Monday, July 19, 2010

Drench My Soul In Shades of Gold

I encounter them everyday, those people walking with their heads down, counting the cracks in the concrete. They avoid eye contact and they do not smile at all except for the occasional world-weary grimace that reeks of cynicism and mistrust.

They have been judged, or ridiculed, or dismissed, or betrayed. They have been the casualty in the torrid affair. The pawn in the game. The loser, the prey, the fool, the target.

They wear their pain like a thick, twisted shawl, enveloping themselves within it as their wounds fester and multiply like a relentless cancer intent on destroying its dwelling.

They have forgotten what it feels like to be open and vulnerable. They have learned to expect the heartache, the deception, the stab in the back. Their defenses are up. They are armed and dangerous.

I have lived among them, these Walking Wounded. I have been their kind.

I suspect we all have, at some point or another. We are flawed human beings and, as such, we get lost in our own delusions, become consumed by ego-driven determination and, intentionally or not, we hurt each other.

And we carry the hurt like a badge that states, “I have been hurt. I have hurt others. Stay away.”

We erect walls around ourselves, solid and durable and nearly impenetrable. We speak with spite and regard others with suspicion. We repeat the same story again and again, embellishing the details every time, clearly drawing the line between villain and victim. We refuse to forget. We especially refuse to forgive.

We falsely believe that forgiving means denying the pain that we’ve suffered and letting the offender off the hook. So we latch on to those old injuries and insults because we have been unjustly harmed and we want the perpetrator to pay.

But the perpetrator doesn’t pay. We pay. And the tighter our grip on the pain of the past, the higher the price we pay.

I remember when I first came across this profoundly simple truth. I was 18 or 19 and falling in love with Don Miguel Ruiz. In his remarkable book, The Mastery of Love, Ruiz states the following:

You will forgive them not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because you don't want to suffer and hurt yourself every time you remember what they did to you. Forgiveness is for your own mental healing. Forgiveness is an act of self-love.” (p. 170).

Forgiveness is an act of self-love?

This concept was entirely new to me. I remember reading this passage numerous times, knowing deep inside that I was uncovering a truth of extraordinary importance.

Forgiveness is an act of self-love.

Gradually, these words weaved their way from the intellectual tunnels of my mind to the inner chambers of my heart until, all at once, I understood.

So I started, quietly and steadily, to unravel the knots within me that had been forming for years. Some knots were easier to untangle than others. Some required more willpower than I could muster and I accepted that forgiveness would come, eventually, through persistent practice.

(It did.)

I do not claim to be a master of forgiveness or to never lose myself in feelings of rage, reproach, and righteousness but, over the years, I have become quite adept at forgiving (although I do admit that forgiving others always comes more easily than forgiving myself.)

Forgiveness is a choice that must be made on a daily basis. It is a refusal to live in the past and an acceptance of the present moment and all of its subtle splendour. It is a letting go of disappointment, of sadness, of anger, of fear. It is not a justification of the hurtful act that was inflicted upon us (or that we inflicted upon others), but a conscious decision to liberate ourselves from the act's unabating, suffocating grip.

“I forgive you” is not about you at all. It is about me. “I forgive and I set myself free.”

To forgive is to know that life is too precious for grudges and grievances. To forgive is to welcome the sunrise that drenches our soul in shades of gold while it renews, revives, repairs. To forgive is to acknowledge our worth. It is to look into our own eyes and see the goodness there. It is an act of self-acceptance. Of self-respect. Of self-love.

First, forgive. Then, rejoice.

Then, forgive again.


This week’s affirmation: I forgive and I set myself free.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Stumbling on Saturn

I was first introduced to the notion of “Saturn Return” by a dear, dear friend of mine, Nadine, who entered my life during a time of intense uncertainty and instability.

I had just started the process of re-evaluating my goals in life and was questioning every decision I had ever made. My life felt like it had been turned upside down and inside out and nothing seemed to fit anymore. Things I had once felt so sure about - my career, my relationship, my city, my friends - suddenly felt foreign to me. It was like a stranger had invaded my body and I had no idea what she wanted or where she was headed.

After a few days of working together and getting to know each other quite well (when I met Nadine I felt as though I had known her forever - it was one of those magical encounters), Nadine stated, firmly and convincingly, “Vic, it’s obvious that you’re going through Saturn Return.”

Saturn what?

Saturn Return. An astrological phenomenon, Nadine informed me, that occurs approximately every 29.5 years when the planet Saturn completes its orbit around the sun and returns to the place it occupied at the time of your birth. This return of Saturn therefore occurs between the ages of 27-30, 57-60, and 85-88, precipitating crucial decisions and bringing about major life changes.

Astrologers believe that every Saturn Return marks a very important time in a person’s life and is often the catalyst for drastic transformations. It is not uncommon for things to end during these periods: relationships, jobs, friendships, hard-held convictions.

The return of Saturn throws us into a dark and scary place full of doubt, anxiety, and (the worst emotion of all) regret. It strips off the masks we wear, reveals the lies we tell, and asks the tough questions we prefer to avoid.

This is not fun, nor is it easy.

But it is necessary.

Although Saturn Return can bring about hardship and stress, its ultimate goal is to set us free from the misguided choices we’ve made in the past. In fact, if our choices have been authentic and are in line with our innermost values and beliefs, then Saturn’s return will be barely perceived and cause only a ripple in our day-to-day lives. However, if we are heading in the wrong direction entirely (or even partially) Saturn’s return will shake the very foundation we stand on and provoke a tidal wave so forceful and frightening that the notion of “happiness” will seem like a distant, unattainable mirage.

That is the beauty of Saturn Return: it will not disturb you if you are genuinely peaceful inside, but if you are not, it will force you to discover why.

Saturn Return is a wake-up call from the universe. A nudge or a push or a shove. It is a giant mirror that exposes every aspect of our lives and demands that we look at our own reflection.

Saturn Return is a godsend, but many don’t realize this.

Faced with their innermost fears and feeling as though their lives are in shambles, many in the throes of Saturn Return will choose not to embrace this gift from the universe and, instead, will drown out the messages any way they can - alcohol, drugs, medication, sex - and stay afloat in a bubble of denial.

Although this may seem like the easier route, astrologers warn that issues that are not dealt with during the first Saturn Return will re-emerge with a vengeance during the second Saturn Return, later in life.

After learning about Saturn Return (thank you Nadine) I welcomed Saturn with an open mind and an open heart. I did the digging, the questioning, the assessing, the experimenting. I made some hard decisions. I accepted - though I did not enjoy - my sleepless nights. I gave myself permission to be terrified and unstable and dangerously honest. I wandered off the well-lit path and fumbled my way through the darkness.

I am still, it seems, fumbling my way through the darkness more than a year later. Still digging and questioning and assessing and experimenting. But I am doing so from a place that feels safe.

My worlds - outer and inner - feel safe again. I am no longer a stranger in my own body. I have reclaimed my vessel. My eyes are wide open.

Saturn Return will happen whether we want it to or not, whether we are ready for it or not, whether we believe in it or not. The only way to deal with Saturn Return is to deal with Saturn Return.

Dive into the depths of it. Dance with it, say yes to it. Trust the cosmos to guide you to your core. Open yourself up to the wisdom of the universe and rejoice in the revelations you uncover.

Saturn Return is a tremendous gift. It gives us a chance to get it right. It realigns us with our truth, with ourselves.

Thank you Saturn.


This week's affirmation: I embrace change.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Quest for Perfection

I started this blog four weeks ago and, though I hoped people would read it, I did not expect people to react so strongly to it. I did not expect people (friends and strangers alike) to send me words of thanks, of understanding, of encouragement, of support. I did not expect this blog to mean something to so many in such a short amount of time. I did not expect this blog to mean so much to me. And I certainly did not expect this blog to inspire one of the most fascinating women I have ever known (a cherished friend) to start sharing a blog of her own (which she had been writing in secret).

Thank you to those of you who have read, commented, and emailed. It is a wonderful (if somewhat jarring) feeling to know that the words I put “out there” rouse something “in here” (I am touching my heart) for so many of you.

However - and I write these words with nothing but affection and appreciation for all of you - I do not blog for you. I blog for myself.

I love that my words have meant something to others. It is my sincerest hope that my exploration of wellness and my wanderings along its path will motivate others to seek a more balanced way of life. It is my dream that dreamers worldwide will dream a new worldview into being.

But the main purpose of this blog is not to entertain or enlighten. The purpose is simply to share.

And I need this fact to be clear, in my own head, or else the self-imposed pressure to make this blog “good enough” will invite the fear of failure to penetrate my mind and poison my thoughts, stifling my voice and killing my creative potential.

This has happened before. (In fact, it was happening today as I wrestled with writers' block and felt like I had nothing inspiring to say).

The fear of failure (or the quest for perfection) has followed me, haunted me, taunted me, and crippled me time and time and time again.

The fear of failure is the fear of life. It stems from the deep-seated belief that I am not “good enough.” Or strong enough, smart enough, pretty enough. It is a fear that slithers its way into the heart and destroys all feelings of faith, trust, well-being. It makes the journey one of struggle and strife. The world becomes a battlefield.

The quest for perfection is, in essence, the exact same thing. One who seeks perfection is undoubtedly terrified of failure. The seeking of perfection is the denying of the divine that dwells within every one of us. It is a rejection of self-love and acceptance. It is an all-encompassing emotion of inadequacy, of incompetence. It comes from a place of unease and it infuses our days with anxiety and pain.

I do not know why or how or when my debilitating fear of failure started or when my adventure on this planet became a hopeless hunt for perfection. I am not that interested in the why or the how or the when. I am only interested in (and grateful for) my emerging awareness of the detrimental consequences of fear-based living and my newfound courage to embrace a more free-flowing way of life.

I am already perfect. So are you. So is everything.

So is this blog.

It doesn’t matter whether my posts are published on Monday mornings or evenings. It doesn’t matter whether my posts are published regularly at all. It doesn’t matter whether my writing is deemed satisfactory or not. It doesn’t matter whether my words inform or inspire or influence or not. It doesn’t matter who reads this blog and it certainly doesn’t matter who judges this blog.

All that matters is that I am here, right now, writing. And in this precious, precious moment unlike any other moment, I am not afraid of failing nor am I seeking an impossible ideal. Like a child, untouched by criticism, worry, or doubt, I make my way along the path, skipping to the beat of my own heart.

I write. I reflect. I learn. I share.

And this, I know, is “good enough.”


This week’s affirmation: I trust life.