Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Empowerment, Love and Amrit

Life is perpetual therapeutic irritation. Learn to make it therapeutic and not problematic. ~ Amrit Desai

The urge to take pen to paper hit tonight as a few things came to mind I'd been letting marinate for a few weeks.

I had the honor and privilege to sit right up front during a lecture my Yoga teacher's guru gave two weeks ago. Amrit Desai, who studied with the masters in India, where he was born, and is considered one of the pioneers of "authentic" Yoga teachings in the west, came to my instructor's studio from Florida, where he now resides.

In his 80s, it is quite possible he may never come this way again. But there he was, in Columbia Station with all of us for an evening, bringing an amazingly serene essence and a breadth of wisdom with him.

I could go on and on about the things he spoke of, but I wrote down some of his quotes from that night that cover much of the high points in his discussion:

~ As inner conflicts reduce, the external conflicts reflect that.
~ We are hardly ever present in what we do.
~ Start giving what you are asking for (or as Gandhi famously says, be the change you wish to see in the world).
~ We are always looking for fulfillment outside. The ego is always trying to find fulfillment by looking for the right partner. Everything you are looking for comes from within.
~ The ego mind uses Prana (our life energy) to find outside solutions … excessively using energy for who you are NOT.
~ Don't buy into your reactive perception of anybody. You and I are not separate, we are all one.
~ When you remove the inner conflict, you see the outer conflict is false.
~ You have the power to change your life. No one else can do it to you. If you judge someone, you are lost. If you say you're a failure, that's what you'll create. You create your own problems.
~ When you are in love with that higher power in you, you are happy always.
~ Life is perpetual therapeutic irritation. Learn to make it therapeutic and not problematic.

Another thing Amrit said that hit me in particular is that I have all the power I need within myself. I don't have to be a victim or victimize myself. I don't have to bring my past scars into the present moment and allow my past patterns to repeat themselves or to influence my present moment reactions and responses to things.

Another point to ponder ... any external conflicts we have with others or a situation, etc. is a reflection of an internal conflict. I used to say "he made me react this way" or "she made me feel crazy" ... but no one has the power to make us do, react or say something that isn't already IN us. Yes, people "affect" us ... but to realize we truly do hold the reins to how we react or respond is powerful if embraced.

Observe, don't react, Amrit said. If we are able to observe ourselves and our lives from a non judgmental, almost third-party perspective, we will find it easier and easier to be at peace and ease ... to truly enjoy life and not react to things or instinctively fight or flee in situations that don't warrant it.

The past is the past and I can't go back and change circumstances or how I responded or didn't respond. But I can harness that power within me from this day forward. Amrit helped me feel empowered ... and more in control of my life and happiness than I truly realized.

Which means any of you reading can be empowered, too. We all try to seek fulfillment externally, in our partners or in other forms (i.e. alcohol, drugs, food, entertainment, sex) ... but that pursuit is the product of our ego. And it is a losing battle. It might bring temporary gratification, but it'll always be temporary, never continuous. Because the ego thrives on the "wanting more." 

But if we fall in love with ourselves ... if we truly accept ourselves and love ourselves, we will find true and continuous joy. I believe it. I also believe it doesn't come easily and it is an ongoing process. But it is one I'm finding more and more merit in as the days breathe past me. 

I hope you do, too.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do You Abuse Apologies? The Beauty and Power of 'I'm Sorry'

It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one's heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize. ~ Stephen Covey

I had a recent encounter with someone I'd hurt in the past. As we got to talking, the past naturally came up. In that moment, I felt a strong desire from deep within to apologize for things I did, unintentionally as they were, that might have caused this person pain. It was accepted and there was a relief that flooded through me the moment it exited my lips. It seemed both of us were lighter as a result.

I've never enjoyed saying sorry when I was younger ... and really, in general. I mean, who does really? It's an admission of wrongdoing or at the very least, it's an admission of doing or saying something that has hurt another, intentional or unintentional. It's a feeling of vulnerability, of weakness, yet it could be an expression of love and caring as well.

But I've noticed that there is a difference between abusing apologies — i.e. saying sorry just to appease another or as "a foundation to a future offense" — and saying sorry with a genuine, truly benevolent intention. 

For me, I went from a woman who stubbornly, rarely ever said it to someone who said it all the time, unnecessarily oftentimes, to men in particular.  And those aren't very genuine either. For me, that behavior, which was already rooted in me from my youth years, further developed after I took a backseat to a person who was a much stronger, commanding personality than my previous relationship and at the very opposite end of the spectrum. I would find myself apologizing for speaking my mind or emotions, feelings about things, my anger or hurt, my pain or confusion. 

And when that person would apologize to me, it was often either a way to rein me back in or it was disingenuous. I noticed this pattern continue with other people I've encountered as well and I know I've done my fair share of disingenuous apologizing. 

The point being, there is beauty and power in an apology, but it has to come from within ... you have to BE the apology. It has to show in your actions. My counselor once put it perfectly: Look at a person's actions, not their words.

I came across this article that really hit home for me: A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not 'Crazy'

And the truth is, emotional manipulation and I go way back, to my teen years really ... and the things I believed or "fell for," as a relatively naive girl, which carried on to my adulthood. 

Talking to my best friend, we got on the subject of past hurts, loves, heartbreaks. And maybe it was because of how I felt after this recent apology of mine, but I realized how much I desired that from those who have hurt me. How, even now — having forgiven them their hurts as much as I've been able to — how much lighter I would feel inside on some level if someone said, 'Cassandra, you were never crazy for feeling how you felt, it was completely understandable, reasonable and I'm sorry for any hurt I caused you.' 

The way that I have in the past, not with all of them, but with most.  In some ways, it'd feel like releasing a breath I've been holding forever.

Now, while I can't expect such things, I CAN take those feelings and apply them to my own behavior in the future. Perhaps such behavior will be mirrored back some day. 

Because the truth is, apologies only get people so far. And just like the term "love" is overused in my opinion, so are apologies. But when a person is different inside than they once were, has become self aware enough to truly see themselves from another's perspective, that is often the key to a genuine request for forgiveness, to a "real" apology.

As I've said before, sometimes you don't realize the weights you carry around until you let them go ... and sometimes just finding forgiveness in your heart or asking it of another is all the release valve you needed.

Try it. Your heart will thank you.