Exquisite Pain.

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There was a time in my life, which now feels very long ago indeed, when I was completed wedded to pain and suffering. I believed that my emotions were something on which I was carried away, and that I had to feel every aspect of them in a demonstrative and dramatic way. And, that while I was feeling them, I would weave these beautifully artistic stories that kept me wrapped up in the madness of them. I not only saw no other way of experiencing and expressing my emotions; I didn’t want any other way.

 

For me, being dramatically connected to emotion was my way of gaining attention from the outside world, and it also was based on my belief that it made me a connected, compassionate person. So, not only would I always have a deeply intense response to “negative” circumstances in my own life, but would also feel the need to be interwoven with every inequity and hardship that existed in the world. That could be a friend who was struggling, or an earthquake on the other side of the world. It all felt equally as intense no matter what the nature of relationship to me, or the circumstance itself. 

 

In my day to day living, it impacted me by feeling like I was always on a roller coaster, literally feeling the ups and downs in my body and believing it was out of my control. And, by default, those around me were also brought along for the ride, and as a result, never knew how I would be impacted when they would talk to me about something. Many things in my life felt painful, and I believe, over time, I came to see that pain as not only deeply hurtful, but also, in a strange way, as exquisite, enchanting; like even though I didn’t like the feeling, I could not turn away from it. Exquisite Pain is how I would best describe it.

 

The part of it that made it so enticing for me, was the stories that I would weave around my emotions. I not only believed that I was the emotions that I was feeling, I wove an identity around it, as a person who was extra sensitive, who was easily influenced by the world around her. And, although I have no judgment about that time of my life, it felt pretty helpless much of the time, and I believed that if I were not that influenced by my emotions, that it meant that I was unfeeling, uncaring, or detached in some way.

 

Gratefully, I found my true path that was the way to Peace and Surrender within myself. I discovered, through a deep letting go process, that I can feel any emotion that comes through me. However, it NEVER has to dictate who I am, or what I choose to do with it.  No matter what, the more often that I can simply accept everything as It Is, whether that be an emotion, a circumstance, or both, than the more deep the Peace that will settle within me. I can listen to the stories of another, without making it my own. I can feel all the feels that occur within me each day, without feeling carried away by them. No matter what is going on around or within me, I ALWAYS get to choose.

 

And, today, I get to choose differently. And, the result is Exquisite Peace. 

 

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New Skin.

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This blog, this space, for the dozen or so years that I have been maintaining it, has been an account of my shifts, my changes, and my growth. And, in those years, I have gone through many changes, shifts, and experienced a lot of growing pains. The parts that have often felt painful to me, or those that were losses I did not expect, or outcomes that were not what I would have wanted for myself. Looking back now, even though I am grateful for all of the changes that have happened, and know that they were purposeful to bring me to this very spot, it hurt a lot.

 

I am now going through yet another transformation, a change that I did not see coming, yet, one that I am confidently embracing. I haven’t made a New Year’s Resolution in several years now, but when 2019 began, I resolved to be more purposeful and consistent about my awareness of the Present Moment. For me, that means becoming still more often; listening to and tuning into my breath; and remembering that the past is a memory trace and the future doesn’t exist. The book, The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle, has been one of the greatest guides for me to be where I am with presence today. And, along the way, I have created my own practice to keep strengthening my presence muscle.

 

However, what I have noticed as I become more aware, alert and present, is that I have still felt the need to keep myself insulated in a way; to keep a barrier between me and the rest of the world. Now, I give free hugs; I hold my arms open on the street for strangers to me, willingly, lovingly, and with great passion for it. Yet, there are many other times in my life when I would feel self conscious, diminished or ill equipped to be among my fellow humans. And, the insulation that I would wrap myself with was some type of substance to take away the discomfort. Most frequently, that has been alcohol or cannabis.

 

Now for those of you whom know me fairly well, and over a long period of time, I have stopped using substances in the past, due to a belief that I was dealing with an addiction, and needed to abstain for my own well being. And, over the two years that I was sober, and attending meetings, and using a sponsor, I learned a lot, about what I thought addiction was, and wasn’t, and what sobriety did to help me in that phase of my life. And, it helped me in so many brilliant ways, and introduced me to some great philosophies and amazing people. But, after two years, I wanted to try it out again, see if I could use alcohol, socially and otherwise, without it feeling like an addiction that I could not control. And, for the few years that I have resumed drinking, and using cannabis as well, I have gone through phases of feeling more, and less in control. And, have used substances for all sorts of reasons.

 

I still don’t know what my full opinion for myself is about addiction, but something even deeper than that started speaking to me just a few days ago about my ongoing habit and use of any kind of substance. I have started to understand that anything that I use to create a barrier between me and the world is actually working to dampen my spirit, dampen my true self. And, it also deadens my experience of the world, even if I am using it in a fully conscious way. And, although I have stopped desiring to use substances in the past, for a variety of reasons, this time, there is no guilt attached. There is no excusing, or blaming, or needing to find a deeper reason why. I just don’t want to anymore.

 

I want to be as present as possible, and to me, that means removing any and all obstacles that may interfere with that. In addition, I don’t have a single thought or feeling that if I were to choose to have a drink or something else at some point in the future, I don’t feel any worry or shame about that either. I know that as long as I am doing my best, that is all I can ever do.

 

But, it feels strange. It feels like I woke up this morning as if seeing my world around me for the first time. I feel like a newborn, fresh and alive, with new skin that seems fragile. I feel sensitive and raw. And, I feel so free, connected and pure that it seems like I am finally ready to be here, Now.

 

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What is Gratitude?

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It is not unusual that I would be thinking about, and writing about, Gratitude on this day, Thanksgiving Day, 2018. And, my thoughts and perspectives have changed about both Thanksgiving, and about Gratitude over the years. In a way, it feels somewhat strange to change my perspectives, and in another respect, it is so much more at ease to view both Gratitude, and this holiday, in a new way.

 

During the early years of my life, Thanksgiving most often was spent in Massachusetts, with my father’s family, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There would be more than a dozen of us around the dining room table, and the smaller and younger of us at the kids’ table, which was a folding card table in the television room. No matter where I sat, there was always plenty of food, plenty of laughs, and lots of love. 

 

As I grew older, Thanksgiving changed into various ways of observing; either with my parents at our family’s home; with my partners and their families; and, eventually, with my own nuclear family. In the last few years, the holiday has mostly been spent with myself, my wife, my son, and my wife’s family.  

 

However, this year, we decided to observe it differently; to create more simplicity around it, and to do what we felt most inspired to do. This year, that was to have it be just my wife and myself, cozy in our home, cooking our own turkey, and celebrating our own internal quiet and the quiet nature of the day. That decision, for both of us, has had moments of feeling different, unusual, or like we were doing something wrong; something not expected. However, when we let go of any guilt, expectation, or should thoughts, we are in bliss and enjoying our time together.

 

I have, in addition to these changes, changed my perspective very profoundly around gratitude in the last few years. Although I have never had difficulty finding things to be grateful for in my life, I would limit it to the events, circumstances, and things that felt good; that seemed to enhance my life. And, I was not fully aware of my feelings of gratitude in my every day life. It was almost as if I would wait for gratitude to be worthy of something I was experiencing, and then it would show up. 

 

My practice has deepened to the degree that I now find Gratitude in most everything that I experience, including those times and circumstances that seem most difficult. Actually, those difficult life experiences end up being the things that I am most grateful for. In those moments of heartache, struggle and being gripped by one thing or another, I learn so much about myself, about others, and about what it is that I really want for myself. I am full of Gratitude most in those times, because I am slowly, but surely, setting myself free.

 

Of course, I don’t always remember to be grateful from day to day; and I still bear resentments, judgments, and deep insecurities at times. However, when I remember to choose Gratitude, which is more frequent all the time, I feel a sense of Surrender, Peace, Forgiveness and Love more deeply than I have ever known. And that is my saving grace; that is my freedom. 

 

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Awakening the Bone Wisdom.

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Nine days on the road, 2100 miles driven throughout the south, and I am so grateful to be back home again. The Hug Bug Tour 2018, as it was named prior to our departure, is now in the memory banks, literally and figuratively. Once again, my journeying and experiences have deepened my understanding of who I am, and what I want for myself. What I am truly made of.

I had so many magical moments. Many stories that would easily make for another book. Yet, that isn’t the path this time around for the lessons learned. Since we returned home yesterday, I have been deeply quiet, and in my thoughts about what stands out for this trip. In total, I didn’t exchange that many hugs with strangers. I have no interesting circumstance that would help to explain that; it just didn’t happen. I got tired of being on the road, sleeping in a different place each night and being away from home. 

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But the learning that came my way this time around was unmatched up to this point in my life. I deepened my practice of surrender, of being in the present moment, and of going toward the best feeling state that I can manage at any given time. I had fewer expectations of any outcome, and being more flexible in where I would go, and how I would spend my time. I had fun, and felt so quiet within throughout the trip.

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And the lessons that I learned, or rather, was reminded of, were those that live in my very bones. It is the wisdom that is not bestowed on me from any guru, or book, or way of living. It is the wisdom that I affectionately, today, call Bone Wisdom. That which lives in my marrow, that has been there since the beginning of time, the Wisdom that lives in all of us, yet if you are like me, you go throughout much of your physical life not being aware of it. 

Bone Wisdom came to me in the form of some of the simplest lessons that I have learned yet; simple in their concepts, but complex to put into practice on a daily basis. Yet, I did that on my journey. The two biggest teachings that I came away with, is first, to always trust my guts. I did that on my last trip, toward the end of my stops, and it brought me complete peace and inner knowing to go where I was led. Last week, I did that every day; I spoke truthfully, I followed my intuition of what and where felt best, and the results each day were remarkable. 

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My main take away however, the one that will be on my heart forever more I believe, is that right now, in this moment, I have every thing that I could possibly need, or even desire. I went on this tour, in part because I have a desire to connect with others, and to talk with them about what that means. Yet, I also saw it as a way to have what I don’t everyday- a fun destination, a way to see friends, which are all true things that happened. Yet, I came back with a richer understanding that I am so well cared for, have so much that fulfills and inspires me, that even though I will continue to adventure for the fun of it, I don’t need to in order to find anything. I am not lacking. Nothing is missing. In every moment, through every experience, I have precisely all that I could ever need.

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I believe that I will always feel, in some way, that there is more that I could do, be or achieve in this world. And, I need to constantly remind myself to not always be planning for what must come next for me. Yet, I also more easily understand that in the doing nothing, I have everything that I will ever require. And, I am grateful to have listened to the Bone Wisdom once and for all. 

Hug Bug Tour 2018.

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Sixteen months ago, I went on a journey for ten days, drove more than three thousand miles, and hugged hundreds of people. It was one of the most brilliant adventures of my life. And, now, in one week, I get to do it all over again. Get ready for Hug Bug Tour 2018!

 

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So much has happened in my world since June of 2017. Many changes to many people that I love. Some losses. Some big adjustments. And, some of the most amazing lessons of my life so far. I feel ready, eager, and peaceful about what is going to happen next.  On Saturday, October 20, my wife, Brenda and I, will depart for eight days of adventure, magic, and love. 

 

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The stops are diverse, and I have no idea what is going to happen! Yet, the vision for this trip is the same as my last Hug Bug Tour, but different. What is the same is that I want to connect with as many human beings as I can, through the power of touch. Through the simple gesture of a hug. 

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I also love the adventure of traveling on the open road, seeing new places, having new experiences, and driving for hours with the beauty of nature all around, and finding out what might be coming around the next corner.

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Some parts are different this year. Having my wife with me means that I get to share the meaningful moments along the way with her, in real time. It means she gets to have some great experiences of her own, and we both get to expand out of our familiar comfort zones. I also get to talk about my book, the chronicle of my last Hug Bug Tour; The Hugging Army: An Experience in Connection. 41699961_10157758779038136_6910052052219461632_n

I want my lessons from the first Hug Bug tour to be more deep and profound than ever; with my desire to let go of any outcomes. To let people be as they are. To simply shine my light without having to do anything. Except to be a presence. Be my self. Go forward in the world and love deeply. 

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Please, follow me as we depart on our journey, send loving messages our way, cheer us on, cry with us, laugh with us. We carry you with us as well. You know where to find me: 

http://www.thehuggingarmy.org

Facebook: The Hugging Army/Vanessa Leigh White Fernandes

Instagram: vanessaleigh19625653

I Love You. Hug Some One.