TrueHeartWork | Thich Nhat Hanh
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Thich Nhat Hanh Tag

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Thinking makes it so―Mercury Retrograde―December 3rd to December 24th

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“What time has ever been a simple time for those who are living it?” asks author Elizabeth Gilbert in her novel, Committed. And yet, as news rushes through the tendrils of technology, flooding our nervous systems, squatting for days and weeks in our divided minds, this time, for most of us living in it, is knotted with perplexing complexity and information overload. The old ways are not working any longer yet for so many of us, nothing seems clear or certain in a world where plastic grows like a cancer in our oceans and human populations bloom like algae. Where what seemed sure and certain empties into the unknown.

On December 3rd, Mercury began its last Retrograde cycle for this year (December 3rd-24th.)

In the nuanced language of astrology, the planets describe the quality of experience we  assimilate and express. A Retrograde Mercury asks us to be patient and tenacious in the face of delays or obstacles, and amidst the ceaseless clamorous chatter, to “remember what peace there may be in silence.”

Patience and the commitment are carelessly tossed aside in the distractions of the times we live in. Yet in the North, Nature withdraws, retires inwards and waits patiently for spring’s Resurrection. Colours empty into shades of grey and stark skeletal branches pierce through the low lidded sky. In the South, shards of sunlight shatter the blue-sky dome with a radiance that saturates the secret life of rocks and trees. Shimmering light sweeps across the ocean sprinkling daubs of dancing silver over the crests of the waves, rendering us drunk with light, satiated with heat, immobilised, enervated.  Time quivers and expands.2370c600ab2525602f92996176404e54

This time of the year may bring endings, the potential of new beginnings. It may bring the polarity of choice that skewers us in indecision.

Between the retraction of Winter or the swelter of Summer, the way forward may not yet be clear. We may have to be still. We may have to wait.

Astrological Mercury embodies eons of symbolism that can be traced to the Babylonian, Chaldean, Egyptian mythology and religious systems. A strongly placed Mercury in your birth chart enhances your ability to be humorous and charming. Mercury is the teacher, the comedian, the net worker, the communicator, the trickster who brings lightness and laughter and a new perspective to our world. Mercury is also associated with Thoth, the Egyptian god of healing and fertility and it is with our words that we can heal, with our words that we can birth new possibilities.

The Retrograde cycle of Mercury occurs three times every year and moves through the elements of fire, air, earth and water, in a procession across the zodiac, alerting us the rhythm of inner reflection that is needed for a more conscious experience of living. Mercury’s realm is magical trans-formation. He was the god of cross-roads and times of transition. Mercury was the only god who travelled back and forth from the Underworld.

Mercury is an important planet in our birth chart, signifying how we access information from the unconscious as we silence the chatter of our mind. In these Mercury Retrograde cycles, our perceptions may shift, igniting the creative process, birthing brilliant ideas.

Right now, we are all, on some level, experiencing a Mercury Retrograde cycle in the fiery sign of Sagittarius, which is a sign associated with our beliefs about the world. Sagittarius is about expanding our awareness, learning something new, perceiving with new eyes.

fire-2837843_960_720Mercury harmonises its energy with Saturn (November 28th December 9th and again from January 11th 15th)  and as this calendar year hurries to an end, we may feel a sense of moving through treacle, sucked down by obstacles when everything around us is moving so fast. As Saturn and Mercury, hang low in the molten evening skies, there’s a deeper message contained here, said so simply by the Buddhist monk, Haemin Sunim: When everything around me is moving so fast, I stop and ask, “is it the world that’s busy, or is it my mind?”

Saturn is often connected with the law of karma and Mercury is about our perception. When these two energies combine in the heavens we return to the inner sanctum of our thoughts, that very private, personal space where linear time dissolves. We may choose to revisit the past, to follow the sweet scent of nostalgia to rest in unchangeable memories of someone we loved with all our heart. We may decide to clear away a tenacious thought that clings like a burr, repelling our peace in the still dark hours just before the dawn.

“Don’t let the hand you hold hold you down,” wrote the poet, Julia de Burgos. The simplicity of this statement may have a resonance for those of us who still hold the hand of an old hurt, a fearful thought, a limiting core belief.

Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” said the Bard. Nothing exists until we become aware of it. It’s the awareness of our minds that births the world we see into being. It’s our perception that makes the time we live in simple, or painfully fraught.  All it takes is a conscious shift in perception to see a new world, a promised land, a world where we can anchor in Faith, trust in the process of  Life itself. “Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature”, says Thich Nhat Hanh.

3ff8b87dfdae59ca145c6e7a23d5fc0bToday, let’s bring new vision, self-reflection, and healing to our thoughts and to the  words we speak. Today, let’s be mindful that we do have a choice to re-write our signature, clearly and simply.

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Trojan Horses 12

Here It Is

Trojan Horse 3I met an old lady once, almost a hundred years old, and she told me, there are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who’s in charge―Elizabeth Gilbert

We sprinkle the word, empowerment like brown sugar over the snowy dome of a frothy latté. Popular self-help books and magazines deliver fast-fix formulae and labels that hook like velcro—Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. Here it is—in bedrooms, boardrooms, in political power-plays, the subtext is: How much do you love me? Who’s in charge?

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The words we use to fight our personal Waterloos so often keep us mired in rigid roles. Our unexamined beliefs about other people’s pre-digested ideas surgically clamp our happiness and self-esteem.

 

We speak of empowering ourselves. Yet, so often standing up for what we believe is right and putting our partner down are part of an outmoded belief that power struggles and relationships are inseparable. How much do you love me? You emotionally disabledco-dependent, narcissist? (Narcissism is a clinical personality disorder that affects a small percentage—one to three, say some sources—of the population.)

In the war about who’s right and who’s wrong, how much you love me and who’s in charge, there’s no room for relationship. Says psychologist, Terry Real, “proving just how right you are can be a tough temptation to walk away from. But relationship grown-ups understand that being right is not the real point. Finding a solution is.”

In his book, The New Rules of Marriage, Real writes, “letting go of the need to be right is a core principle of relationship empowerment: learning to live a non-violent life. Non-violent between you and others. Non-violent between your ears. Scolding your partner as if you were his mother, passing judgement on him, humiliating him. These are all forms of psychological violence.”

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Our expectations of relationships have changed exponentially. As we step beyond the confines of the old paradigms of gender based homemaker/breadwinner, women and our men and want intimacy—emotionally, sexually, intellectually and physically. Yet in our patriarchal culture, intimacy is relegated to the feminine principle. Mostly it’s women who embark upon Heroine’s Quest to better their lack lustre relationships. We buy the books and sign up for online offerings. We make the appointments for couples’ counselling.

And yet, so many of us still vacillate between becoming shrilly empowered and/or resigned to the “emotionally disabled” man from Mars. We complain about the state the world is in and continue to pollute our own relationship quantum field with words that nick and scratch and lodge in the sanctum of our lover’s heart.

1190.1“We always marry someone with the purpose of finishing our childhood,” says psychologist Harville Hendrix. And we’re unconsciously drawn to people who will guarantee a re-enactment of the old, familiar relationship dynamics we grew up with.

 

Our challenge is to rewire our brain circuitry with words that heal old wounds.

The astrological Retrograde cycle of Mercury occurs three times every year and moves through the elements of fire, air, earth and water in a procession across the zodiac, alerting us the rhythm of inner reflection that is needed for a more conscious experience of living. Mercury’s realm is magical trans-formation. He was the god of cross-roads and times of transition. Mercury was the only god who travelled back and forth from the Underworld.  stop

Astrological Mercury embodies eons of symbolism that can be traced to the Babylonian, Chaldean, Egyptian mythology and religious systems. A strongly placed Mercury in your birth chart enhances your ability to be humourous and charming. Mercury is the teacher, the comedian, the networker, the communicator, the trickster who brings lightness and laughter and a new perspective to our world. Mercury is also associated with Thoth, the Egyptian god of healing and fertility and it is with our words that we can heal, with our words that we can birth new possibilities. Mercury is an important planet in our birth chart, as he brings information from the unconscious. In these Mercury Retrograde cycles, our perceptions may shift, igniting the creative process, birthing brilliant ideas.Stand by me 1

Right now, we are all, on some level, experiencing a Mercury Retrograde cycle in the fiery sign of Aries—From April 25th to May 11 th , Mercury conjoins Uranus. The planet, Uranus is associated with upheaval, sudden change and with innovation—the Tower card in Tarot. So, our intuition, vision, innovation may be heightened at best. Our reptile brain reactivity may be on full alert at worst—the kind of reactivity based on that old lady’s beliefs about relationship.

Trojan Horses 6Mercury’s Retrograde cycle is an opportunity to be honest with our selves about our style of relating, the part we play in polluting our relationship space. So, how do we conceal our own vulnerability behind the cement wall of intractable beliefs about our partner? How do we own our wants and desires? How do we listen? How do we set boundaries and assert ourselves? How do we back off generously? How do we embrace and accept the relationship we have? How do we actively champion our partner and our relationship?

woman on a road“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature”, says Thich Nhat Hanh. Today, let’s bring new vision, self-reflection and healing to our words. Today, we have a choice to re-write our signature.

Here It Is ~ Leonard Cohen & Sharon Robinson

 

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Sea of Air

little boy peepingToday I heard a famous man ask his wife, “How did I do?” Her smile was received by his eyes only. The nod of her head, indiscernible to the sea of faces in the room, her whispered, “Wonderful!” dissolved in the air that shimmered with applause.

Inside us the little girl or boy seeks comfort, validation, perhaps approval. Certainly love and acceptance. “Am I OK? Do you love me? Did I do something wrong?” As adults we may hunger and thirst for these words: You matter to me. I appreciate your uniqueness. I love you.

And yet what if we can’t get the love and acceptance we yearn for? What if, despite our best (conscious) intention, our belief in the formulaic “The Secret”, our prayers of supplication, we don’t get the love we want in the way that we want it? What if the support we need from our colleague, the recognition and praise we yearn for from our boss, seems to leave us hungry for more? What if we spend the rest of our lives floating adrift on a sea of air, not waving but drowning?girl at window in winter

 

In the 1970s we were collectively “ready” to accept the notion of “the Wounded Child Archetype” as used by self-help movement pioneer, John Bradshaw.  Robert Bly wrote in A Little Book on the Human Shadow, “When we were one or two years old we had what we might visualise as a 360-degree personality. Energy radiated out from all parts of the body and all parts of our psyche. A child running is a living globe of energy…but one day we noticed that our parents didn’t like certain parts of that ball. They said things like, “can’t you be still?” Or “It isn’t nice to want to kill your brother.” Behind us we have an invisible bag, and the part of us our parents don’t like, we, to keep our parent’s love, put it in the bag… by the time my brother and I were twelve …we were known as “the nice Bly boys.” Our bags were already a mile long.”

Modern psychology tends to favour the disease model and focus on our experience of suffering. It is enormously helpful to our own soul’s evolution and certainly eases out some of the Gordian Knots in our relationships when we heal the wounded child within with gentleness, compassion and understanding. And most certainly, it’s in the shadowy world of the unconscious that we find our richest treasure, our own redemption. As Jung wrote, we “do not become enlightened by imaging figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.” But like most children who are indulged with too many sugary platitudes and left to run the household while  parents cower and hide behind their incessant demands, our Wounded Child may grow up to be a tyrannical “ Wounded Brat” says teacher and author Caroline Myss acerbically.

family on the moveIn an interview back in 1997 she admonished: “How long are you going to waste the precious gift of life mourning over the fact that you didn’t have this perfect childhood, when in fact nobody has a perfect childhood?

At some point you’ve got to say to yourself, I’ve got to get over this because I’m wasting my adulthood. Many people are waiting. They have confused healing with becoming perfect and with making their life perfect. Until they reach that state of perfection they aren’t moving on, that is nonsense. It is this kind of attitude I really cannot support anymore. I tell people, get rid of your wishbone and get a backbone. It’s time to really move forward with strength instead of identifying yourself by your weaknesses and your wounds.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, in his beautiful book, Reconciliation, Healing the Inner Child adopts a more compassionate approach. He suggests that we talk tenderly to our inner child several times a day. “When you climb a beautiful mountain, invite your child to climb with you. When you contemplate the sunset, invite her to enjoy it with you. If you do that for a few weeks or a few months, the wounded child in you will experience healing.”

So in our own healing we heal generations of our ancestors and our descendants. In moving forward in life with strength and fortitude, in focusing less on the Wounded Child and more on the Magical Child we may find comfort and joy in our own creativity, our Core Aliveness in our resilience.

Backbones not wishbones. Caroline Myss calls for action, not procrastination or wallowing in Victim consciousness. So how would that look?  Perhaps we start something new to signal a new cycle of growth in our life. Perhaps we focus on gratitude for what is right in our world instead of continually lamenting what is wrong. Perhaps we leave a relationship where two Wounded Children huddle together and moan and whine and expect some one, something, outside themselves to make things better for them. Perhaps it is not another human being who is the surrogate parent who dispenses the love, the validation and the support we crave. Perhaps we spend more time in silence, tuning out the babble and the brouhaha and find out how to truly love and value ourselves.

Chogyam Trungpa taught the practice of the awakened heart. “The genuine heart of sadness” which he said was natural to us all when we allow ourselves to receive the full experience of life with open hearts. It is in this “genuine heart of sadness” that we discover our repressed grief, our forgotten anger, our thin shard of shame,our intoxicating joy and our boundless capacity to Love.

Portugal. The Man – Sea of AirimagesDPOO8O92

 

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Wonderful Life

Do you sometimes feel you are living your life like a hamster on a wheel? You wake up, go to work, wonder where the week went? Do you feel as if your wild self has been domesticated, harnessed by duties, demands, dos and don’ts? That the moments of happiness are fleeting clouds that scud across the surface of your life?

It takes a strong wind of change to topple us from the high wire of our sleepwalking lives. A fragment of conversation that comes to us, like the fragrance of sweet jasmine. A book, a song, an interview on YouTube which invites us back to a deeper place where we embrace our Wholeheartedness. Something quite unexpected that reminds us that Life is mysterious.And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet.

I have just read Dying to be Me, Anita Moorjani’s story of the “terminal lymphoma” which ravaged her body for four painful years. Anita was rushed to hospital, her vital organs suddenly silent. Like Snow White, in her glass coffin, Anita lay in a coma. Her doctor told her grief-stricken family that she had only a few hours to live. Anita describes the near death experience (NDE) that brought an instant release of the fear that was stifling her life force. In her profoundly moving account of what she learnt after returning to her body, she delivers a simple message to the world. It is a message we have heard, but not heeded, for centuries.  It is the one thing we all find so difficult to really do: To Love OURSELVES unconditionally. To step out of our own way, and let things flow.

Yet, who is the Self we must love? And how do we nurture and love this Self if we have tasted only neglect, or blame, even cruelty, in our families of origin? How do we love ourselves with gentleness and compassion, if we don’t know how? If our core belief is that we are unworthy, that life is hard or dangerous? How do we soften, how do we love fearlessly if our instincts are blunted, our hearts shielded protectively?

We live in a Petri dish of fear in the West.  We fear the sun, we fear growing fat. We fear losing our loved ones, we fear losing our source of income. We fear old age, we fear death. We fear love. We fight AIDS, we support “Cancer Prevention” campaigns, we take out insurance, invest our money in hospital plans, bolster our sense of safety with imaginary security – money in the bank, stocks and shares – our beliefs are fuelled by lack and aspiration. Like automatons we march with the tribe mind to the drum beat of fear and competition. We juice, read self-help books, exercise, go for regular medical check-ups, but if we cannot truly love and honour ourselves, we sit passively on the Ferris wheel of life, vaguely aware that the interludes of happiness are ephemeral. Round and round we go, living in the past, living in the future, never in the Now.

Anita Moorjani says she believes that her cancer manifested in her body because of her enormous fear of living.  Now she wakes in the morning and asks herself, why am I choosing to be alive today? And she lives from that perspective, in self-love.

So we may experience ourselves in illness or in lack. We may lose our way in the labyrinth of our seriousness. Our minds may be filled with discord, dissonance. We may entangle ourselves in the straining and resisting we call stress. Meister Eckhardt said that “when the soul wishes to experience something she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image”. Beneath our Promethean thrust to discover, analyse, grasp, we blind ourselves with the glare of our stolen fire to the brilliance of the Light with ourselves. Like Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, has been there all the time. So, all we can do is to be very gentle with ourselves, find the humour in our grumpiness, our acting out, our blaming others –  ourselves. Until we decide not to. We can waken to a new day. Remember that we are all part of a magnificent mandala of creation. Look deeply today.

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

Extract from “Call Me By My True Names – Thich Nhat Hanh.

Dying to be Me

Artwork by Emelisa Mudle

Wonderful Life

 

 

 

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