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This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!…

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond. 

 ~Rumi

Resistance is so devious!  Now that I started meditating twice a day again, it convinced me that I don’t need to journal (and blog) even though writing deepens my consciousness and feeds my soul; and I fell for it! I have not written in days and I feel it.   It’s not that I am not having insights and writing ideas—on the contrary; but I allow myself to be distracted by excuses and, supposedly, being “responsible”.  Not only that, but a study of my own process would help me be more compassionate about others’ resistances.  But resistance is also insidious and unimaginably perseverant.  It does not give up, and I am not going to feed it, at least for now, by spending my entire time writing session writing about it.   Okay, this is freaky and an example of resistance’s chicanery. A Steven Pressfield quote disappeared from the page even though I am using track changes!  In the War of Art, Pressfield writes that “[t] he more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. Know what he is talking about?

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Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,

talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

~~Marianne Williamson~~

Have you ever asked for a sign from the Universe and once you got it tried to look the other way?   That just happened to me ten days ago.  See, I have been thinking about returning to the blog for a while, but I could not muster up the energy.  Then, one day I decided to wait for a sign, and I received an email that “Sue” had just signed up for blog notifications.  Strange that after a seven-month hiatus from writing, someone should sign up, but it happened. Thank you Sue for acting as the messenger I asked for. So, here I am again, grateful to be reconnecting with you and with me. Since I write about me, how could I write if I abandoned myself?

So much has happened since January 13, my last entry that I was overwhelmed thinking about where to start, and now, I think I know. The details themselves are not important; instead, I will share my process, which is why I started this blog in the first place.  As a spiritual seeker and a teacher, I wanted to put myself out there to break the isolation we all feel when we think we are the only ones battered by inner enemies. But resistance got the best of me, and I succumbed to self-criticism and doubt.  I also became lost in the whirlwind of another’s dream, too terrified to dream my own.  I see realize that, often, instead of being the protagonist in my own blockbuster movie, I have grabbed a supporting role.   I remember in college encouraging Ana Sozio to go for a PHD, thinking I could never get one, myself, until the day, three years later, when I allowed myself to feel the desire to go for it.

But after, overwhelmed by the power of dreaming and dream realization, I abruptly trashed my career dreams and began dreaming of a partner.  Was the empiricist or doubting Thomas in me testing reality to see if I could do it again?  I realized that dream 15 years ago when I met my husband, and I was two for two.  Amazing!  Yet, unknowingly, I shut down the dream factory—outsourced them to other manufacturers.  Let them dream.  Not me. I’m done.  Looks like I was frightened by the light.

Of course, other things happened in my life to halt dream production.  But like the little shoot growing through the crack on the sidewalk, I am turning to the light, reconnecting to myself and to my dreams.  As Neale Donald Walsh reminded me this morning, “You have got to have a dream if you want to have a dream come true.”

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Our most habitual and compelling feelings and thoughts define the core of who we think we are.  If we are caught in the trance of unworthiness, we experience that core as flawed.  When we take life personally by I-ing and my-ing, the universal sense that “something is wrong” easily solidifies into “something is wrong with me.

Tara Brach in Radical Acceptance: Embracing Life with the heart of Buddha

 

Okay, it has been almost two weeks since I last blogged.  I get into the zone of my life, and I forget about the blog until I start to get a nagging pull to write.  I started feeling this way two days ago, and  I decided to observe my process since it is emblematic of how I operate. It is interesting that I responded to my internal blog due date, since I have not established one officially, the way I use to react to professional writing deadlines; in other words, the way I react to responsibility.  As you may recall from past blogs, I (or should I say, my inner child) hates and avoids responsibility; and, I see now that I have turned this blog from something I love to something I HAVE to do.  It’s no wonder I have not been blogging!  Achh!  Why do I do this?

Perhaps David Friedman’s Thought Exchange system can help me get to the bottom of this; I finally got the book on Monday, and I am actually reading it!  So, according to Friedman, thoughts lead to physical sensations that lead to thoughts and beliefs, and, ultimately, to a manifestation.  My not writing my blog on time is the manifestation of my thought/belief; and, even shallow digging reveals that I have always felt like a Slacker, and on some level, I believe I am one.  I had so much adult responsibility as a child, that anything else I did as I grew older paled in comparison; hence, I always feel like I am not doing enough.

As I think about this, the belief that I am a slacker probably originated out of guilt for not wanting to do serve as my parents’ translator and English scribe when I should have been doing kid things.  I have the belief, but what is the thought, since the two are different?  I am thinking that the belief is “I won’t do it”, or, is it, “I can’t do it.”  Aha!  As a child, I probably doubted my ability to complete the adult tasks assigned to me, so I developed the thought that “I can’t do it.”  But that is different from slacking, isn’t it?  Slackers don’t want to do whatever “it” is, whether they can or not.  But then again, our thoughts and beliefs are often based on falsehood, and they don’t make sense.

Byron Katie, whose system, The work, also deals with thoughts, would ask me to interrogate whether I know that my thoughts are true; and, they are not.  I am not a SLACKER!  If I were, I would not have graduated from college at 16, from college at 20, and from graduate school at 22.  I also would not have completed a doctorate at 32, but I admit that I was disappointed that I was not done by age 30.  I am reciting these accomplishments not to brag but to dissuade myself of the “SLACKER” belief.  But, again, because I didn’t want to be forced into doing things, like publishing for the sake of publishing, I concluded that I was a master SLACKER.  David Friedman advises that I exchange my thought “I won’t” to “I will” and my slacker belief to “I am industrious.”  And, Byron Katie would ask, who would I be without those thoughts?  A happy and productive blogger!

 

 

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The biggest obstacle to our staying with the new thoughts we take on is that “positive” thoughts often generate “negative” feelings.

David Friedman

This time, I have taken even longer to get back to writing, but this is a pattern for me, and I have discovered that it is related to my “fear of success.”  Whenever I am succeeding at something, I freak out, and I stop.  But this freaking out is not loud and conspicuous; it is insidious and sneaky.  It tiptoes and whispers so lowly in my ear, that I can’t defend myself against it, succumbing helplessly to its grip.  Looking back, as the affirmations for my blog increased so did my fear.  But instead of taking in the love, I jumped from the present moment into a foreboding future of writer’s block and rejection.  They say you create your reality, and I did.  If my fear was that you would stop reading—- well, you have, because I stopped writing. It is interesting that instead of writing, “stop reading”; I wrote “top reading I am more afraid of the former than the latter.  In other words, how can I someday have a widely read blog when I can’t accept the job of my current readership?

Over the years, I have learned of my difficulty tolerating the sensations associated with love and success, and I have been working on changing that. When I was young, I avoided falling in love because I could not tolerate the exhilaration after meeting someone who excited me. I felt so out of control and agitated that I wouldn’t sleep for days.  The same happened if I were excited about a job. To protect myself, I just realized, I shielded my heart with the cloak of avoidance. If I don’t succeed, I don’t have to deal with my heart prancing around, overwhelmed by the excitement (terror?) of infinite possibility. Although I am still prey to avoidance, since I often don’t see it coming, I am learning to mindfully sit with the sensations associated with success. Sometimes, when I sit with Judith Chusis, my mentor and collaborator on the Success is an Inside Job project, I am assaulted by anxiety that makes me want to jump from my skin or even throw up.  At those times, I soothe myself by recognizing the pattern, telling myself that I am okay, and bringing myself back to the present moment. But when the fear is restrained, I don’t become aware of its grip until days or weeks later.

As you know from past blogs, I do background research as I write.  When I searched using the keywords “tolerance of positive emotions”, I could only find information, mostly psychoanalytic about tolerating negative feeling states.  Interesting, I just discovered that for me, positive feelings become negative because I feel deregulated.  It’s no wonder I have been avoiding the things that make my heart race and frantically dance! So, what am I going to do about this?  I am going to continue to work on tolerating the sensations associated with expansion by sitting with them until I make them my friends, as Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, would say, and I am going to read the book, Thought Exchange, by David Friedman.  Friedman, a highly successful songwriter, author, and speaker, has written a book about changing your thoughts to create your reality. When my friend Cath told me about it, I skeptically asked what was unique about this book since others have expressed this idea in, for example, Ask and it is Given, Conversations with God, and the Secret.  What she replied, caught my attention.  According to Friedman, you must learn to tolerate the sensations associated with your positive thoughts.  I have to go order my book.  To be continued.

P.S.  I hope you had a peaceful holiday.

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Be careful of what you ask for!  Don’t say I haven’t warned you.  I asked for an open heart, and I got one, literally; I asked to feel, and I am itching!  To clarify, my teacher, Chetana,  taught me the heart chakra is associated with feeling, and when we are working on issues, we may experience them on the skin level, as the body holds our memories.  Having lived most of my life in my mind, I have often been oblivious that, as one body worker told me years ago, I have a body attached to my head.  I often need reminding of this fact, and the Universe provides me with reminders (e.g., open-heart surgery).   Thanks, Universe!  I must warn you, though, that this entry may trigger your Entomophobia (bug phobia), or may give you one, if you don’t already have one.

My story begins in Massachusetts, on October 28, when I accompanied my husband, his rowing partner and his wife to the Head of the Charles Regatta.  I was ambivalent about going, due to my separation anxiety, but I challenged myself venture out of my comfort zone.  We stayed at a Quality Inn that was clean and had the best breakfast I’d seen in similar establishments.  The weather was fall-like pleasant, and although my husband and his rowing partner did not do well, I enjoyed the company.  On the way home, stopping at a Subway to eat dinner, I start itching on my forearm.  Of course, I start scratching, thinking that I have become allergic to the tight, wool sweater I am wearing, and I wonder whether I will have to get rid of all my sweaters, if that is the case.  We ate and got back on the road.  But by the time I got home, my forearms were covered with bright crimson red, itchy welts.  Closer inspection revealed welts on my arms, and one on my neck.  Then the dizzying realization hit me.  I had been attacked by, yes, BED BUGS!  These miniature bloodsuckers had strategically bitten me wherever they found a prominent vein; my husband, of course, was untouched.  I say, of course, because this was the second time that I was attacked by these hideous creatures and he’d  been spared.   Why me?

Being chomped on by bed bugs is bad enough, but then there is the terrifying question about whether they ‘hitchhiked’ home with you.  PANIC!  If you have been living in this country, you may know that with a 5,000 percent increase in recent years, we are experiencing a bed bug epidemic.  Further, these pests are resilient, and difficult to eradicate.   More PANIC.  Okay, so what to do, except put all the clothes we took on the trip in the laundry, wrap the luggage in a plastic bag, and pull out the Belleruth Naperstek guided imagery to help me sleep, so that I won’t be up all night wondering if they are going to attack me again.  Although I fell asleep, I was a sharp sting on my leg awakened me.  I scratched, turned over, decided not to panic, and went back to sleep.  When I awoke the next morning, the side of my left hand and my left ankle had red, itchy, bites that were smaller and different from my previous bites.  Fleas!  More itching and no scratching to avoid infection.

Once again, I washed all the bedding in the house, my clothes, our dog’s bedding, vacuuming and more vacuuming, extensive internet searches about bed bug annihilation, and depression.  I began to take it personally.  Why were they only attacking me?  I envisioned being  completely isolated because no one would want to visit a bed bug infested house, marked by a giant red CONDEMNED sign.  Although Google is replete with resources and gadgets to decimate them—-steamers are supposed to work the best—I decided to call professional exterminators.  Add financial terror to the equation.  After going through all the options, and, of course, the only one they guaranteed for 90 days cost an estimated $3700 hundred dollars, my depression was morphing into despair.  I marveled that my fear and anxiety were greater than when I was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm.  I felt trapped, forsaken, and forlorn, and I allowed myself to feel those feelings.  After all, I was getting what I asked for— to feel.  But in the midst of my suffering, I could hear the voice of Byron Katie whispering to me,

“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.”

In retrospect, I was so anguished because I could not even escape to my bed for my refuge, my all time favorite escape.  I had absolutely no place to run because if I moved to another bed, the bed bugs would follow!  Seriously.  I felt physically and emotionally ambushed by bugs I could not see—in part, because they were not there.  (As I write this, I am scratching my head, and having flashbacks of head lice when I was in elementary school while my sister was spared.)  Memories of other times I’d felt in danger also flooded me—like when Sweet Money was abusing our dog and stealing my money and my car, and when I was a child in Cuba, and a gunfight ensued right outside our bedroom window.  My diagnosis was another stunning blow.  But the bed bugs were not my only triggers; at around the same, a woman I know who was diagnosed with a defective valve was preparing for surgery at the same hospital where I had my mine; the frozen grief melted once again, and I cried enough tears to wash away  colonies of bed bugs and flies.  I’d finally unleashed the tears I could not shed when I was diagnosed, out of fear that if I did, I would fall apart before the surgeons got to me.

Spiritually, I wondered what bed bugs and fleas had come to teach me. Between the washing and the crying, I cleansed my inner and outer spaces, and I began to feel relief.  Both the tears and the bites subsided, though the fading scars and phantom itching remains.  But, I admit that I am still afraid I will be bitten again when I least expect it.   At those times,  I remind myself of my friend Eric’s wise counsel when I cried to him that, I’ve always seen the world as unsafe, and even more so now.   “Although the world is unsafe, perhaps you can learn to feel safe in it,” he told me.  I am trying.  So what did the bed bugs teach me?  They taught me that fear can be so much more terrifying than reality, that I can handle whatever comes my way, and that it is time to stop hiding in my bed!

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If distress is the affect of suffering, shame is the affect of indignity, transgression and of alienation. Though terror speaks to life and death and distress makes of the world a vale of tears, yet shame strikes deepest into the heart…. shame is felt as inner torment, a sickness of the soul….the humiliated one feels himself naked, defeated, alienated, lacking in dignity and worth.

Silvan Thomkins

Pretend this is Sunday, though it is really Wednesday.  I was so busy this weekend that I never sat down to write my Blog.  Invariably, we sacrifice those things that are most meaningful to us; though that is not to say that working on my Cuba research, preparing for class, and Sunday Services are not important.  But we sacrifice those things that are of core relevance to our Self.  Enough with the sermon, especially since it isn’t Sunday!  In the past I have written about my feelings of dread, but have I explicitly explored my feelings of shame, embodied by my Inner Greek Chorus?   Perhaps I have and this is yet another level of realization.

This week shame came to me intellectually and affectively, so why not face it?  In class, we were trying to discern the difference between fear/dread and instinct, and shame.  Isn’t shame an instinct, too, one Korean female student asked?  After some discussion, we concluded that while fear is an instinct, or innate, shame is learned.  Although I am the last person qualified to be referencing the Bible, I noted the Adam and Eve, whom free of shame went around naked, until they disobeyed God.  After that, they began covering up, which is what we do when we feel ashamed, both physically and metaphorically, so much so, that according to Marc Miller, a California psychologist, this cover up is so strong that shame receives little attention in psychology practice, research, and training.

Shame, according to Helen Lewis, a psychoanalyst consists of a family of emotions—humiliation, embarrassment, feelings of low self-esteem, belittlement, and stigmatization. Throughout my life my shame has been so profound that, I could not see it as it was so all encompassing.  But where does shame, my shame come from?  Adam and Eve’s shame came from disobeying God and separating themselves from a sublime ideal; shame is inflicted by society (teachers, peers, religion, for example) and by our parents as a punishment for deviation.  In my case, I was born with an overdeveloped superego, which may or may not be related to having been born a Virgo, the perfectionist astrological sign.  Add to that mix, a demanding father with an insatiable appetite for achievement I could never satisfy.  My shame also comes from being different.  I was the girl who dared not to aspire to marriage and motherhood, and I whom was fascinated by ideas and people more so than by toys and play.  And, of course, we must not forget that, as a female immigrant who looked, acted, and related differently, I stood out from the wallpaper I tried to melt into.

Although my shame has become more compassionate in recent years, this week it came to meet me when I did not write my Blog on Sunday, when I feared not fulfilling a research deadline, and when I reconnected with my feelings of shame of my Cuban hillbilly working-class background.  Despite having a PhD from a world-class university, part of me feels daunted that I am interviewing people from the Cuban elite—people I never would have met had it not been for fate and history. Exposing or uncovering myself, here, is dizzying and nauseating, but it is also helping to liberate me, as I learn that I commit no sins for being myself.  What are you hiding that needs to be exposed so that its bind over you loosens?

References:

Shame. The many faces of shame.

Tomkins, Silvan S.Nathanson, Donald L. (Ed), (1987). The many faces of shame, (pp. 133-161). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press, xvi, 370 pp

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Is another door opening?

I was debating whether to postpone my blog until tomorrow when I have my interview with the director of a consulting group, but I decided to write something short to keep my new Sunday commitment.  I am working on keeping deadlines and promises.  In the past, I have skipped deadlines out of the belief that I could not fulfill them.  But now, I am learning to trust myself, and the Universe.  That is why when I was approached to teach a course on personality types, attachment, and spirituality this fall, which I have not taught before, I immediately said yes, because I want to, and because I know I can do it.  I have been wanting to learn about these topics, myself, so preparing, thus far, has been fun—especially since my friend Elena, who is an aficionada of the Enneagram, an ancient system for understanding personality types, has been helping me to find sources and to think through the syllabus.  This means phone calls and emails back and forth, and we are both having fun.  It is not work.

I am also excited about tomorrow’s interview!  My reaction is markedly different from the prolonged anticipatory anxiety I experienced in the past prior to an academic interview.  I think I’ve said this before, but open-heart surgery felt safer than a roomful of my judgmental peers.  My anxiety was greater because in the hospital, health care professionals were focused on my well being, and during a job talk, with tearing me apart—at least that is how it felt.   Have I told you, lately, that I am done with academia? I am done.  And, I feel liberated, so much so, that Fefy, my college friend, who was visiting us with her husband, commented that in the almost forty years she has known me; she has never seen me with such vitality.  I guess I was experiencing an ambiguous loss because, although I have not been physically present in academia for two years, I was psychologically present, and that is the classic definition.  How funny that, despite my studying ambiguous loss, I had not recognized it in myself.  I think I am done grieving and this has freed me to move on.

So, about tomorrow, I plan to go to my lunch meeting and be myself, because I have nothing to lose.  I cannot pretend, as I have done in the past when I impersonated an academic.  I am too old (and wise) to do that.    And even if nothing pans out from this encounter, I am reminded that just as I serendipitously stumbled onto this opportunity, I can just as easily stumble onto another one.   Remember, that when one door closes, another one will open?

To be continued.

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