Tante Ria

This is a tribute to my aunt. Tante Ria. She died last Monday. Peacefully. Trusting that she would enter Heavenly Paradise, and be welcomed in the house of her Father.

I am flying out today to attend her funeral.

I feel a deep sense of sadness and loss.

And more deeply than that, of gratitude and appreciation.

Image courtesy to creativecommons.org

She offered a warm, welcome home every Summer holiday for my sister and me. She organized fun events, exuberant barbecues (and even now, being a vegan, I enjoy thinking of those gatherings), and special activities. I always had such a sense of love, acceptance, belonging, appreciation, and delight, whenever I visited her house, at a time when I didn’t experience much of that in many other places.

She never talked about my troubles. She never asked about my pain. She just offered love and acceptance.

Teyber and McClure call that a restorative emotional experience. Through tante Ria I knew that love, acceptance, belonging, understanding, and joy were possible. Also for me.

We cannot always prevent children from feeling pain, hurt, loneliness. We can’t always repair the damage done by neglect, criticism, and ignorance. But we can always offer our open heart, welcoming hands, and radiant smile to let a child know how delighted we are that they are in our world.

Tante Ria, thank you, for inspiring me to bring out those qualities in myself for all the children and grown-ups in my life.

I love you.

Let’s talk about sex

Let’s talk about sex.

“Sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others”. “Sexual desire is not love”. “Running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair.”

Thich Nhat Hanh’s 5 Mindfulness Trainings. I recite them every day.

Image courtesy to media.zenfs.comHum, maybe let’s not talk about sex. Sex is a lot about craving, desire, and pure pleasure, so how can it be in alignment with any Buddhist teaching on freeing oneself of craving and attachment?

For the longest time I thought that Buddhist sex is loving, tender, and compassionate, sure, but none of the hot, steaming, erotic stuff that I sometimes dream of.

We read this story this Yom Kippur: Maggid of Zlotchov was asked how Abraham could have kept the laws, if they had not been given yet? His answer was: “All that is needful,” he said, “is to love G*d. If you are about to do something and you think it might lessen your love, then you will know it is sin. If you are about to do something and think it will increase your love, you will know that your will is in keeping with the will of G*d. That is what Abraham did.” I think any Buddhist practitioner would agree that that is what the Buddhist teachings our all about: to relieve suffering, and contribute to freedom, love, and peace.

So how is having hot, erotic, wall-socket sex in alignment with these teachings?

I think one of the greatest acts of courage -the word is grounded in the French words for heart and love: “coeur”- is to be willing to be vulnerable and show up with all our thoughts, feelings, and needs, even those we judge as dark, non-mindful, and despicable. When we are willing to stand our fear and shame, tremble in our vulnerability, and have the courage to risk rejection and ridicule, we are willing to create a sense of intimacy that allows our love to be based in our true self. We share our desires and longings, because we want to be close to our loved one and be known for who we are. We are willing to give ourselves in the rawness of our craving, because we know there is no true love, without true understanding. When we offer our sexual desires and fantasies as precious expressions of who we are, with no demand energy, nor aversion, just openly, freely, and maybe even playfully, they bring more love in the world. They are a vote of confidence and trust in our partner, and they deepen our intimacy.

That is certainly in alignment with Abraham’s law. I guess with Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings too. So put on your sexy outfit and get it going!

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You want help to express your sexual desires more freely? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

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Thank you Doyle Banks, for inspiring me to write about sex!

Love knows no pride

Usually, I would say that ‘undermined’ is a quasi-feeling. A feeling mixed in with a thought: someone is doing something that I interpret as undermining. If my clients tell me they feel undermined, I ask them how they feel when they have that thought. Maybe sad? Scared? Angry? And what’s the need underneath that thought? Maybe respect, support, acceptance?

Today’s situation is an exception to the rule. I don’t think I am undermined, I don’t feel I am undermined, I KNOW I am undermined. It is a fact, an observation. If you were a fly on the wall registering everything that was said and done, your summary of what you observed would be ‘yep, hum, undermining’. Everyone else in the room would confirm that too, by the way. I don’t want to be undermined, certainly not by a colleague in the class I facilitate.

So, it’s time to address this with him. I am crystal clear about it. I am right, and he is wrong. Even better yet, I am the victim, and he is the perpetrator. Well, even better than that: I am innocent and pure, he is vile and mean.

I feel so good with my level of self-righteousness. It is a great start for an open conversation, where he will acknowledge how much he wronged me and where we will both agree that our problems are his fault.

I do hear a voice in my head reminding me of my commitment to loving-speech and deep listening, of my dedication to include all needs. Well. I always listen to that voice, and today is not the time.

Today is an exception. Today is an urgent matter of proofing myself right. Today I am ready to tell the TRUTH. I am ready to receive hundreds of apologies, regrets and amendments and all the other yummy stuff life is made of.

I start off well, in my usual accusatory way. But the reminder of my commitment gets too loud. It is as if Thich Nhat Hanh stands next to me. Firm and kind: “There is no pride in love”.

I can’t help it, but all these years of Nonviolent Communication training and mindfulness practice are finally catching up with me. I have to listen and include his needs. I have to be honest and accept my failures on the path of loving-kindness.

Instead of going on a rant, I realize I only want connection based on understanding. I want to open my heart to his feelings and needs. I want to lean into this uncomfortable place of vulnerability and ask what he wants.

We talk for more than three hours. We are able to hold all needs. And we find solutions that work for everyone.

The next class was a delightful experience of collaboration, respect and support. Thank you, dear friend, for walking the path of compassionate communication with me.

You want help to stay committed to your practice, even when you’re triggered? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

A glimpse of my true nature

The kids want someone else to babysit them tonight. Not forever, just this once. “She’s more fun, because she plays games with us.” Ouch. Well, honestly: ouch, ouch, ouch. I’ve been with them for so long. I try so hard to support everyone’s needs. I care about them. And I want acceptance and appreciation for all of that.

It hurts. It just hurts.

I think of my ex-husband. I told him five years ago that I wanted to leave him for someone else. We had been together for 14 years. He had supported me through some of the most difficult periods of my life. He was unconditional in his acceptance, always supportive, and deeply loving. I can only imagine how devastated he might have felt when I told him,  “I’m leaving. I found someone more fun to be with.”

And yet, he has never stopped accepting me, supporting me and my choices, and, I think, loving me. I experience him as the epitome of unconditional, selfless love.

Image courtesy to windpacer04.deviantart.com
Image courtesy to windpacer04.deviantart.com

And now, as I feel this  hurt, I feel some of that too. I do feel the pain of what I perceive as rejection, ànd I also feel a love that is way bigger than me. It is a love that is personal and non-personal at the same time. It is love for for the kids, love for myself. It is a quality of love with no object, no subject. It has nothing to do with what’s done, what’s said. It’s not even about who is. It is love for love’s sake. It is not my love, it is a love that is universal and timeless. It flows through me, it touches me, the only ‘I’ in this love is that I’m the vessel for it.

I feel relieved. Apparently I can feel unconditional love, at the same time that I feel pain, loneliness, sadness.

This must be my true nature. Some call it basic goodness. Some call it the Christ-essence. I call it Love.

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You want help to touch your own true nature? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

 

The raw beauty of being alive

Image courtesy to FlickrLet me just cry a little. Being reminded of the loss and love of my cat Toulouse. Watching my nanny kids and their friend pour their soul out as they sing and dance to “Let It Go”, so sincerely, so seriously. Receiving a birthday card and present from my beloved friend, who moved to Ohio and offers to pay half the fare when I come to visit. All these small acts of great love.

Nothing substantial enough to be remembered hundred years from now. Nothing powerful enough to create world peace. And all essential to make life more wonderful.

To love and be loved.

That’s all there really is to life.

As a child, born from parents who lived through the horrors of World War II, I grappled how it was possible that people committed the most horrendous of crimes, and walked away with it. No amends, no retribution, no consequences.

The only thing I could think of that supported my need for restoration and responsibility, was that Hitler and his consorts had punished themselves by taking the actions they took.

To live in a world with that much fear, hatred and anger, is to not live at all. To never relax into this moment, is cutting yourself off the opportunity to love life. To not have support to meet your needs in ways that include those of others too, must be utterly lonely.

The only choice we can make in each moment is to open up to the raw beauty of being alive, to try to transform suffering, to bring joy, love, and harmony, or to shut down and close off.

To love and be loved. That’s all there is to human life.

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You want help opening up to the beauty of being alive, of being you? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session. I would be delighted to talk with you to see if and how I can help.

Touching Toulouse in the ultimate dimension

Brutus to the left, Toulouse to the rightI’m reading “Opening the Heart of the Cosmos, insights on the Lotus Sutra” by Thich Nhat Hanh and learning about the historic and ultimate dimension.

The historic dimension is the reality as we know it in our current body and is bound by time and space. We are born, we live, we die. A car is manufactured, used and disassembled. A song is written, popular, and forgotten. There is a beginning, middle and end.

The ultimate dimension is the continuous flow of life, of unlimited being, of the one and the all.

Once we touch the ultimate dimension, we lose our fear of death, because we understand that we cannot die, that we were never born, that we have always been. Our present appearance is just one of the multitude manifestations of the ultimate dimension. A wave cannot die, it just returns to water, which it has been all along.

I don’t claim that I get it. I think if I did, I would be way more open, loving, and relaxed. I would be less anxious, jealous and angry.

And last night I realized that I am probably seeing a glimpse of the ultimate dimension in the loss of and continued connection with my cat: Toulouse.

She was my buddy, soul mate and Bodhisattva of unconditional acceptance, boundless love, and immeasurable appreciation. She followed me around the house, the garden, out on the street. She used any opportunity to jump on my lap, cuddle with me on the couch, crawl under the comforter and find her favorite spot in my arms.

I left her behind with my ex-husband, when I got a divorce and moved to the USA. I was heart-broken. Whenever I felt upset, I took her picture and held it to my heart. I’d fall asleep like that. Even now, five years later, I feel a raw, scourging pain in my stomach. She was the love of my life.

I went back to the Netherlands twice a year, and always visited my ex-husband and my two cats. As soon as I opened the door, she’d run up to me and claim my lap. She loved me as ever before. She never held a grudge that I had left her behind, as if she honored my choice, and accepted my departure.

The last time I saw her was December 2010. She could hardly walk, lost 10 pounds, and couldn’t get up on the couch.

My ex-husband took her to the vet Jan 21, 2011 to let her die.

I wasn’t there.

Despite all the grief, sadness and loss -that I even feel right now as I write about her- I feel this incredible joy of knowing that I never lost her. She is here with me,  right now. She is always available with her love, affection, and acceptance. Her appreciation never died.

I understand it better now.

I am touching Toulouse in the ultimate dimension.

Fully wanting to be you

Image courtesy to Flickr“It takes courage to love yourself. It is easier to hate yourself. To always want to improve and change for the better. To never be satisfied with who you are right here, right now. But to fully say ‘yes’ to whatever is here, your anger, your fear of failure, your striving for perfection, that takes courage. You’re trembling in the nakedness of your honesty and you’re fully wanting to be you. I’m fully wanting to be me. Yes, that takes courage.”

I’m in awe with my client. I’m not sure if I have the courage to be fully wanting to be me. I rather be someone else. Happier. More successful. Less jealous. I’m pretty sure I’m fully wanting to be my future self, an improved version of me. Less needy, more lovable.

I’m in awe with my client, and her choice to unconditionally love and accept herself.

I’m in awe with my client and her choice to say ‘yes’ to who she is in this moment.

She reminds me of the ferryman in Herman Hesse’s Siddharta. He doesn’t do much. He tends his garden, he enjoys the sun, he takes people to the other side of the river. Hardly anyone recognize in him the Buddha, the Enlightened One. Hardly anyone even look at him. They just want to get to the other shore, and he is taking them. He is an instrument to their purpose, and as such not very interesting.

I have always been impressed with that courage. To just live your life, not doing much, not striving for acknowledgment, validation, reassurance of your worth. And fully enjoying being alive. Gosh, if I only would have that solidity in me, that groundedness, that self-confidence.

I giggle. That seems like a contradictio in terminis. Wanting to be someone else, so I can fully want to be me.

Hum. Maybe I could start wanting to be me with all my striving for love, acceptance and belonging?

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You want help to fully want to be you? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to help you on the path of unconditional self-acceptance.

True love

Image courtesy to WikimediaThich Nhat Hanh has a beautiful story about true love. It resonates deeply with me, because I so wish to love others in a way that nurtures and supports their unique needs, celebrating the preciousness of their unique life. And I so wish to be loved in that same way.

There once was a rich man, who had all the wealth in the world, except for the love if his son.

His son had run off when he was 15 years old, and wandered the world in poverty for 50 years. In search of work, he lands at the doorsteps of his father’s palace, not knowing this is his father’s residence. When he sees all the rich and important people gathering for a meeting with his father, he gets scared and runs away.

In a split second his father recognizes the beggar as his son and sends his servants after him to bring him back home.

When the son sees the servants, he gets terrified. He fears he will be falsely accused of theft, and punished accordingly.

As the servants bring him back, the father sees his mistake. In his immense love for his son and his longing for connection, he acted in a way that terrified his son. He realizes he needs to build a bond based on where the son is at. He understands his son won’t believe this wealthy man is his father, so instead the father treats him like a beggar. Seeing the low self-worth and lack of self-confidence his son has, he offers him the lowliest of tasks: dragging out the pig’s dung. His son accepts and works diligently and sincerely at the job. His father recognizes the moment to ask his son to take on more responsibilities. His son can gladly accept and performs his new duties with equal commitment. The father keeps adding responsibilities, to contribute to his son’s sense of competence, confidence and self-worth. After a while the son runs the whole estate.

Then, at his death bed, the father reveals the true nature of their relationship. By that time the son is able to hear and accept this as the truth.

We, too, can find the skillful means to support our loved ones to open up to their true nature: children of God, heirs of Buddha, soul mates of Christ.

May we all wake up from forgetfulness and realize our true nature.

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You want help to support your loved ones with understanding? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be excited to help you on the path of true love and understanding.

Self-compassion when we are suffering

Listening to the bell, I feel my afflictions

begin to dissolve.

My mind is calm, my body relaxed.

A smile is born on my lips.

Following the bell’s sound,

my breathing guides me back

to the safe island of mindfulness.

In the garden of my heart,

the flower of peace blooms beautifully.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Great Bell Chant, Youtube

Image courtesy to FlickrI sit on my meditation cushion. I breathe in and feel my somberness, my listlessness, my lack of purpose and meaning. Who cares whether I live or die? I’m not sure I do. Do I even like my life? I don’t know. Do I even like myself? I don’t think so.

A wave of shock rushes through me.

I would never talk to my clients, my friends like that. I would never judge them as losers, failures, nobodies, when they experience this much despair, this much existential fear and sadness.

I would sit with them, listen carefully, opening up to their pain. I would embrace their suffering with compassion, letting them know that I am here for them. My heart would soften as I listen to their despair, their struggles.

I feel tender as I see myself sit on my cushion. A woman with such a sincere intention to contribute, to relief suffering, to bring joy, love and harmony. A woman who’s just trying, really trying and sometimes feels overwhelmed by her inner demons. Her sadness and despair, her regrets and sorrows.

This woman doesn’t need disapproval and rejection. This woman needs a tender, loving embrace. Someone who tells her how special she is and how much happier their life is with her in it. I feel a tenderness growing. Like a little daffodil, arising from the dark earth into the sunny meadow.

I can do that. I can hold myself with that gentle love, accepting all parts of me.

A smile is born on my face.

I don’t have to be happy and cheerful all the time. I can accept myself as I am, right now. And in that tender, safe embrace the flower of peace blooms in my heart.

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You want help to embrace all parts within yourself? To bring loving-kindness to yourself, because it is such a miracle that you’re here? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session. I would be honored to help you bring self-acceptance and compassion to yourself.

True love requires understanding

Image courtesy to WikimediaTrue love requires understanding. Understanding your beloved one’s pain and sorrow, joys and aspirations. What he delights in, and what he abhors. What gets her excited, and what turns her off. What contributes to his happiness, and what doesn’t.

And then take action. Because you want your loved one to be happy. You want to see her smile, relax, enjoy life.

Understanding needs love too. Without love, understanding doesn’t open your heart, nor inspire compassion. Understanding without love becomes a mechanical one plus one equals two. There is no drive to contribute, no desire to see your beloved one flourish and bloom. Understanding without love is -at most- a tool to please and satisfy.

I feel embarrassed as I hear our Dharma Teacher Terry Cortes talk about true love. I think of Valentine’s day. I bought my love a little chocolate cake in the form of a heart. It looked so sweet, so cute.

My husband stays away from gluten. He refrains eating sugar. He doesn’t snacks, only fruit and dates.

I knew all that.

Yet I insisted on giving him something that was an expression of my culture of celebration. I insisted on introducing something that was me. It had nothing to do with him. It had nothing to do with making him happy. It was about supporting my needs for inclusion and acceptance of who I am.

I realize if I want to show my love to him, I need to ask him how I can best do that. I see that if I want to celebrate our love, I need to ask him what celebration looks like to him. If I want to deepen my love, I need his help to deepen my understanding.

The love is there.

I’m sure a little more understanding will bring miracles.

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You want help to deepen your true love and understanding? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a complimentary, discovery session.