trust, connection, and the long walk home

I recently set an intention to work on trust- more specifically, trust that the universe is always bringing me whatever knowledge or experience I need. So this morning when I was emailed an article about relationships serving as a mirror reflecting parts of our soul, I wasn’t surprised that these words were perfectly what I needed to read, and at the perfect time. I haven’t blogged in a while, but as I remember the interconnectedness of our human experiences, I’m reminded the importance of sharing.

I’ll be honest and reveal something I’m not particularly proud of… lately I’ve found myself complaining A LOT about behaviors in my partner; “Brian is this, Brian does this, I wish Brian were more this.”  What I’m really not proud of is that with this has also came an irrational blaming him for my own challenges. I’ve found myself putting a lot of energy into ideas of “if Brian were more this, then my situation or my behavior would be more that”, and not taking responsibility for my own behavior or choices.

As I read this article, it hit me that every time I’d pinpointed a behavior or quality in Brian that I disliked or felt like rejecting, what I was really doing was taking a quality I’m not particularly pleased with in myself, or something I’d like to shift away from, and putting it on him. It’s a lot easier to reject the qualities of another person because we can distance ourselves from them, but it’s impossible to escape those qualities in ourselves. Instead we have to witness them, sit uncomfortably with them, and do the hard work to grow. I don’t know about you, but for me complaining about another person’s behaviors is a lot easier than taking a hard look at myself, and it takes a lot less courage.

Even as I realize that part of me has been really pushing against making internal shifts by trying to control the external, I’m realizing something beautiful. If we are open to seeing it, we’re drawn to people who if can show us the next step in our soul’s journey, especially if we shift from rejecting behaviors we don’t like to being curious. As they say, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”. In every human interaction, we are offered an opportunity to expand. When I slow down to trust the perfectness of each moment, I realize that each person that comes in or out of my life served a higher purpose- and I hope that some quality in me offers them the same opportunity. We are drawn to others who embody qualities of ourselves we are ready to work with, and usually at the exact moment our soul needs them. I love this, because it reminds me that even those who ‘rub me the wrong way’ are serving a purpose, and that the relationships that end do so because I and they have learned the divine lesson that our interaction served.

I think it works in the opposite way as well- not only do we struggle with judging the behaviors of others that reflects our own inner challenge, but I feel like we are drawn to those who embody who we’d like to be- for example, we are drawn to a dare devil because we’d like to start taking more risks, to the artist because we’d like to open to our own creativity, or the free spirit because we want to learn to let go. We are able to see our own abilities and undiscovered strengths in this person, and suddenly we want to spend as much time with this person as possible.  Maybe we hope in being near them we’ll absorb those qualities through osmosis, but the truth is… all of these things are already within us,  and it’s up to us to bring them forth. This person is here to show us not who we could be, but that even if it’s buried under a few layers, who we already are.

My friend recently shared a Ram Dass quote, “We are all just walking each other home.” I love this. Each encounter we have is an opportunity for our one soul to meet itself, to remember our wholeness, and to shed the layers that disconnect us from one another and return to the divine energy that we are made of. To everyone I’ve met and will meet, the souls I share the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of this human life with, thank you for walking me home.

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heart shaped glasses, hoarding, and infinity.

I’m sorry to be a Valentine’s Day cliche, but I find myself thinking about love.  I imagine this is what you are thinking… Ohhhhh, love as a topic in February, how VERY original, ughhhhh Jenny, c’mon… but before  you think I’m high on sugar from chocolate hearts, let me say… today I’m not thinking about the romantic, “I want to run off into the sunset” kind of love.  I’m thinking instead of the Namaste “the divine in me honors the divine in you” unconditional kind of love.  The love that lets us recognize the soul connection we have with all others.  This love is the love that transforms, that invents us, that sets us free… and we don’t need a greeting card or chocolate to give or receive it.

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A student gave me these last year on Valentine’s Day; heart shaped glasses made of construction paper and red saran wrap.  I’m not embarrassed to say they are one of my most prized possessions; worth more to me than any expensive gifts I’ve received, because as I look at them, I remember how much I learned about love from that class of 4th graders.  My heart grew about 40 sizes bigger during the time I worked with the youth in East Dayton; every moment was an opportunity to understand what it meant to live in my heart.

Don’t get me wrong… last year the week before Valentine’s day, I think my internal dialogue went something like this; “Oh NOOOO, I’m single and it’s awful because I don’t get flowers!!!   WHO is going to buy me something made of chocolate? Waaaah, boohoo, I’m lonely, waaaaaahhhhh. ”   And instead of wanting to give anyone sweets, I jealously listened to the person I had feelings for talk about his girlfriend and felt an almost uncontrollable urge to nail him in the eye with a candy heart.  In other words, I was feeling neither loved nor loving.   

But a funny thing happened when I walked in the classroom at work the afternoon of Valentine’s day; I watched as the kids exchanged cards not with one person but with everyone in the class, and then they started showering me with cards too.  They filled each other’s desks with Sponge Bob valentines, Disney valentines, Justin Beiber valentines…cards, candy, stickers, and love.    I was blissed out not only because they had filled my purse with the same tokens of affection and decorated my arms with some super stylish temporary tattoo hearts, but because watching them love each other had woke me up.  My silly adult brain thought I needed to have a Valentine, and these brilliant kids reminded that love isn’t reserved for one person, it’s a way of being.  Love isn’t a thing we do, or a word we share, it’s a fire that’s bright and alive in each one of our souls, and we are all here to fan each others flames.

When we were kids, we didn’t scramble to find a date on Valentine ’s Day, and we didn’t give a card to just one person.  Instead, we bought a box of our favorite cartoon or TV show character themed cards, and we shared that thing we loved with every single person we knew.  Whether it was a piece of chalk flavored candy that said “Call Me” in almost illegible red letters or a lopsided construction paper heart, we gave a token of our love to every kid in our class, we gave one to our teacher, we gave them to our parents… we showered everyone in our kid-sized universe with love.  We realized that love wasn’t something we give in small amounts to a select few, but something that we can and should share with everyone.     

Then we got older, and we started to only share that love with ‘special’ people, with the people we were most fond of.  Eventually, maybe we started believing that we should probably only use the word love with our boyfriend or girlfriend and family.  That love was something we could only share if it was returned, we certainly didn’t offer affection to people we didn’t know, nor did we share love with those who hurt us.   We started believing a myth; that love is something we have a limited amount of to give, and that we should hold onto it until we found the right person to share our love with.  We became love hoarders!

So when my student gave me these glasses, I think he was on to something.  We used to see everyone through heart shaped glasses, and we gave our love freely.  This morning, I went to a new spiritual center, in a new place, and I was that stranger, the lonely person who didn’t know anyone.  Yet, at the end of service, we sang Love is All There Is, and as I looked to my left and my right, I realized that I wasn’t a stranger, nor were these new people beside me, but that we all had one thing in common; the ability to love.  And in that moment, I loved those ‘strangers’ as much as I love my family, my friends, and my boyfriend.  And all day I’ve been buzzing, nourished by the unrestricted love that allows us to look at a stranger a someone we know as ourselves, the love that allows us to not just know on a cognitive level, but to feel in our soul that separation is an illusion.  

And not to discredit my lovely boyfriend, who I’m sure will do something creatively romantic for me on the 14th, but I think he’s going to have to share.  Because, I’d like to be everyone’s Valentine, and while I can’t send over 7 billion cards (with adorable puppies on them- my 4th grade valentine of choice!), I can share my words and act each moment from my heart.  As one of my dear friends reminded me today, infinite and unconditional love like that has to be shared, because the love that reminds us how connected we all are…  that is love that will change the world.

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To see myself in everybody, and everybody in myself, most certainly is love. – Nisargadatta Maharaj