Empathic and Authentic Dating

Dating imageAfter several years of being quite distinctly (and, to my mind, quite permanently) “Off the Market,” I abruptly found myself back “On It,” or “In It,” or however that works.  It was all a little disconcerting, really, since after an epically bad break-up (I won’t flatter myself by saying it was “The World’s Worst”…. But it was up there…), I had absolutely no business dating anyone.  I was so emotionally fragile, romantic involvement was resolutely out of the question.  Until it wasn’t.  That is, I started thinking, “Hey, maybe I should give this another shot.”  What had actually happened was that I realized that I really was strong enough to move forward.  I had done a lot of work on myself, and confronted many deeply sequestered demons.  I had reconnected to who I am and emerged stronger, with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to myself.  And what if it isn’t terrible the next time?  What if I actually do find love – real love?  So, I dusted myself off and waded cautiously into the dating pool.

Almost immediately, a few things became pretty clear.  First, I must have started out in the shallow end of aforementioned pool.  Next, I realized I had no idea what I was doing.  But most importantly, I realized that dating is veritable gauntlet under normal circumstances, let alone for someone like me.  Several men had made it through the initial screening process (e.g., I was fairly sure they weren’t serial killers), but I quickly discovered there were a whole bunch of other sorts of predators out there.  And, as one of my would-be suitors put it, there’s a lot of “false advertising.”  Which I completely understood, since his online profile said he was 5’9″.  He may have been 5’2″.  Maybe.

But back to the predators.  That sounds like it may be rather harsh thing to say about someone, when in reality, these were actually very nice (albeit, boring) men.  But they had developed predatory behaviors that I just couldn’t let myself fall for.  Not again.  I met men who preyed on my time, my energy and my good will.  I had men lure me in with promises of a bright future, only to catch them in lies.  I have to admit, it was an exhausting process.  And I hated it.  I constantly felt like I was interviewing someone, instead of getting to know them.  My friend Jessica (The Engineer), says that dating is a numbers game.  The more you do it, the more likely you’ll actually find someone worth spending the rest of your life with.  My friend Janelle (The Scientist), said that I needed to give each man three dates so that I could get a statistically representative sample of their personality.  See? Exhausting.  And it just doesn’t work well if you happen to energetically sensitive in any way.

What I was running into was a whole lot of inauthentic individuals who were desperate to be completed/healed/saved/coddled by someone else – namely, me, or anyone. (Gentlemen, if this is you, I am not your girl.)  And I’m not looking down on these guys; that was me for so many painful years.   I am actually really, truly thankful for them and thankful for the immense insight that my previous experience has given me.  Each one of these bad dates was a lesson in reinforcing what it is that I actually want in a partner.  They also reinforced my own method for dating.  That is, I’m a psychic and an empath, and my intuition is damn good (so say my clients, anyway).  So when my Spidey senses say get the hell out there, I get the hell out of there.  But when my intuition prompts me to stop and look deeper, I honor that.  If this process has done nothing else for me, it has helped me to re-learn how to feel my way through, to trust my discernment, to realize that true partnership and love is possible.  The more I honor myself and stay close my authentic self, no matter what is going on around me, the more I can sense the quickening of what’s to come.

And maybe it’s already arrived.  Who knows…

If you’re reading this, and if you’re walking this same path, please take my insight to heart (pun intended).  You don’t need to give your power away to find love.  You don’t need to rely on someone else’s ideology or methodology or psychology to find out what is actually right for you.  You have the same intuition that I have.  You have the power to discern what is right for you and what isn’t.  Sure, you might be a little out of practice, but I assure you that that personal power of yours is there.  Guard it and hold it fiercely.  And do not, under any circumstances, give it away to anyone who will do anything other than honor it.

Namaste

–h

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Lay Down Your Weapons – Living With an Open Heart

I wish I could say that I have walked through the trials and tribulations with ease, grace and joy, embracing each new experience, not as a trial or tribulation, but as a lesson to be savored.  But, as my grandma would say, I would be a big, fat fibber.

In fact, if anything, I’ve made the burden unnecessarily large by virtue of the fact that I’ve taken the lessons that I have learned and tuned them into weapons of regret against myself.  I’ve been using hindsight to beat myself up over decisions that I’ve made and things that I’ve done, not understanding that I was only doing the best I could at the time.  I wasn’t operating with all of the information that I have now.  It’s a classic case of Monday Morning Quarterbacking.  And it’s something that we all do.

Whether it’s something as seemingly mundane as a decision you made at work or something more grave like guilt over how you raised your child, we all have a tendency to judge ourselves using the knowledge and information we have now instead of seeing ourselves with compassion.  We can not be perfect – we can never be perfect.  There is no such thing.  So why would we continue to raise the whip and debase ourselves?  We weren’t perfect then and we certainly aren’t perfect now.

This was, and continues to be, a tough lesson for me.  This may be one I struggle with for the rest of my life.  And the tendency that I think we all have when we go through this is to close our hearts and shut down, both to others and to new experiences.  We become desperately afraid of making a mistake again – I know I am.  Why would I want to get burned again?  But here’s the thing, when you get burned, say by fire, you don’t go the rest of your life never seeking to find warmth again.  You would die.  You are always open to the possibility of, and in fact actively looking for,  warmth without the  burn because that is how you are meant to experience things (you know, being the warm-blooded, relatively fragile mammal that you are).  The same is true for everything else.

If you make a bad decision, don’t let that stop you from making other decisions using your new insight.  If you feel regret over how you raised your own children, don’t not love your grandchildren or think that you will make the same mistakes with them.  If you’ve had your heart broken, don’t let that stop you from loving again. These experiences are not meant to be ammunition to use against yourself or to use as an excuse not to open fully or as a reason to throw yourself a pity party.  They are there to serve as contrast and as lessons.

However, regret is a natural part of the human experience. But remember, regret is just another word for ammunition – the kind we use  against ourselves. The remedy for all of the things that you regret is to continue to live with an open heart and to continue to move to a place where you are feeling through, and leading with, your heart.  You must let the experiences move through you as music moves through a flute; the openness of your heart will dictate the tone and strength of the song. More and more, you will have a knowing about what is “right” and what is appropriate, and you will instinctively gravitate to those things.  It is a place of all-that-is-possible and a place of miracles.

And remember, you make your own miracles, after all……

In love and light,

heather

Staring down the Shenpa

“I am a train wreck,” I said to a friend of mine one day.  “What the hell?”

“You’re not a train wreck,” she said patiently.  But, as I felt she was biased, I didn’t believe her.  “What do you do when these things crop up?  How have you been handling it?”

“‘Handling it’ seems like kind of a pipe dream,” I countered. “I’m a basket case.”

“No you’re not,” she said calmly (again with the obligatory platitudes).  “You seem to have named these feelings.  That’s good.  You’re observing them.”

“Well then how come it’s not getting better?  It’s worse,” I said.  I was getting fairly desperate at this point.

“Because you’re just observing them,” she countered.

“Are you saying I’m copping out?”

“Yep.”

Dammit.

It seems like somewhere along the way from personal devastation to near-recovery, I had developed a few defense mechanisms to deal with the really deep and ugly stuff.  The stuff that we all have that’s lurking around in our depths; its been down there so long, it doesn’t have a name.  It’s just a bulky mass in the darkness.  And when it moves around, it knocks us off balance.

So what was I supposed to do about it?  I was effectively thrown sideways and felt as though I was watching my sanity slip.  Whatever I was doing wasn’t working.  It was the equivalent of a scared child trembling in bed, transfixed on the closet door, waiting – just waiting – for the monster to come crashing out.  I had to get out of bed and fling that door open, but I was just too damn scared of what was actually in there.

Luckily, I was not the first person to feel this way.  It turns out that Tibetan Buddhists are experts on this kind of thing, and have many practices that they teach to scared, half-crazed souls such as myself.  My friend told me about Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun who teaches meditation (among other things), and her recording “Getting Unstuck – Breaking Your Habitual Patterns and Encountering Naked Reality.”  I was game to try anything, so I went home and downloaded it.

Even after years and years of mediation, I had never done a Buddhist meditation on mindfulness.  There are many significant differences from other practices, the biggest (for me) is that you do this practice with your eyes open.  You can’t run. You’re there. It’s intentional for many reasons, but for me it meant that I very literally had to stare down what was going on inside my head.

But what made this recording really resonate with me is the teaching on shenpa – or the things that hook us and drag us down or lure us off into fantasy so that we don’t deal with the issues at hand.  The things that are so painful, ugly or disconcerting that they start us on the downward spiral towards numbing the pain with defense mechanisms or addictions just to be able to escape from them for a little bit.  And I was staring down some big-time shenpa.  This was what was pulling me into insanity, making me feel frantic and out of control.  The source of the shenpa is irrelevant to this discussion, its the process of working through it that I want to share.

Coincidentally, shenpa is the exact same thing that sneaks up on you in meditation.  Sometimes it pokes you, sometimes it takes you by the hand and drags you down some fantasy road or another.  And sometimes it mauls you like a Bengal tiger. I fell into this last category.  So there I went, armed with Pema’s recording and a frantic mind, I decided to sit through the practice to see if it would make a big difference.  Immediately I hated it.  This is mostly because the second I sat down and tried to focus on my breath I began hyperventilating – not good.  But, as Pema teaches, you must stay.  As big and painful and horrible as it is, you must stay with it.  You can not name it, rationalize it, escape it or destroy it.  And so I stayed.  I sat  for many hours over the next few weeks and stared at this shenpa until I got to know every crevice of it.  Over time it began to soften and melt a little bit, as though my gaze were warming it.  Little by little, it faded into the background – not gone, not completely.  Just a more manageable piece and something that didn’t have power over me any more.

That was a significant event for me, but also a deeply hurtful shenpa.  I have more; so do you.  And that’s ok.  What is important is that it is very possible to move through it and, as Pema says, face “naked reality.” You need only have enough self love to recognize that you must face these fears head on.  Be brave.

Namaste.

Angry Girl

I was pissed.

No.

I was f***ing angry as all Hell.

Rage and righteous indignation seethed, barely contained, beneath my surface.  Hurt and betrayal and pain fueled the fire until it forged a hideous beast struggling to be let free from the confines of my body.  This creature, with its gnashing jaws and pointed appendages, fought to claw it’s way up my throat to unleash itself upon the wicked who had wronged me.  I could feel the anger, born of the pain, pacing inside my chest like a caged animal. I could not – would not – let it out.

Who was this woman? How could this be?  Was this really me?

The answer: shockingly, yes.  This horrible creature was me.  In a moment of clarity, when I was able to observe this within me, I was forced to see that the anger was a piece of me.  This ugly thing was actually me, transformed.  I had never known the depths of such anger before. She had always been there, in my shadow, meek and harmless until the Pain Monster woke her up and fed her. And the Pain Monster stoked the flames until they birthed the Anger.  The Anger was always there, always a part of me.  But it was benign, unnecessary and forgotten.

Once I realized that The Anger was a part of me, I knew there was precious little I could actually do with it.  I could, justifiably, let it out to seek revenge, get even or assist in the development of a spectacular drinking problem. Or I could keep it locked inside, letting it grow stronger until it consumed me like a cancer.  Neither of these two options were acceptable.  So what was left?  Accept it, embrace it, love it.  Forgive it.  It is an aspect of myself, after all.  No matter how wicked or ugly, this is a piece of me.  She is a part of my shadow self.

The shadow self is not all good or all bad.  The shadow self is just all of those things that we want to hide, because looking at them is painful.  So we hide them, and invite in the Pain Monster. When we hide them, we deny them and resist their presence.  These shadows are tricky.  They are born of lightness and of darkness; at the edge where contrasting forces meet and interact – here we see shadows.  They can play, distort, confuse and beguile.  We want to hide our shadows because we can’t control them.  But they are not meant to be controlled – or denied.  They are meant to be embraced and loved.  And forgiven.  Shadows are a part of us just wanting to be accepted for what they are.  My Anger is a part of my shadow self.  Meeting that beast was a blessing.  I realized that even though the anger is ugly, it has another aspect.  As capable as I was of acute rage, I was capable of a powerful love.  This is all an expression of how passionate I can be.  Passion is simply (or not, I suppose…) a powerful expression of overwhelming emotion.  The depth of my capacity for Anger, is also the depth of my capacity for Love.

Standing on the precipice of this joyful chasm, I am filled with a sense of optimism and one-ness.  The reconnection to this Love, my rediscovery of it, was the freedom and joy I had craved.  The Love, the acceptance, embracing it all, has moved me higher than I ever thought possible.

I am blissfully in love and at peace.

Love and light,

–h

The Pain Monster

 

I’ve been getting to be really good friends with the Pain Monster, that savage, marauding beast we unleash on ourselves when things feel like they are falling apart and we are in our darkest hour.  I’ve felt it’s keen edge, stared into its gaping maw and embraced the power of it’s presence.  I’ve opened up to the teaching in the pain, the lessons, the recovery, the strength, and overall, the acceptance of the flow of my life.  I’ve learned to lean into the pain as its teeth cut deeply into my heart and soul knowing that whatever was being destroyed will be reborn so much stronger.

So what woke up the Pain Monster inside of me?  In a very short amount of time I lost my job, I lost my mother, I lost savings, I lost my romantic relationship, I was betrayed thrice over, and watched a loved one spiral into madness and attempt suicide.  This is a lot to experience and a lot to just be with.  I’ve seen sides of myself I didn’t know were there – both good and bad, I saw the contrast in myself. And as I watched these emotions rise to the surface and counted them one by one, I realized that these things were not happening to me or because of me.  They were happening around me.  I was in the eye of the hurricane.  Or at least I was supposed to be there.  I had allowed my self to wander into the fray and get pulled into the drama of human reaction.  I saw that my pain, as real and as powerful as it was, was optional.  It was optional because it was born of my resistance to the changes that were happening in my life.  I resisted the losses, as I thought I was being robbed; I resisted that I was growing because I thought I was failing; I resisted my own evolution because I did not see it for what it was.  And the pain came sharp and keen, to bring me back to myself.  I had asked for a miraculous life change, I had asked to be deliriously happy, and when the Universe handed me my wishes on a silver platter, I recoiled.  I was the butterfly in the cocoon – but I had learned to love the cocoon, and it was stifling me.  My personal cocoon was a relationship that no longer served me, friends who weren’t, a job that I wasn’t passionate about and various other illusions of things I thought I “needed” to be happy, whole and fulfilled.  I was being shown the error of my ways, and I as I resisted the lesson, the Pain Monster came for me.  And as it bore down, I knew I had to embrace it – move through it

But why would I want to move through the pain?  Why wouldn’t I just want to numb it, ignore it or blame someone else for it?  Why would I embrace it and lean into it like an old friend?  Because there is no resolution in hoping the pain will go away, no closure, no learning, no beauty.  Once we open ourselves to the experience of the pain, we must process it.  There is no growth, no evolution, no enlightenment without change.  Notice here, I said change and not pain.

We don’t hear that in our world today where freedom is just a Big Mac or a Valium away.  Reaching for those quick fixes is what gets us stuck in the pattern of trauma, drama, pain, repeat.  We need to extricate ourselves from that cycle to find true freedom.  We are chained to the pain cycle, hooked on the thrill of our own self-persecution.

Without exception, people act out in destructive behavior against themselves and others because of their own pain, and more specifically, the fear of that pain.  People numb themselves with food, alcohol, drugs or sex to escape.  At times, the emotional pain becomes so much, that we feel we must mask it or defeat it with physical pain.

The perception is that the pain is the result of what has been done to us by others, and we are the victims of their cruelty.  Whether from actual trauma or perceived trauma, we lodge the pain, unprocessed, in our bodies.  The reality is that these events did happen, but we can choose to see them for what they are and embrace them, or resist them and suffer until we realize that the pain of acceptance is far less than the pain of resistance.  In fact, there is surprisingly little pain in acceptance.

I won’t tell you that these realizations came easily or that they removed me from the process somehow.  But I will tell you that now it is easier.  Now I am an observer of the pain, and not a participant in its drama.  I can integrate these lessons and changes into my life and, I hope, weather future storms with more grace, acceptance and love.   We can choose to get out of the pain cycle at any time.  It is ultimately our choice. When I was stuck in the pain cycle, I craved the light at the end of the tunnel, but once I realized I WAS the light, I realized I was at the end of the tunnel.

In love and light

–h

The Resistance/Acceptance Cycle