Tag Archives: living with awareness

From The Inside Out

What I know

What I know is that living close to friends and family, owning a beautiful home, having children or pets, earning an academic degree, being busy with a well-paying career, wearing top-notch clothing, owning the best gear, sporting a fit body or claiming someone as your life partner… does not equal health, well-being, fulfillment, a passion for life or true purpose. It does not equal happiness. I’m very much a believer that life is best lived from the inside out. Meaning; your greatest investment of time, money and energy is best spent on that which can never be taken away.

For everyone it’s a little different, so I can only speak for myself. The happiest times of my life were always the simplest. They were the times when I was most simple, totally present, gracefully aware, tenderly compassionate, extremely dedicated, playfully curious, vulnerably humble, completely open or bravely honest. These moments could have been with me alone or with anyone. What makes them/it special is the connection and the aliveness of the moment.

Here are a few examples that apply to happy/fulfilling experiences I had over the last week or so…

Over the winter I tried to preserve some of my summer garden. To my pleasant surprise, much of it survived! But what made me most happy, wasn’t that things were still green or still growing after a bitterly cold season — it was the feeling of my hands in the soil, digging and being part of the ongoing process. I loved feeling intimate with my garden plot, bending over, digging things up from winter, planting new seeds for spring and seeing the aliveness and magic in nature. It wasn’t having the garden that made me happy, but the feeling of being present to life — to the aliveness of myself and the aliveness of the soil, and actually connecting with it, fully.

My dog Pen-Pen is the sunshine of every morning. When I wake up, it’s like she hands me my smile. It’s as if she is the reason I am happy. But I know in my heart that she is my reminder to be happy, and grateful, and loving, and generous. It’s her aliveness that reminds me of my aliveness. But I wouldn’t be able to see this or appreciate it fully, if I was in a rush or lost in my thoughts (or daily to-do list.) The reason I experience this so much from/with her, is because I slow my/our moments down. I take the time to be fully present with her (which is also being fully present with myself.) I take time to simply be with her, which is taking time to simply be.

The same can go for my body. Whether it’s fit as a fiddle or in need of work, it’s so easy to take it for granted (like any other relationship.) But when I am good to it, and I see how amazing and alive it is — that’s when I experience health and happiness in my body. I feel my eyes magically open in the morning, or I feel the strength of my legs carry me for miles, or I see the deft capabilities of my fingers — it’s all a big wow! And what could be more amazing than my heart beating without me asking it to? Or my lungs breathing me, fulfilling my needs and taking care of me? How loving and marvelous is that? Why would I ever want to take that for granted or not be good to my body/self? Yet, it’s so easy to do.

So as you can see with those three examples, it’s not the body, the companion or the garden that makes me happy — it’s the presence, openness and attention I have when experiencing those things. The same can go for your home, friends, careers, finances — whatever you like! Those things are best lived from the inside out.

As many of you know, I’ve studied/taught/practiced meditation for a long time. I think meditation is very helpful for learning mindfulness, or what presence looks like as a structured practice. A designated time or place to meditate is great. But the real practice comes when you don’t bring a meditation practice into your life, but your life into a meditation practice. Instead of having an hour that you are fully committed to presence — I think a bigger, more fulfilling practice would be having a life where ongoing presence is the priority and goal.

I can definitely say that I want a fitter body, a better home, a bigger income, an exciting career, and even another dog! I do! Why wouldn’t I? All of those things sound fabulous! But more than that, I want full presence and deep appreciation for what I already have (whatever it may be.) I want to feel fully alive and full of glee, from the inside out. It’s the way I want to spend my time with all that I have and all that I love. To me, that’s a good life. It’s also a good daily practice. It’s something that can never be taken away and can forever grow within me.

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Filed under mindfulness, presence

Wake Up Empty

Wake Up Empty - Pen

This morning I woke up in a dreamy way. Not in a dream-like way, just in way that feels intensely and immeasurably pleasurable. In a way that is always possible, but not always happening.

I woke up empty.

It’s hard to say what waking up empty feels or looks like, it’s really indescribable. There is only one word that could do it justice: Presence.

This often takes a high level of awareness (which can be challenging to maintain within the hectic pace most of us live in.) If I could attempt to describe it, I would say that it feels like a mix between openness and gratitude. Like you are empty (nothing on your mind, nothing on your heart) and are fully experiencing the present moment for all that it is, and more importantly — you feel how phenomenal it is and how wonderful it can be.

This morning I opened my eyes. I could feel that I was in a safe cozy space. I could feel the multi layers of soft plush blankets weighing me down, yet hugging me at the same time. I could also hear my dog breathing under the blankets. The sound of her breath was so life affirming and soothing. I spent a few moments completely still, listening to the sound. I also noticed the sun coming through the blinds, creating sharp geometric patterns across the floor. Life was simple, yet miraculous. I was present to the miracle of being alive in such a marvelous way. I was also grateful for my dog being the same, and for us being able to share that together. I felt like I was smiling in my heart and in all 35+ trillion cells in my body. Other than what was happening in the moment, nothing was being thought of, nothing was being said in my mind, no wishes were present in my heart — just this moment. Just this, simply this, in all of its glory.

I have no idea how much time passed (an hour? minutes?) before I exhumed myself from the blankets. I then began to officially begin the day. Collecting my patterned leggings and faux-down jacket, I suited myself up (and my dog too), getting ready to ward off the cold air outside.

After putting Pen’s winter vest on her, we travel to the backyard to conduct business as usual. Everything seemed normal, until I noticed Pen wasn’t acting like she usually does. Something seemed off. There were several reasons why, but an obvious one was, she seemed hesitant and kept looking to me for direction (as if there was a problem she couldn’t communicate.) Why would she be hesitant or troubled? This is her morning pee & poo routine. She knows this, and it happens like clockwork.

Pen walked slowly and had a hard time leaping through the doorway as we traveled back inside. I was taken aback as I noticed something that without question was very odd… she’s wasn’t wagging. She always wags before breakfast. To my surprise, she didn’t want to eat, she wouldn’t even walk towards her food bowl. I brought her to bed and felt her mildly shaking and flinching, breathing laboriously, as if she was in pain.

I could not believe this. Her health has been so spright lately, we just ran across a grass field smiling and laughing — just yesterday, before the sun went down. I thought we both woke up healthy and happy this morning. I felt my day and life was moving from one extreme to the next — all in a matter of a morning. At that point I stopped myself. I thought, “Aimee, you can do this with full presence too. You can be open, and empty and grateful — experiencing the phenomenon that is life, in all its wonder — just as it is.”

Then I had another thought, “But I can’t do that if Penny is not well!” A rebuttal thought immediately followed, “What if, what if when she was ill in December you would have been totally peaceful, at ease through the whole ordeal. What if you would have been completely grateful, open and present during that entire experience. How would it have been different for you, and more importantly, different for her?”

This immediately made sense to me. I know that when I am at ease and breathing fully, I am able to see and think more clearly. I experience situations differently; more acutely, effectively and efficiently. At that moment, I snuggled myself next to Pen and I kept her warm. She’s tiny, so I put my big hand over where I thought she might be hurting (like a massive hot water bottle) and I kept it there. I wanted to radiate heat and energy, calmness and healing — I wanted to radiate love. In that moment, I loved her with all my heart and presence. I did this until she stopped shaking/flinching and fell asleep. Her eyes were now closed, she was breathing normally and seemed to sleep soundly and still. At that point, I called the vet.

I noticed the difference between this situation (of Penny not feeling well) and the last one (back in December 2015.) I was calm and smartly supportive this time. I didn’t panic. I didn’t imagine worst case scenarios. I wasn’t waving a tight fist at the powers that be. I wasn’t wishing for a different life under a different set of circumstances. I was loving this one. With Penny. As she was. As we were. I was loving it and her with all of my heart — with no judgements, no regrets — without needing to know why life was the way it was, without desperately demanding anything be different. It felt better. I felt better. Much better. It felt worlds apart from the last experience of a very similar situation.

Death is inevitable. For all of us. Pain is inevitable. For all of us. But suffering is something entirely different. Suffering is a tricky one. Suffering is rooted in confused thinking. An example is: “Penny should be well right now, she has been well for weeks and was thriving and playing just yesterday!” and “We were happy and full of bliss, why have things suddenly turned gloomy and sour? We didn’t do anything to deserve this.” As you can see in those thoughts, there is suffering and very little room for surrender (a surrendering and openness that facilitates presence in the moment.) Very little humility and acceptance in those words — no unconditional love or compassion for life as it is.

Life can change like the turn of a dime. Nothing stays the same, it can flip before your eyes. That’s life! Of course we eat healthfully and we take care of ourselves and we don’t do anything too crazy. Yes, that’s logical. But we don’t beat our own hearts. We don’t birth ourselves. We don’t manually orbit the earth around the sun. We are very clear that it is not our job. We simply accept ‘the big things’ as life (and take it for granted.) But when shit hits the fan, we don’t carry the same clarity. We don’t say, ” Ah, life. Yes, life decides.” Instead we panic, we silently get angry and we say in our minds (and every cell of our bodies), “Why is this happening to me?! I demand to know. I demand for things to be different.” All of a sudden, life revolves around us. We are the ones in control. And because of this, we suffer.

It’s a fine line between effort and effortlessness, action and non-action. The best way to describe this is swimming. When you are in the water, if you panic, if you kick and scream and fight the water — you sink. You lose. You suffer and then you die. It’s a horrible way to go. (Trust me, I know. I almost drowned. I experienced near death and was rescued.)

If you relax, if you focus on your breath, if you work with the water — most importantly, if you surrender to it, in full humility and awe — you have a better chance of survival. Chances are you will float, and if the waves are not too rocky, you can tread. While floating or treading, you will see that the water is supporting you, and that you are the water (you are made of mostly water.) When the stress and the desperate need to control or fight leaves your body, you begin to see and think more clearly — you see you have options! You also see that life might have what are sometimes called miracles or unexplained events (that usually make more sense in hindsight.) You see that you have more than enough to work with, and live with. You begin to trust life. The pain might still be there. You might feel spent or have salt in your eyes — but you aren’t suffering. You aren’t resisting. You aren’t fighting or battling the moment. You aren’t in a war with life.

Hours have passed. Penny seems fine now. (The vet is still coming to check-on her, as planned.) But all is well. We are simply floating in the waters of life, loving each other beyond the body, beyond circumstances, beyond anything we know. We are enjoying each other and this miraculous moment we have together. We love life, and we love living it together. This is enough. This is more than enough. This is what life is. This is what it always was and will always be. Even when we aren’t aware of it and its amazing gifts.

When I let go, I can feel that life is holding me. Then I see beyond me. Life supports all life. Life is all life. (And life is not the opposite of death, death is part of life.)

One day I will see Penny in the stars, and in my own being. And when I am no longer walking the earth (or writing blog posts), I hope that others do the same for me. I hope they wake up empty. I hope they see the beauty of what being present (to what is) holds. I hope they can let go and feel carried, held and supported by life. I hope they can be one with all that is.

When letting go, the suffering fades — only presence remains. It may be presence with some fear or pain, but that’s okay. Not all aspects of life are easy. Just know that the clearer you are, the more life shines brightly and the better it feels, and the more it blows your mind.

Small side note: this is not the crazy blog post on cake I promised for today! Sorry to keep you waiting. I still haven’t finished writing that blog post. It will be ready soon. I just need a little more time. This week I had to roll with life as it arrived. When the right moment to write about a crazy cake metaphor arises, I’ll be happy to ride that wave. And of course, I’ll be super-excited to share it with you.

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Filed under sunday is for lovers, wake up

Happy Thanks-living!

sweet potatoes happy thanks-living

Last week I was emailing with a friend. Before I ended my email, I added this sentence: “Have a super-duper Thanksliving next week. It’s nice to know that neither of us will be eating anyone. ;) It will be a celebration of life & thanks! So much to be grateful for.”

As most of my regular readers know, I don’t eat Turkey on Thanksgiving. I shared my point of view and reasons why in this 2012 blog post titled “Who Me?” If you click on the title, you can view and read the blog post. Please do! You’ll be happy you did.

I’m wishing everyone (in the USA, since it’s an American holiday) a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. But before I go, I would also like to share a video that was sent to me this week. I found it so inspiring. The video if of Jason Brown. He was an NFL player, that had a glamorous life and a 37.5 million dollar contact to play football. All that is behind him now. With awareness and insight, he made the decision to move to North Carolina to start a farm. He decided that living closer to nature & family was what was most important to him. This year, his farm grew 117,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, and he donated almost half of that amount to feed people in need. He is more connected to his environment, community and his family than ever. But more importantly, his more connected to himself on a deeper level, and lives with greater awareness. (His video is embedded below.)

I was talking to my dad on the telephone this morning. I was telling him that with greater awareness comes a deeper listing. It happens naturally as a result of stillness. When people are more aware, there is a stillness within them that allows them to listen intuitively. And it’s those internal messages and cues that guide them. Jason Brown was guided in this way. He knew that money & status wasn’t going to buy him what is most important. He was clear that love & connection is what he valued most. You can read more of his story here.

Whatever it is that we decide to do, in career, family, relationships, diet — it’s always best to choose powerfully. In order to choose powerfully, there needs to be some deep questioning and listening. If we can create a sense of stillness, and quiet the mind chatter or story that runs like a broken record in our minds, we can hear what is most important. For each person the details might be different, but the core of it is the same. Love, honesty, connection, and contribution is paramount. Without that, our lives wouldn’t amount to much.

Everyone defines their core values in their own way, even though we generally share the same values. Which is great, it makes us all unique. But it’s important that we repeatedly ask ourselves if we are living in alignment with our core values. Continuously checking in with ourselves and seeing if our current choices are in alignment with what matters most to us, and if it follows the guidance of our heart. And if we aren’t living in alignment with our highest values, why? What is stopping us? And what actions would it take to make sure that we are? What would our lives feel and look like if we made sure that our lives were based on powerful choices made with awareness, compassion and great love?

 

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Filed under community, holiday, thanksgiving