing to make room. I can get caught up in should and external expectations, in pleasing, perfecting, performing, and these important, deep desires get squashed.

Joy. This hurts to admit, makes me so sad, but I am caught right now in a cycle of dread, panic, and depression, and I’m not allowing for joy. I either “don’t have time,” am too tired, or am so focused on and upset about the bad stuff I can’t see beyond it, can’t see past its shadow. I wish to make room for laughter and light, for softening into appreciation, for joy.

Rest. I’m still so bad at this. I carry a mental to-do list with me everywhere, heavy and long, adding to it and updating it constantly, pushing and doing and going. I wish to make room for relief, relaxation, rest, time to do nothing, accomplish nothing, restore.

Connection and service. These are so deeply wed, so closely joined that I don’t even know how to wish for them separately. I wish to notice and be noticed, to help and belong, to offer love and be loved in return.

Grief. I wish to make room for this profound sadness, the heartbreaking loss, to open up to how big it really is, how vast, to allow it to fill the space it fills.

Uncertainty and impermanence. Instead of rejecting, trying to control, wishing things would be different, I long to open the door, make room for this truth.

Love. There could always be more room for this–the answer to every question, the true and deep longing underlying every other wish ever made.

Wishcasting Wednesday

image from Jamie’s post

If anything was possible, what would you wish for?

When I first thought about my answer to this question, maybe I thought too small, but then I looked back at Jamie’s post, at this picture, and rethought it from the perspective of “if pigs could fly,” which is an altogether different view.

If anything was possible my dogs would live forever, and I could bring Obi back.

If anything was possible no one would ever again lose someone they love to cancer. In fact, cancer would no longer exist, other than something to kick in the butt when you needed to get out some bad energy, wanted to break something or felt stabby.

If anything was possible those who were confused, sick, angry, sad, lost, and addicted would be whole, sane, healthy. They would remember that they are innately wise, kind, and strong, they would embody and manifest basic goodness. They would practice creation rather than destruction, rediscover that things are workable, realize joy through gratitude, and discover healthy practices to help maintain their sanity. They would heal themselves and then turn towards serving others. With open, brave hearts, they would change the world.

If anything was possible no child would ever again go to bed hungry or sick or scared. They would all be safe and well and know that they are loved. And in this way, they would grow up and make sure the same thing was true for the children who came after them.

If anything was possible there would be world peace, health and happiness for every being, no war or famine or sickness, clean water, a healthy environment.

If anything was possible for me, I would experience whole health for the rest of my long, happy life. Self-love and self-care would be my middle path, my regular practice and primary way of being. With an open, brave heart, I would first save myself and then help change the world.

If anything was possible for me, I would live the life of a writer and artist and yoga & meditation practitioner full time, with no need for paid work that wasn’t both enjoyable and easy.

If anything was possible for me, I would publish with ease, books and essays, and facilitate retreats, helping others recover and reconnect with their basic sanity and innate creativity.

If anything was possible for me, I would be able to happily and kindly follow every interest, take care of every need. I would live an entirely wholehearted life, with complete confidence and love, embodying and manifesting wisdom and kindness.

If anything was possible for me, I would be remembered for my kindness and generosity and wisdom, for being gentle and relaxed and joyful, inspiring others to be brave and do good by being brave and doing good, my whole life an offering.

*sigh*

I want to go to there…

Wishcasting Wednesday

from jamie’s post

What heights do you wish to reach?

In the Shambhala Buddhism tradition, “there is a developmental process for deepening and furthering authentic presence…called the warrior’s path of the four dignities,” (Shambhala Training Glossary). One of the four dignities is the Dragon. Sakyong Mipham Rinphoche describes the Dragon this way:

The dragon’s confidence is prajna, deep wisdom based on knowing how things are. The dragon knows we’re always trying to project a concrete world onto a fluid process, mistaking our ever-changing experience for a self. Like the elements, this kind of wisdom doesn’t need to be propped up. It is a direct experience of reality, empty and ungraspable.

As the wisdom of the dragon destroys our illusions, we begin to understand basic goodness, the unconditional purity and confidence of all. With this view, life itself becomes our source of energy, and the enlightened world begins to appear. The wish-fulfilling jewel of wisdom and compassion are liberated, and we can play in the blessing and magic of our everyday existence.

I wish to reach the heights of the Dragon, to soar in the sky, gentle and wise, above all my illusions and confusion and suffering, to “play in the blessing and magic of our everyday existence.” More specifically, if I had to guess, that might look like this:

  • Doing work I love, work I’d do anyway, for pay. To spend my days writing, making art, practicing yoga and meditation, engaging with amazing women, studying and serving. I would make a loving living, with the same quality of benefits and pay I have now. I’m not going to rush or push this, don’t need to force what I love to pay my bills, but I think that eventually it’s possible, and that I would be of more value to others, be more personally satisfied if this were how things were.
  • Yoga and Meditation Instructor Certification. These practices have meant so much to me, been so helpful, that I want to be able to share them, teach them, and want the proper training and wisdom to do so ethically and safely.
  • To reach my optimal physical strength and health, quickly and without obstacle. Resting when I need rest, practicing loving self-care, enjoying moving through the world in this body with minimal pain, breathing, walking, hiking, headstands in yoga, running, playing, eating, being nourished.
  • To be in a position to give, to help, to decrease suffering in the world.
  • Published and paid writing. Again, I don’t necessarily want to strip the joy from my writing by making it too work-like, but I also think there’s value in being recognized, validated for that work in these tangible ways. I don’t have a specific idea of what this might look like, but it would make me happy for my books to be a physical manifestation in the world, to be held in people’s hands.
  • Confidence. To manifest the funny, silly, brave, confident, open-hearted, generous, wise, gentle, kind, and creative women that lives deep in my heart. I want everyone else to know her like I do. They don’t all have to love her, I know she’s not for everyone, but I want her to be seen, to be known, to be realized and embodied, instead of a secret I kept, instead of a quiet whisper in the dark. To be confident in the way Susan Piver describes it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

Gratitude Friday

This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. The flower bed in front of the building where I work is in full bloom.

2. A good night’s sleep. After a week of not sleeping well, and the full on insomnia the night before, sleeping well last night was so nice.

3. I forgot my lunch again. But, the good news is that means I get to have lunch with a good friend, two times in one week!

4. Lots of rain in the forecast this weekend. Okay, when I say “lots” I mean Colorado lots, not Pacific Northwest lots. This is good for my yard, but also means I will be getting extra rest this weekend and the temperatures will be cooler.

5. Dexter wagging his tail again. I mentioned yesterday that he’s suffering a bought of Cold Water Tail, Broken Tail, Dead Tail, Broken Wag, or “broken butt toy” as a friend calls it. But it’s getting better, and seeing him wag his tail this morning was one of the best things all week.

dexter and i, much much younger

6. A Prayer for Moving Forward from Sandi Amorim of Deva Coaching. I left a comment for Sandi explaining that I think I’ve been praying this, wordlessly, formlessly, for a long time, but she gave me words, so here goes:

Are you there God [the one whose real name I do not know]? It’s me Jill.

I’ve had it, I’m done, I surrender.
I hereby give up my need to do it my way, and I’m asking for help.
Help me be clear, and of service.
Help me show up and share my gifts.

And please. . .

Help me get out of my own way.
I want to shine so bright that even you God, have got to wear shades.
I know what I’m here to do.
Help me do it.

Amen. And thank you, Sandi.

7. Speaking of amazing women… Two things were announced this week that are going to be so fantastic wicked awesome, I can’t hardly stand it.

Susan Piver announced her new Open Heart Project “Practioner” option, a year long paid subscription to so much good stuff I almost can’t bear to think about it, I get too excited, breathing becomes difficult, my chest gets tight, and I tear up. She will continue with her Open Heart Project “Basic,” so if you are interested in starting or maintaining a meditation practice, you should sign up. Since the new project doesn’t start until June, once you get on the mailing list, you will hear all about the “practitioner” option, if you are interested. For me, it’s such a perfect fit, such good timing, it feels like something Susan is doing just for me.

And, if that weren’t enough, I’m on the Roots of She mailing list, and this week Jenn Gibson announced the guides for the upcoming session of her Self-Love Warriors ecourse (hang on to your hat, tighten your seatbelt!):

Body: Hannah Marcotti, business and life coach and creator of Joy UP [soft and tender hearted warrior mamma whose presence is like an embodied lullaby]
Mind: Susan Piver, writer, teacher and New York Times best-selling author [amazing being of light and wisdom, fearless, brave and open hearted warrior]
Heart: Susannah Conway, photographer, author, retreat leader and creator of Unravelling [creative visionary, giggle instigator, maker and sharer of beauty & encouragement]
Soul: Jennifer Louden, bestselling author and the leader of the Savor & Serve movement [the queen of everything, who will show you how to be queen of your everything]

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that these are four of my very favorite women and self-love is one of my very favorite topics, so I can’t wait for this course!

Bonus Joy: Mother’s Day is this weekend. I have a mom, she’s great and she loves me, and I love her, and I get to remind her tomorrow. “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body,” (Elizabeth Stone). I’m so glad she was willing to make me, to care for me, to love me, and to let me “go walking around” outside her body.

Wishcasting Wednesday

image from Jamie's post

What do you wish would spring into your life?

Balance. A natural rhythm, an organic way of being that is simple yet powerful, filled with ease and good cheer, stillness and space, focus and intention.

Confidence. A clarity and certainty that is unshakeable and unbreakable. A sense of myself and my place in the world. Trust in my calling, faith in my purpose and path. Connection with my truest self. No need to ask or search or change, but a deep knowing, for certain and for sure and for good.

Connection. A wise woman told me this week that my view of myself as separate is killing me. This requires dissolving ego, (whether I feel superior or inferior to others, that’s ego), because as long as it remains strong, I think I am alone. I want to embody connection, to remember that we are the same, to see myself as equally worthy of love, acceptance, and belonging, and to know with utter confidence that we are connected, all of us and every thing.

Surrender. I don’t mean giving up, at least not in a negative way. And I don’t mean I want things to be easy. What I mean is loosening up, not too tight, not pushing or rushing, but rather slowing down, accepting–surrender, let go, release attachments, sink in, be here now, without agenda or judgement.

Embodied Wisdom. In Buddhism, this is often referred to as “skillful means,” Upaya in Sanskrit. It’s being what I know, manifesting that truth, the method and technique with which I might reach enlightenment. This is my compassion and wisdom in action. This means that my heart and mind are in the same moment, the same plane of reality, experience, and existence.

Opportunities for Service. Not service of the ego, aggression or greed or confusion, but service that eases suffering, shifts reality from aggression to love, confusion to wisdom, anxiety and fear to acceptance, attachment to freedom, depression to good cheer, numbness to awareness, speed to mindfulness, illness and dis-ease to health and well-being, hunger to contentment, poverty to abundance.

Love. It doesn’t matter what the question is, the answer is love. The more love, the better.