These are the random thoughts that I caught on my voice recorder while cooking dinner. I am tempted to share the recording and you can hear pots and pans and food sizzling in the background.
Have you ever heard somebody say, "they are all just experiences"? That is true. Everything in life is just a neutral experience. It is only our limited, human, brain that defines an experience as a good experience or a bad experience. We search to give every experience a meaning, to categorize it, to define it, put it someplace where we can refer to it over and over again. In which case, it becomes part of our story - the joy we had or the heartache we experienced or the stress or the sadness or whatever emotion we chose to put in that experience and then create a story about.
But when you go back to the actual event or the actual moment, all it was was an experience. And, if just because, at that moment, it was not the experience you desired, it wasn't the outcome you wanted in that moment, we have a tendency to take the experience and define it as something not positive or not good, and that is where the damage begins. The damage starts when we interpret our experience in some sort of a judgmental fashion - good, bad, I was betrayed, I was hurt, they were out to get me, etc. When in reality, all the experience is is just an experience. And how we feel about the experience is simply a choice. And, at any moment, we can change how we feel about the experience. We can make a different choice about the experience.
I think of some of the people I have met who have had some experiences that I found find very difficult and painful. Yet, they tell beautiful stories from these experiences. They talk of these experiences from the perspective of the gift it gave them. Yet, the actual event or experience, has not changed. But their perspective and the story they have told about the experience changes the experience so greatly that it changes the outcomes they have in their life; what they do and who they are as a person.
One of the most profound experience I had with this experience is when I did a weekend meditation workshop. I went in with a firm belief and a number of stories that supported this belief. And, somewhere, during one of the meditations, I realized, the story I had been telling was 100% false. It was such a big, fat lie. You know when you tell yourself a lie that is so big it changes how you walk, how you talk, how you act, and what you do. This was one of those! And, all of a sudden, I saw all my past stories around this belief as completely false. It is the weirdest experience. It is like KNOWING that the world is flat and then finding out that it is in fact round. Now, I had had many people tell me over the years that my belief system and my stories were inaccurate, but I could not see it. I really thought, "they do not really know". I did not understand how they did not understand how terrible this was. And, so it made me feel more lonely because I felt like the people who loved me the most, did not get me. In reality, I did not get me. They saw me perfectly clearly. I was the one with blinders on. I did not understand the perfection of everything that was going on around me.
And, to be honest, to this day, I do not see the specific gift of every single one of those experiences, some of which I defined as painful. What I do see is that every one of them put me on a path. And, I do see that the horrible, terrible, no good story, I made up about them, is completely false. And, some of the experiences that I had labeled as so terrible, that by simply thinking about them for a second or driving by the Starbucks where it started, etc, I could be in tears in seconds. Out of nowhere, crying, remembering this traumatic event. It is very different now... I see it was never traumatic. The only thing that was traumatic was the intensely traumatic story I told about the event. The other day I was in DC and by total happenstance drove by the Starbucks where I met someone that ended up in a hurtful fight. And, I kind of chuckled. As I was getting close to the Starbucks, I wondered if I would cry or be upset. And, instead, I looked at it, and it just looked like a Starbucks. It is hard to explain but this was an auto-cry response, I avoided this part of town, and now, it is not a good memory, it is just a memory - not good or bad.
I have learned to understand, and trust, and believe, that every experience is leading me to where I need to be. This is so true and so powerful and so impactful in my life, that I have chosen that this is the truth for me. And, overall I have seen that this is the truth for me - everything that happens to me serves my greatest good. On a side note, I could have chosen to believe something completely different and I would have the reality to match that. I could choose to believe, I am alone. I am unsupported. Life is hard. And, my reality would match that.
I know you all know these concepts already. How well are all of us really living this? Whatever experience you are having today - health, with a child or partner, job experience, financial experience. Have you defined it as good or bad? Have you told a story about it? When it happened, did you say, "This always happens to me. This is just my luck. I don't know why I am surprised?" How committed are you to choosing to see this experience as a neutral experience as opposed to a good or bad thing that you have to deal with or manage or cope with? We know our perception and how we see the world changes the world around us. If you have not experienced this, I offer you this opportunity, to change your perspective and then watch "facts" and "reality" change to meet your new perspective. Say, "I am always supported." And, then think of all the ways this is true, and then watch, as more support shows up in your life.
When you have this experience of "reality" changing to meet your new story, we call this a miracle. There is no way, I knew this was not possible, there was no way this could have happened, and yet it did. It is a miracle. The miracle came because you chose to look at the situation with a different perspective. You chose to drop your label of the experience and see it for what it is, an experience without judgment and without a story. That makes room for the miracle. This is a very powerful concept and a powerful practice. Changing your perspective about anything in your life, is very powerful; about a person, an event, or job, etc.
I don't want to sound like, "hey just change your perspective." Like it is that easy (though, it really can be in many cases) in some it takes more of practice. It is clear and simple, but simple is not always easy. There is "work" required to change your perspective. The "work" is to keep returning to this practice of willing to see the situation in front of you differently; willing to see it as an experience without judgment. Michael Singer wrote an entire book about this called, The Surrender Experiment. Just like if someone says to lose weight just give up gluten, dairy and sugar. That is simple. But to do it takes some amount of "work". Go easy on yourself as you take on this practice. If we knew how to do this at all times, we would. In a moment, it is not always easy to know how to change your perspective.
The way I learned to do this is through having a Coach. I have people in my life who can see a series of events and see the story I am telling about it and in a moment give me a perspective that is so different then the perspective I am having, that it will completely change my experience. That is the benefit of having a coach. They can see in that moment what does not seem available to you. It is like if I tell you, "you are on the wrong TV channel, change the channel." Well, you know how to use a remote, you get that peace will come from changing the channel. But, which channel? Which channel has that peace? Do you go to another channel that is almost identical to the channel you are on? Or, a channel that is even more terrifying than the channel you are on (which is what happens when we talk about the event/experience with most of our friends). What if I told you, "No, go to the opposite channel than the channel you are on". That is more guidance but not enough to know where to go. You need someone to tell you, "You are on this channel which causes these thoughts, feelings, beliefs and story. What you want, is this channel, this is the show, this is what is happening... see the difference in what you are thinking, feeling and believing on this channel?"
There are a lot of ways to have the experience of changing your perspective. For some it can be connecting to nature, for some it is doing a spiritual pilgrimage, a vipassana, walking the Camino de Santiago, others it is a life event. For me, I gained it through working with a Coach in a defined spiritual curriculum. Here is the basic way to do it to get started, Ask. Ask to be shown something different. Ask for a change of perspective. Ask for God, A Higher Power, Your Higher Self to show you a different perspective.
To summarize, keep your experiences as neutral as you can and ask for a change of perspective when you feel your experience is not positive. Ask to be shown the experience in a different light. This, my friends, is the work. My wish for you is that you see everything in the light of love that truly exists and not in the darkness and confusion that gets associated with the word, "reality".
We had an office party and they randomly drew names for holiday gifts. These gifts were displayed during the entire luncheon and I spotted a Hallmark Snowman, whose arms were made with real tree branches. I was in love with this little snowman, and in line with my personality, I told everyone at the party that I was going to win it. I just felt it. Well, I did not win the snowman.
I was on the training team and because we were so small we shared office space with the technical team, which was also fairly small. From a work perspective, we were about as opposite as it gets. The technical team liked to sit quietly and not interact with others, where the training team was made up of people with bubbly personalities interacting with many people each day. My manager (the training team) and the manager of the technical team got along really well so we often times did joint team events, happy hours, etc. Well, the manager of the technical team won the snowman. He was not present that day, so I took charge of the snowman and left it for him on his desk with a note about how lucky he was and how much he totally deserved to win. While I was sad I had not won it, I was genuinely over the moon happy for him. At the time, I would not have spent the money on something like that for myself. I would not have thought it was a good use of money… I have changed quite a bit from those days.
The next morning, I got into work really early to get a head start and as I approached my cubicle saw that the snowman was sitting on my desk! Attached to it was a post it note that asked that I take care of it and make sure it has a good home and the note ended with the most beautiful quote that not only have I never forgotten, but has shaped so much of my life. “We make a living by what we earn, but we make a life by what we give.” Since that day, every time I see the snowman (yup, it’s on my bed in my parents’ house), I remember the power of giving.
The advice I give to everyone when they are feeling sad, depressed, lonely or just less than... go do something kind for someone else. There is a magic in giving. There is a fulfillment that comes from knowing that today, for this moment, your life and who-you-really-are touched another person and made their life a tiny bit better, or happier, or more fulfilled. Be the gift that everyone so desperately desires these days. And, what you will see, is that As you give, so shall you receive. And, that your life becomes richer and sweeter when you give to others.
Principle #6 & #7 of Chapter 1 of ACIM: Miracles are natural. When they do not occur, something has gone wrong. Miracles are everyone's right, but purification is necessary first.
Once you realize that Miracles is the normal way of life, you realize the importance of the peace practice. We are all entitled to miracles at all times. We are all entitled to things "working out" in the best way possible, all of the time. The only reason we do not "get" those outcomes is be...cause we have not worked our own muscles to see that what is happening right now is a miracle.
Take any moment of your life. A good, bad, ugly, bitter, sweet, kind, mean moment. Anything that is presently happening and say, "I choose to see this as a miracle. I choose to see this differently that I am currently seeing it." We give everything in our lives meaning. We are the ones that put labels on it. In reality, every moment is a miracle that is occuring. We must only have "the eyes to see" as Ming says.
Today, I sit on my perch in the kitchen, watching a handful of snow flurries whisk around in the wind to write my first ever post about death and dying. It is a topic that I have somewhat avoided, not because I am afraid of it, but because I have always felt that I have not experienced it well enough to actually speak of it. Right after HS, I had a dear friend commit suicide. I could not go to the funeral. I could not see his family, his girlfriend or even my other friends. I pretended it did not happen. To this day, I do not know where he is buried, though, I have done a number of internet searches, still too scared to ask anyone who was close to him. I never paid my final respects. In college, I had a friend who lost her mother. I could not imagine how she could cope and yet, I watched her just be her. We went out to dinner and watched movies and I sat with her as she teared up recounting stories of her mom. All of this in the same day - she just continued being herself, different yet also the same. In my 20's, I had a friend whose younger brother was sick and I watched him cope - he was angry, he was stressed, he stepped up to make decisions, he checked out, he laughed, he made jokes... all the while he was just himself. A few years ago, I had a childhood friend pass away. I so want to tell you all the story. I feel it was an absolute tragedy; a horrible story that engrosses you. However, I decided long ago to never tell that story again, because then her life becomes about the story of her death and she somehow gets lost. Instead, I will tell you that we spent hours together trying different shades of lip gloss so we could be ready for our first kiss - her with her crush, me with mine. For both of us, our first kisses came much later in life, but at the precious age of 13, we were sure they would happen any minute and we were going to be prepared.
Her death and funeral was a turning point in my life. Up until then, I avoided funerals. In Islam, we have a tradition of going to people's house after someone dies and saying a prayer with the family to offer condolences. I avoided this practice as well. I always thought, if it were me, I would just want to be left alone, not have a bunch of folks (some I barely know) come over and "talk" about the person who just left. It felt like some terrible form of torture. The prayers, yes... but people could do those at home. By the time my friend had passed, I had already immersed myself in a spiritual path and I realized, she is not really gone. Yes, she is gone from the physical world. But, she is not gone. The day I found out, I went to the beach and talked to her spirit as I watched the sunset. The next day, I walked a labyrinth and she spoke to me asking me to do certain things for her at the funeral and I honored her request. I showed up at the funeral as if I was showing up to a party I had been looking forward for for years. I met all her friends, I chatted with everyone, I laughed, I hugged, I cried. I was so present in a way that I have not been present in ages. I was totally present for every moment. When there was an opportunity to see her body, I passed. That was not my friend, that was her outer layer, an outfit she wore. My friend is still with me. I see her all the time as yellow butterfly. When I thought of her a yellow butterfly appeared for quite some time. Shortly after her death, there was another tragedy (for us here on earth) in this story, and I don't see the butterflies anymore. I don't think it is because she is no longer with me, I think it is because she is so fulfilled where she is that she is having too much fun to come visit as much now.
The experience of seeing her entire funeral as such a beautiful, loving, present, spiritual experience, helped me for the loss that was to come. Last year, my Grandmother passed away. I was so happy about it. I really was. She was a bigger-than-life woman who was unable to feed or care for herself in any way. Years earlier, her life had become a day long TV watching on the couch, experience. As long as she was able to go for her daily walk, I knew she was still good. Once that ended, I thought, this is torture. I would have asked God to have mercy on her and end her suffering on earth, except for my mother, who was up until the last moment, so devoted to her. I believe she stayed for my Mom. And, when my Mom (and her other kids) were able to let her go, she transitioned peacefully in her sleep. I was the second person to see her after she passed and my mom joined soon after. She looked so beautiful and at such peace that I had no desire to cry. I had a desire to smile and gratitude came over me. Her funeral was a beautiful tribute to her life and the people who came and their stories were amazing. At no point did I feel sad. I know she is not only with me, but also in me. I wore her wedding earrings at my wedding. She is always right here, there has been no loss for me.
This morning, I spoke to another friend who is experiencing someone they deeply care about in a potential state of transition. I listened and I reassured him there will be no loss. There is no loss in death. Death is not a loss, it is a change. A change in relationship. If you have a partner and then have a child, your relationship with your partner changes. You can say it is a death of one relationship and a birth of a different relationship. I then received a message to share with him and with all of us and I decided to sit down and right. As I have been writing this post, however, I realized something. I spoke of my grandmother, a woman I have known my whole life, who I have millions of memories with, who I lived with for two years in Pakistan, in one paragraph. And, of my friend in pages. And, I know why. It is the same thing that my friend is experiencing now and the purpose of the message. Death is only painful if we see it as a tragedy. To some degree, I still feel like my friend's death was a tragedy. I know it is not. But, I have a little bit inside me that believes it is. I see my grandmother's death as a beautiful healing for all. And, as such, there has been almost no sadness. The transition of someone from their physical form back to their non-physical will only be as tragic as we decide.
I have studied a number of near death experience stories, especially, Anita Moorjani's Dying to Be Me, and I have a deep appreciation of where we go from here. A place of true and everlasting peace. I wish that on every single person I know. I am excited that we all get to experience that one day. And, the only thing that would make me sad to take that trip myself is the impact it would have on those I leave behind. So, as someone who is left behind, it is our choice to say, go and be at peace. And, to do this daily. Not hope that someone is no longer in the physical but to live each moment with each person fully and see them as a whole, complete, loving being, so that if and when the time comes that they need to transition into the non-physical, they know, we are whole with them as they are. The greatest gift we can give ourselves and each other is to see each of us as whole, complete, and full at every moment. To see each person as having lived a true and fulfilling life, at every moment. And, to know that no matter if we physically "see" the person again, they are always with us. I share this message that was given to me with you today.
The greatest gift you can give yourself and those in your life is seeing the person who is transitioning as whole right now. Their body may be experiencing dis-ease but they are still themselves. Their spirit is still intact today as it ever way. It is like when I try to do a cartwheel because I remember doing hundreds in a row as a child, and I wobble or I can only do one or two, and I think how is this possible. The way I see myself is as that child who did hundreds of cartwheels. In this moment, my physical body does not support that but in my mind's eye, I can still do it. It is the same for your loved one. They may be experiencing physical pain and symptoms but in their mind's eye, they are still themselves - whole. Your loved one is perfectly whole right now. If you knew that without a doubt, how would you behave in their presence? What would you talk about? Would you take a break to shower or nap if you needed it, knowing you have plenty of time? We do have plenty of time. They are not going anywhere. They may transition from the physical to the non-physical, but they are still with you always. Your goal is to enjoy your time with the person, not to save them. No one wants to be another's project. Simply be with them as a whole person - you are whole and they are whole. Two whole people coming together in peace and love. Like all of us, your loved one wants to feel loved and to be seen as whole and completed. See them in this way and in the process you will see that you too are whole and complete.
Hi! Welcome to my blog, Lunch with Cinderella. I love writing about my life experiences and the fact that they may help spur some cool experiences of your own. If you are here, leave a comment... I read them all and love hearing from you!
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