December 2, 2008

Opportunities to Awaken

"The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn't understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you're given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further."

That quote is by Pema Chodron taken from my recent copy of SageWoman (#70). It introduces my thoughts today on opening further to life; how the difficulties we perceive are nothing more than whispers saying, "How can you surrender into life with an undefended heart?"

The whispers are not shouts demanding you to surrender into life with an undefended heart. That isn't their style. They just bring a question put simply, which you can ignore for centuries until one day you (okay, we) evolve beyond our former reactions.

Negativity and misery go hand-in-hand with a nicely defended heart center. All negativity and misery, by the way, are self-correcting. We need not even work on ourselves at all in dedicated self-help style if we don't want to because life itself will twist our arms hard enough to make us change. "Whether in this lifetime or in twenty from now," my friend Carmela adds.

My arm is already too sore! I'm ready now! But meanwhile, we hard-headed humans toughen our shells. From there we either retreat into them, or use them as shields from which to emerge fighting. A seemingly endless pattern that repeats itself well into old age and onward where eventually one finds it too burdensome to carry around the shell any longer.

But the question is when? How long do we remain in our self-imposed heart-locked-up prisons? Have you tried to get out? Of course you have, but did you escape? Have you given yourself the opportunity to be free of hard, heavy shells? If so, can you answer yes to the following?

When criticized do you see the criticism as the other person's defensiveness?

When you criticize yourself, do you see it as your own defensiveness?

Do you recognize defensiveness as fear? This includes justifying your actions.

Do you know that fear is a powerful emotion that causes all kinds of hard, heavy shells to be built so that humans cannot live with or love one another?

Are you ready to be free from this form of fear?

We have an opportunity to finally complete a cycle of seemingly never-ending defensiveness. Once the realization comes that it's not about you, that your work is to simply live from your own truest nature, that words, actions, and behaviors from others are about them, not you, then you might, maybe, do it.

Soften into it - your undefended heart - and see what happens. I'll be doing it too. I'm not 100% yet, but I'll be practicing. After all, my arm is still being twisted.

So I'm just putting it out there - you might want to give it a try. The world is a-changin' and we might as well change along with it. To quote Thich Nhat Hanh, "Peace and happiness in your daily life means peace and happiness in the world." My contribution to world peace is softening up my own rough spots. How else do we begin?

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