Now that I have begun to be more willing, more often, to be one with the quiet, I feel this measure of peace that cannot be quantified or described with mere words. 💛
I Am expanding. And shrinking.
Consciousness expanding. Ego/identity shrinking.
It feels miraculous.
Photo by Keith Perks
Life has issued to me some deep challenges in the last few days, in the way of loss. Although I am not a person that typically senses that life accumulates troubles, or that bad things “happen in threes”, I felt a bit overwhelmed and taxed by events recently. And, although how things impact me is always within my own choice and control, I felt spent. I felt like I had enough.
In the span of four days, my beloved Hug Bug 1998 VW Beetle broke down 700 miles from my home; my wife’s sister died unexpectedly; and our cars were broken into and my work computer was stolen from my car. By Thursday, I felt tired, discouraged, and like I wanted to hide away in my home, under a blanket, and forget about everyone and everything. I had enough.
However, I am so grateful to have within me the gift of sight, the gift of awareness. I express gratitude for awareness daily, because without it, I see myself as a person in pain with no way to relieve it. With awareness, I can accept that I am in pain as it is, and love myself in spite of that. In addition, I can see another option to relieve the pain, or to accept things as they are. I have learned deeply about surrender, acceptance, and presence.
This weekend, here in Scranton, is The Scranton Fringe Festival. I participated last year, talking about The Hugging Army, and this year was to have two shows again to tell stories, share photographs, and instruct people on mindful hugging. As my first show approached, my level of enthusiasm was diminished, because I was focused on the loss and sadness that I felt. However, once again, awareness assisted me in seeing things another way.
You see, when I first began offering free hugs in my community, I saw it as just that: an offering to others. A giving to them what I believed that they needed or desired. After hugging strangers for two years, however, I deeply understood that I was also receiving something in return, with every hug that I received, and even with those that I didn’t. I was gifted ten fold. A part of me wanted to feel selfish for wanting to receive that gift. Yet, being honest about that, and also understanding that the mutuality of the hug itself has deep healing powers, I saw the opportunity in sharing it with others. I get every hug that I offer to people. Plain and simple.
And, I offered and received many hugs so far this weekend. And, in those hugs, I cried, I breathed deeply, and was present to what I was giving and what I was receiving, right into my heart center. I felt what hurt so intensely was healing, slowly and methodically, through the exchange of deep love, presence and respect. I understood, yet again, the importance of what hugs do in the world, for myself and for others.
I am not always sure why this became my path. Yet I know more and more each day why I will continue upon it. Why hugs are so important. And why my modeling of that opens me, and others, to a new way of being.
I have to say that I had a big expectation of what today would look like, for myself, for the people that are closest to me, and for the world. I was invested in an outcome. For me, the outcome is not what I would have wanted, nor chosen had it been left up to only me. Yet, here we are. This is what has been chosen. And, whether your vote was cast for the winning candidate, or not, or not at all, we have all chosen up to this point what this outcome is.
And gratefully, I understand the choice that I still have before me. I did not spend today crying and full of despair and hopelessness, although I easily could have. I most likely would have, only a few months ago. I saw the world in its form as the reality, and believed that what happened outside of me is what dictated what occurred inside of me. I was invested in the theory that if someone says hurtful things, or tells stories, that they must become my belief system. I would be filled with fear, remorse, self loathing, and lack. I would have been blaming the world for being a bummer and bringing me down from how I felt about myself.
Today, I am full of Peace. I know now that to show Love, Compassion, Peace and Forgiveness to the world, it must live in me first. I have built an amazing temple within of self love over the last few months. I have been diligent about it. What does diligence of self love look like? It is reading, writing, and listening to spiritual practices, guides, and texts every day. It is breathing deeply as often as possible. It is removing gossip from my life and being true to my ideals. It is thinking before I speak. It is looking in the mirror, thinking a negative thought about myself, and taking it back, forgiving myself. It is deep, deep gratitude for every, single thing that is here for me in my world. EVERYTHING.
As I have expanded my experiences in the last eighteen months of hugging persons that I didn’t know, and those that I did, one thing became more and more apparent: the deeper that I was loving myself, the more open I was to hugging anyone and everyone that came my way. No restrictions, no exclusions, fewer and fewer assumptions of why certain groups of people would not want to be hugged, or comfortable with human contact. Little by little I let go of my beliefs and opened up to new experiences. And the results, for me and the other person, were nothing less than transformative and profound.
In order for us to not want to attack, destroy, and vilify one another, we must let go of our fear. Yes, if you must grieve, of what you perceive has been lost, then do so. Do not dwell in your grief; do not live in your box of fear. Feel your feelings, release them, and get back to the business of Love. Of Compassion. Of Forgiveness. Surrender to What is, in this very moment. Unless we begin from our Essence, by acknowledging our own beauty, light and perfection, we will find any and all faults in one another, and the destruction will be complete and devastating. There will be little room for humanity to be visible anymore.
Be Present. Breathe Deeply. Love yourself more fiercely than you have ever allowed yourself to do before. When we Love ourselves from that place, we can not help but to be Brave, Be Strong, Be a Warrior of Love. Because, to not survive, but to thrive, we must believe and live Love, no matter who. No matter where.
Love. No Matter What.
Most mornings for a few weeks now, myself, and my wife on some days, walk to the lake that is right near our house. We walk in one mile, and back out and home. We sit by the water. We spend time in nature. It is an amazing way to begin the day for me.
As I walk in at the lake, I spend the first mile considering what I am grateful for. Initially, when I first started this morning ritual, I would make a list in my mind, of all the people, things and circumstances in my life that I have gratitude for. It enabled me to find gratitude for things in my life that might have felt challenging, or persons in my life that I had conflict with, or thought that I did, at one time or another. It helped me to more deeply understand that gratitude is not just for the pleasant things, but for each and every thing, event, or circumstance that I find myself in. Learning and growth comes from every experience.
Recently, instead of a list of things to be grateful for, I find myself simply feeling gratitude, being in the presence of that feeling. To do this for me, means to be completely in the moment; and when my mind wanders, to come back to the present as often as possible. A state of gratitude is remembering that everything that comes to me is a gift; every moment has something that it is offering to me, has beauty, depth, and value; and that if I am in a state of gratitude, I am able to see the beauty and worth in every moment.
Brenda described that to someone yesterday as being in a state of grace. I have always had a difficult time understanding the concept of grace, and what that really means. Yet, I believe that I have an understanding now that makes sense to me. To be in a state of grace, for me, is to be present, and to be prayerful. I may not be consciously saying prayers as I walk every morning, yet I am certainly aware of the beauty, sounds, and smells all around me, and have deep appreciation for them. I am aware of nature and all that She offers to me. I am aware of the strength and beauty of my body as I walk and move. I am filled with love and compassion for others that are in my life, and beyond. I feel inspired, blissful, peaceful.
I finally understand, that grace means to be present to my world, to all that is around me, and to honor its beauty and worth with my thoughts and presence. Grace feels like a prayer that doesn’t feel like a prayer in the way that I have previously known, yet in such a more powerful way than I have experienced before. Grace is Presence. Presence is Grace. And when I remember that, I am filled with a peace that I have never known.