Opening The Present

christmas-present-300x233… and Receiving The Gift Of Your Life.

Welcome to spring! There’s people to meet, markets on the street, clothes to peel, and air to breath, again. Ahhhh…

Kind of scary, isn’t it?  Maybe we should wait till next week. Or, till we lose some weight, get some new clothes, or shake off the cottage cheese on our thighs.  Sometimes its easier to stay in bed on days the rest of the world seems to be living a Nike ad.

Sluggish patterns, in dissonant contrast to the burgeoning spring, seem hungover from winter. We heard a lot about seasonal affective disorder, or “sad” last winter. Yet, any change can trigger depression, including the longer days of spring. Its ironic to make it through winter just to find that we can be just as depressed in the spring.

At least we can still employ the acronym, as Spring is Also Depressing.

But, depression feels extra bad on beautiful days.  The rest of the world is flying and we’re chained to something that sinks us back into our room, and into our mind. The sadness is extra deep here.  Not only are we missing out on the life others are having, we have plenty of time to beat ourselves up over missing the life we should have had. As if it were over. But, in truth, its not. Its not over. If you’re reading this, I have news for you. IT’S NOT OVER. In fact, if you’re reading this, your life has just begun. Despite the stories we create to substantiate not showing up to the ball, we have so much to offer.  Our life is much richer and more rewarding than we have learned to see. Learned. That’s right. Learned. Avoidance, resistance, depression do not occur as a punishment, it as proof that we are bad, or unworthy. They are learned behavior that becomes seated in repetitive patterning.  Once we have a pattern, its very hard not to follow it, even if the outcome is the same dead end again and again. And few things create patterns as readily as negative input, as the mind is programmed to imprint negatives as a way of safeguarding the reproductive momentum of our species.  We are, therefore, much more receptive to creating patterns around negative, rather than positive, stimuli. We do this instinctively and our society conspires. Our parents, in all love and best intentions, act on their fear to guide us away from danger by supporting our minds of fearfulness.  We end up locked in our room, like bad children, comparing ourselves to mythical beings outside our window, who seem to have it all. We look at them with longing. Their lives seem so balanced, while ours fail on the balance sheet. We fixate on the things we need to change in order to find health, happiness and a life we deserve.

Only, we’re already living the life we deserve. Or, better said, we deserve the life we’re living.

You see, once we begin to see ourselves as worthy of the life we want, we might find that that is exactly the life we have. Because in order to believe we deserve goodness in our life, we have to find strength in ourselves. Inner strength comes from believing in ourselves and gaining a natural confidence that is not subject to other’s approval. Its belief in ourselves, that comes from ourselves and answers to nothing.  Once we have that, then anything in our life is workable because we don’t need any of it to complete us. In fact, because we are complete within ourselves, we can offer to our world, rather than continue to deplete it. In return, we gain sustenance from the exchange, rather than depletion.

In order to do this, we have to retrain the mind to learn to care for itself. Instead of habitually beating ourselves up, and waiting for someone else to save us, we can learn to stand up for ourselves.  If we stop the self-flagellation over a perceived lack of success in an imaginary world, we might have the energy to actually enjoy the life we have. We can begin by appreciating the fact that we are here at all.  We can commit to giving ourselves the gift of life, the life we deserve, the life we have, by simply going beyond our fear and opening to the present.

In order to do this, we don’t need to buy anything special, own anything special or be with that special someone.  We simply learn to be alone, with ourselves, mindful of the details of our life. Through manual application of mindfulness and self compassion, we learn to develop natural confidence.  In time, we allow our fear based mind to relax and lower the walls so we can come out and play.  By waking up to the present, we take hold of our life.  In order to do this, we need to work with the fear that triggers us into patterns that keeps us imprisoned in our own minds.

I’ve been thinking about Sakyong Mipham’s teachings on fear. How, in order to be fearless, we actually need fear. How we get into trouble, again and again, by trying to run from fear. I’ve been re-committing to the purpose of NOT abandoning myself simply because I get anxious. I’ve been thinking that every time I want to check out, I can retrain myself to instead check back in. Simply that. To stay with myself. My best friend. So, with the spring comes a new resolution: to stay and regain authority in my life. I want to lean in to how life feels and to learn to deepen the connection to myself.

And no, I’m not talking about building the ego. I’m suggesting that when we choose to remain in our own space, grounded in the actuality of our present experience, we are actually boycotting ego states. Ego states are predicated on denying our present experience in favor of a patterned scenario. Ego states are exit strategies for when the edges become too sharp and we feel threatened. The irony is, by retreating into these defensive states, we are not defending ourselves at all. In fact, as we lack awareness, we are far more vulnerable. We are cut off from what is going on and what is going in. And, like a country under martial law, our access to reality is seriously compromised; we hear only what we’ve been told many times before. This process actually erodes confidence.

And, by abandoning ourselves – our body and our present moment – we abandon the very link that connects us to our life.

Conversely, by staying present, we become more confident in our experience and actually reduce the need to retreat. We can actually lean in to the sense of being threatened. We can learn to train ourselves to look into the fear, as a way of working with our fear. So, rather than run from fear, I want to look into the mind of fearfulness with loving kindness. I want to become my own best friend and throw my arms around myself in encouragement. And, instead of abandoning my fearful mind, I want to take it with me into the present so it can enjoy this life.

So, I’ve decided to remind myself daily to come back to my body, and my present experience. Every time we want to run and retreat into some story, lock ourselves back in our room, or not show up for life, we can redirect the impulse and come back to the present. In this way, we are with actual feelings happening now.  In other words, we have opened to the present. Once we connect to the body and what it is presently feeling and sensing, we open to life simply and without expectation. Then we see life as it is, exhilarating, boring, challenging and scary as heck, but so worth the effort. And each time when we fail to check out, but instead, resolve to check in with ourselves, we can open to the world with natural confidence.

Then we may discover ourselves blooming in the light of another spring.