Heart Opening Moments

BLOG of a Spiritual Stripper

Facing the Place of No Escape

In aikido, I find myself often wanting to escape an oncoming strike. In the back of my mind I somehow believe if I can just avoid getting hit or avoid any possible pain, then I will be unharmed. Somewhere within my consciousness I believe escaping a confrontation is the best resolution.

Unfortunately on my spiritual journey, there are moments within myself that I must face an oncoming strike without the possibility of ever running away. A few days ago I had an encounter that brought back waves of old unresolved pain. I knew I was feeling unbalanced, angry, and sad. Yet I still used my meditation as a way to escape the uncomfortable feelings. Needless to say, trying to force peace upon chaos only leads to more chaos. Soon enough I found other strategies such as running away to take sunset photos, watching educational PBS series, eating a heavy meal to mentally checkout, and feeling the onset of a cold so I can just sleep away. All the strategies worked briefly only to lead me back to an even louder scream of discomfort within myself.

Eventually the strike caught up with me and I found myself facing the place of no escape.

In this cramped place I feel checkmated, and the only thing I can do is accept. Accepting the discomfort, accepting the internal scream, accepting the defeat, accepting the silence beneath the chaos, accepting everything just the way it is. The moment frozen feels like time standing still in the eye of a storm as I face the demons hidden beneath my consciousness. When the movements of jarring attempts to run away arise, an unwavering response of quiet acceptance, tender compassion, and intimate understanding softly penetrates my ground of being. Waves of sadness washing over me… Tears falling down… Bottled up old pain releasing… Violently, gently, tenderly – emptying, cleansing, renewing.

The place of no escape.

Years ago I thought Enlightenment will give me the promise of “happily forever after,” now only to discover Realization solely lays the groundwork for an inner revolution to take place. This life flowing through me now is no longer under my control – it has a movement of its own – breaking through a new pathway – restructuring, reorganizing my body, mind, emotions, and energy. This ongoing emptying out the old and rebuilding the new can often feel scary, chaotic, and triggers an instinct to fight or flight. Facing the GREAT UNKNOWN at each moment can be overwhelming and frightening. Yet my instinctual “need-to-escape” or “resisting-the-change” will only delay my transformation and make the process much more difficult to endure. It is a challenge to keep on going – to make the choice to be brave, to stand alone – naked, accepting, and willing.

On the path after Realization, there can only be places of no escape. Realization might have been a sudden existential awakening, but the path after Realization must be a commitment to continue the discovery and renewal of our chosen path. I have met many individuals fortunate enough to experience a moment of awakening but they never took another step beyond that experience. So many of them still talk about that old experience that happened long ago but nothing new blossomed as a result of their realization. I didn’t want to be one of them. I didn’t want my awakening to be just an old memory. Day in, day out I make the choice to walk with Truth – no matter how it reveals itself. This journey is simple – serve Truth even when it is difficult to do so.  I don’t suppose it will always be an easy choice to make. I do know that I will find the bravery within myself to walk the path. Are you willing to walk with me?

  'You must want to know the truth more than you want to feel secure in order to fully awaken to the fact that you are nothing but Awakeness itself. '  ~ Adyashanti

‘You must want to know the truth more than you want to feel secure in order to fully awaken… ‘ ~ Adyashanti

“But our potential lies beyond the known, beyond the structures of the past, beyond anything that humanity has established. Our potential is something that can flower only when we are no longer caught within the influence and limitations of the known. Beyond the realm of the mind, beyond the limitations of humanity’s conditioned consciousness, lies that which can be called the sacred. And it is from the sacred that a new and fluid consciousness is born that wipes away the old and brings to life the flowering of a living and undivided expression of being.
One must be willing to stand alone—in the unknown, with no reference to the known or the past or any of one’s conditioning. One must stand where no one has stood before in complete nakedness, innocence, and humility. One must stand in that dark light, in that groundless embrace, unwavering and true to the reality beyond all self—not just for a moment, but forever without end. For then that which is sacred, undivided, and whole is born within consciousness and begins to express itself.”  © Adyashanti 2008 
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December 11, 2014 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Choices, Death & Rebirth, Emotional Freedom, Enlightenment, Inner Growth, Self Realization, Tears | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Facing Fear (embarking spiritual growth)

Like many of you, my first taste of awakening was in my early childhood. In a moment of clean stillness, I closed my eyes, looked within, and touched upon an eternal empty space. Intrigued, I went back to it again and discovered this presence spanned all of time and space. I didn’t tell anyone, as a child, I was afraid this powerful immeasurable presence might engulf me if I looked too long. It was even more unsettling to sense this presence has complete awareness of me. Terrified, I pulled back and talked myself into believing if I just close myself to it then it will no longer to be able to “spy” on me, and if I just close myself to it then it will not be able to engulf me.

That was my first memorable encounter with fear of the void.

scared

It’s like looking down a cliff and not seeing the bottom. Fear. Have you fallen captive to what you fear?

For a human being, fear always appears uninvited during a burst of spiritual growth. The mind is comfortable with the past or what it knows. However when it encounters a completely unknown territory, it feels anxiety, fear, or even terror as the body tightens, heart rate and respiration increase. Regardless if a potential threat is real or imagined, the hypothalamus will produce corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) that triggers the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). In a series of unconscious physiological response, fear can quickly take control of the body. During the event of a spiritual growth the mind will undoubtedly enter a space of unknown causing fear in your body, without your consultation whatsoever.

Recently I went to a sathsang hosted by one of my favorite Zen teachers Adyashanti. There was one girl in particular when she voiced her fear, the body trembled. She described facing her fear is like facing a cliff where she must jump off of to find her freedom yet she was terrified what might not be on the other side. She is not alone. An Isha Yoga meditator I spoke to also wrote to me about his fear of the darkness when he looked within. Because he didn’t know what was in the dark empty space he refused to enter that space. As for myself, when I fall into extremely love and intimacy, my mind and body often encounter terror that quickly pulls me out of the experience.

Fear is natural. Fear often is a signpost to indicate that you are arriving at yet another point of exponential transformation. Well, tell that to the mind, it still isn’t very comforting. So what to do in the face of fear?

A lot of people will tell you that you must combat fear with courage. This strategy often worked when the ego was in tight control. In that stage, you can use your will to power through anything. In fact, you don’t even have to see the face of fear as you run your four-wheeler down the highway and kill any fear that might have stood in the way. As we progress in our spiritual development, we will begin to notice that the will is only an illusion. The fear we thought we had destroyed will come back in another form. With more awareness, we realize that we have no choice but to come face-to-face with our fear. We cannot fight it, yet we cannot turn the other way. We have to meet it. We have to talk to it. We have to be willing to understand it from the deepest level.

The only thing that is standing between you and your freedom is that little voice telling you to run away from or fight fear. The real courage is not to fight but the willingness to relax in the face of fear. Only from a relaxed place you can then allow yourself to dig digger into what thought might be the trigger of that fear. And next what belief you planted a long time ago supported such a thought. This is the willingness to relax and meet your fear face-to-face. This is the true expression of courage.

A few months prior to my big awakening I started to notice that everything I did and all the choices I made were being contaminated by fear. I didn’t write because I was afraid of writing an incoherent article. I didn’t do my ukemi in Aikido fearful of injuring my body. I didn’t let any cars drive near me afraid someone might change lanes and run into me. These were just the superficial fears. As I was digging deeper I found that same fear of the void never left me… In fact it had held me captive so I only pretended to meditate when I knew I was resistant to the state of yoga. I  didn’t allow myself the opportunity for a deeper experience into God. What a prison I have built for myself. I finally started to become fully conscious of every single one of these fears and somehow once I know my “enemy”, it turned into a friend.

After talking to several of you on the topic of fear I decided we can revisit this old friend often. Fear is nature. It is a signpost that you are ready for the next stage of your spiritual growth. No matter what part of the path you are on, honor your fear, meet it face-to-face and know that “All is Well”. On the flip side one day, you might look back and laugh to yourself and say “what’s the fuzz?”

December 10, 2012 Posted by | Choices, Death & Rebirth, Emotional Freedom, Inner Growth, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gift of a Black Belt

Last Saturday I tested for my shodan in aikido and was awarded a black belt. People asked me how it feels. To be honest, I feel no different because getting a black belt was not my aim. At the same time I feel deeply touched because I have devoted myself completely through sunshine and rain, and in a sense, to have come this far without giving up along the way is what I’m most proud of.

Looking back there were numerous times I questioned my sanity when things got tough. Especially when it came to the aikido forward roll. I was never talented at being up-side down nor I enjoyed it very much. The forward roll seemed to me like purposefully tossing myself onto the ground and hoping my body will be round enough to carry me through so I can make it to the other side and be back on my feet again. In a way, I thought I had to be at least a little crazy to attempt such a stunt. I was – a little crazy – priding myself as a good athlete I didn’t want to back down from such a challenge. Wanted to protect myself I often closed my eyes, held my breath and prayed I won’t get hurt. I suppose my teachers were amazed at times that I’m willing to try and other times I would tremble in fear while everyone else proceeded before me. There were times I walked out of it all together. Not to mention injuring my right shoulder a few months into the training when I tossed myself too high off the ground with my eyes closed, and later only to discover that I have landed on the weakest part of the shoulder that was not meant to support such weight. I cried my tears and swore I would never put myself through another ordeal again yet somehow there was another force quietly pushing me forward.

The Aikido Forward Roll

Four years have gone by that I rarely missed any training at all. I selflessly worked on anything else the dojos needed from mopping the mats, updating the website, hosting oversea guests, to teaching the kids class. There was never a day went by I didn’t at least think of aikido. Why? I really can’t say. After years of training my goal-oriented ego has been washed away slowly. I could no longer say I train so I can look good in other people’s eyes because I no longer care. I don’t do it for the money, I don’t do it to gain approval, I don’t do it to even be physically fit. Unknowingly the subtle flow slowly pushed me forward through my sadness, through the obstacles, through sunshine and rain and somehow I found myself on the other side of the forward roll – landing on my feet continuing to walk forward.

What did I give up? A lot. I had to give up fear. I had to give up aggression. I had to give up the need to be perfect. I had to give up indulging in my neurosis. I had to give up forcing a particular outcome to suit my needs. I had to give my limited view of separation of humanity. … The list goes on.

What did I gain? Even more. I gained true self-confidence. I gained a disciplined mind. I gained the awareness when I’m acting from ego. I gained the ability of acceptance and peace. I gained a keen sense of focus amid emotional turmoil. Most importantly I gained love and compassion for myself and the ability to expand that love outward.

The truth is, the black belt itself has no meaning, yet this black belt is a symbol of my perseverance. This black belt reminds me to stick to my path through thick and thin – knowing I will land on my feet and walk forward again each time I fall.

September 29, 2012 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Death & Rebirth, Self Realization, Tears, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Running Away?

Are You”Running Away from Home”? Are you avoiding uncomfortable situations to stay safe? If you want enlightenment then stop running! (Photo by Laura Corebello)

Have you ever noticed we often want to hide or run away from uncomfortable situations? We often think if we can just avoid pain, disappointments, embarrassments then our lives will be much better and more carefree. We think “if I can just get out of HERE then I will be much happier!”

This reminds me of the times I plotted my escape as a child – believing that by running away from home all of my disappointments and heartbreaking misunderstandings will be resolved. Like this child, I packed up some of my favorite things in a small sack, found a bamboo stick and there I was on my way to a better world. I had imagined perhaps an alien spaceship will come by to pick me up and find me valuable for space exploration. Or better yet a nicer family will pick me up so I could show my parents what terrible mistakes they’ve made by misunderstanding my love. Now looking back we could see how innocent yet reactive it all really was.

As we mature into adulthood our childish tendencies are still deeply ingrained in our bodies. Much of these tendencies to run away have gone unnoticed in our everyday lives before we embarked upon our spiritual journey. Now we can sense someone else wanting to pull away from a hug. Other times we find ourselves running away from a needed confrontation instead we hide behind the computer screen.Sometimes we also become better at denying these tendencies or we make excuses for our behaviors. Sooner or later we find our relationships less attentive as we become more and more isolated.

It does not serve you to run away. Period.

If we are running away from ANYTHING in life, we are running away from life itself. The truth is, when we run away from any situation, we have already given up. We just forfeited the opportunity to even give it a try, to see how we might react, and see what illusions we are still holding onto. Running away = cowardly living = not living at all. To truly live is to live with courage. It takes courage to engage every moment, every breath, every person fully and completely. The tendency is to contract, hide, or run away from the HERE and NOW. That’s ok. Just notice it. It’s perfectly normal to have these tendencies. Just be with the fear and see it for what it is. Yet at the same time we can take another step closer to freedom – and see the fear for what it is NOT.

Many people say “I want enlightenment” but are still using their work or meditations to escape from their lives. Many are not willing to courageously face each moment as it unfolds. When you look into their eyes they are not present. Their body/mind/spirit have contracted to such a level that the life force is having to squeeze through a breath. Sooner or later suffering will occur. When you say “I want to be enlightened, I want to awaken” is to say “I want to live” and “I don’t care how painful or joyful my moments might become, I am willing to see through all of my illusions and become intimate with all spectrums of life.”

The tendencies to escape might still be present every once in a while even after awakening. Luckily after awakening there’s no more judgement. So when the ego tries to reinsert itself into your being-ness, just bring awareness to the present moment outside of the construct of the mind. Always choose communion with the Truth. The key is to notice these tendencies and say “oh, that’s what it is!” This way, by bringing awareness to the the present moment and became fully engaged, the uncomfortableness somehow dissolves itself.

Today I’m working with a injured shoulder and much physical pain. Yet it is becoming more and more clear that even the painful moments are designed to deliver Love. Allow yourself the space to see each moment with clear eyes, with compassion and openness for transformation. Be here. NOW.

August 19, 2012 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Emotional Freedom, Inner Growth, love, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Life’s Desire within You

nature flowers

Natural desires are the most basic foundations of life. The key is to recognize what desires come from ego and what desires come from God.

There’s a saying in Chinese – 心同日月 – the direct translation roughly equates to “heart with sun and moon”. The real meaning lies beyond the metaphorical image and hints to a desire so deep so strong that it stems from the desire of nature itself.

When we speak of desire, the mind can often grasp onto ownership – asking something from life – a demand in terms of “what I want is…”; the emotions can often feel the sensations of longing – yearning for something I have yet experience – a wish in terms of “only if I can feel that…” Most of these desires come from us, the little egos – thinking “only if I have that I would be happy.”

There is another kind of desire – something more basic and more instinctual. A desert flower desires the kiss of raindrops. The crops desire the gentle gaze of sunlight. A wife desires being in union with her husband. These are the kinds of desires that stem from life itself. Such life desires are in the form of energy that creates more life, more nature. Without these desires life cannot sustain itself.

The beauty of awakening is seeing the difference between the two. The choices we made as unenlightened beings are often based on the desires of the body, mind and emotions. These choices only lead to suffering and entanglements. Then we spent much of our energy trying to untie the knots we trapped ourselves into – often with little or no success. The gift of awakening allows us to see such entanglements are counter-productive to life, we work against ourselves, against each other and against the natural flow of life. We often stand in the way of what life truly desires within us. Upon the grace of awakening we are beginning to see there is no need to fight against what is natural. We can see there is no need to protect ourselves from the illusions of fear. All is well – even these instinctual desires we might have judged in the past are really just another form of pure love. As we open ourselves more to what is true within us, we can listen more deeply, sense our 道 (Tao) more distinctively and follow the path that is uniquely meant for us.

This is when life becomes magical. We no longer require a set of circumstances to be happy, we are naturally blissful. We no longer need to own anything to feel valuable because the entire universe is throbbing within us. A sense of overwhelming gratitude arises within us without us reminding ourselves to be thankful. Things just happen not because we have set it as a goal but because we are being true to ourselves and in harmony with all that is. Life becomes a breeze. The manifestation of such desires is unique within each and every one of us.  As you might have heard, O Sensei – the founder of 合气道 (aikido) felt a sense of duty to bring-forth the art of peace into the world. He cannot NOT do it. Through his poetry he expressed the desires of the heaven so strong within him, guiding him, and later in life, the desire of the heaven became him. He became 合气道 – in complete harmony with the energy of his unique path melting into all that is…

It takes tremendous courage to recognize our untruth, our entanglements and our resistance. It takes a warrior to follow the path of aiki, letting go the desires of the ego and be in complete harmony with life itself. To follow such deep desires will undoubtedly lead you to your unique path of self-actualization.

March 21, 2012 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, Inner Growth, love, poetry, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Contemplating Marriage

Sitting across from the dinner table, Liz looks up at me casually and says, “I don’t know if it is my path to be married but if I’m getting married I want Sadhguru to pick my husband.”

She takes another bite of her sweet and sour mock chicken and starts to explain that her guru would pick the perfect partner for her spiritual growth and she doesn’t necessarily know who that would be. “Sadhguru won’t pick someone easy for me but someone who is challenging,” she smiles effortlessly and goes on to pick up another piece of passion red mock chicken with her white chopsticks, “when he marries two people they are bound for life no matter what happens, neither one of them can escape!”

I cannot help myself and let out a burst of laughter while trying so hard to keep my mango milk tapioca not turning into an out of control sprinkler in my mouth.

Marrige?

Is Marriage Based Merely on Love? Can Marriage Become a Path to Our Spiritual Enlightenment?

Ack! Marriage. What a dinner table conversation killer! Next to the list of things NOT TO TALK ABOUT such as religion and politics. Nevertheless I feel fearful yet intrigued. Underneath all that naive pureness of a sweet young lady is an intelligent thoughtful woman.  How refreshing it is to hear a 23-year-old young lady speaking her truth so clearly! Liz understands that most people get married for the wrong reasons. Reasons such as societal structure, economic and social convenience, family pressure in the Eastern culture. Whereas lust, power, romantic addiction occur in the Western culture. The Americans for Divorce Reform estimates that “probably, 40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue.” So what is the point?

Not often people use this partnership as a tool for self-transformation. According to Liz, her guru speaks of difference types of people. He preached that marriage is not for everyone. For example, some people, their spiritual path might lie within their creation such as Albert Einstein. Some might find their spiritual path by serving others such as Benjamin Franklin. Others might find their path by sitting underneath a bodhi tree to meditate like the Buddha. While there are distinctive individuals feel an inner pull for marriage at an early age for their spiritual growth. Liz tells me that she is not sure what type of person she is yet. It is difficult to form a partnership with anything or anyone when one does not know oneself fully. Once she can discover herself more deeply then she will know which path to take.

“Don’t pretend you don’t need marriage when your spirit tells you that you do,” sipping on her mango milk tapioca, she looks up at me from the corner of her eyes, “you must follow your inner guidance toward that you fear.”

Fear. That is the big cha-ching! I’m the someone who pretends that I don’t need marriage because I fear it. I fear it more than death itself. I fear that I will fail miserably. I fear that I am not good enough. I fear that I will loss myself. I fear my husband will see my faults. I fear… I want a blueprint for the perfect relationship before I will even consider walking into the marriage dojo. I want to know that I can do it perfectly before I will even allow myself to begin…

Liz somehow is bringing up these fears within me I must face just by her authentic conversation. Listening to her reminds me of interviews of Joseph Campbell. Professor Campbell spoke of A Hero’s Journey as an individual’s growth to self-realization and self-actualization. It is a difficult journey yet it brings such triumph once we take on the challenge and take one step after another. “When people get married because they think it’s a long-time love affair, they’ll be divorced very soon, because all love affairs end in disappointment. But marriage is a recognition of a spiritual identity,” said Joseph Campbell. Professor Campbell believed that marriage in an ordeal, an ordeal so intense that it possesses the power to transform both individuals at a profound level. It is a tool for individual transformation.

To me, marriage is shugyo. It is a process of purification of the self toward true expression of the spirit. It takes tremendous courage to walk this path. Author and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry fondly put it, “love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself.”

“You are right Liz, it doesn’t help to pretend. Lao Tzu said ‘marriage is three parts love and seven parts forgiveness,'” as I gaze down into the last grain of rice on my plate, I let out a burst of laughter, “and I’m going to need a lot of forgiveness upfront!”

September 7, 2011 Posted by | Choices, Inner Growth, love, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

I feared, until…

I feared life until I experienced its beauty...

I feared life until I experienced its beauty...

I found this poem a while ago, posted it on FaceBook, and have gotten lots of great feedback on how helpful it has been for many.  So here it is again.

I have no idea who the author is.  If you know, please let me know!

Enjoy…

Savor…

& Share…

By the way, as I stood in line to pick up my dinner at Taste of Thai in Del Mar tonight, I over heard someone say “fear is a natural reaction of moving closer to the truth.”  So enjoy your fear and be thankful for your upcoming enlightenment!

I feared, until…

I feared being alone until I learned to like myself.

I feared failure until I realized that I only fail when I don’t try.

I feared success until I realized that I had to try in order to be happy with myself.

I feared people’s opinions until I learned that people would have opinions about me anyway.

I feared rejection until I learned to have faith in myself.

I feared pain until I learned that it’s necessary for growth.

I feared the truth until I saw the ugliness in lies.

I feared life until I experienced its beauty.

I feared death until I realized that it’s not an end, but a beginning.

I feared my destiny, until I realized that I had the power to change my life.

I feared hate until I saw that it was nothing more than ignorance.

I feared love until it touched my heart, making the darkness fade into endless sunny days.

I feared ridicule until I learned how to laugh at myself.

I feared growing old until I realized that I gained wisdom every day.

I feared the future until I realized that life just kept getting better.

I feared the past until I realized that it could no longer hurt me.

I feared the dark until I saw the beauty of the starlight.

I feared the light until I learned that the truth would give me strength.

I feared change, until I saw that even the most beautiful butterfly had to undergo a metamorphosis before it could fly.

October 4, 2009 Posted by | Inner Growth | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking a Risk – Path to Innovation

Invest in your idea, take a risk, and watch it turn into gold.

Invest in your idea, take a risk, watch it turn into gold.

“Risk is essential. There is not growth of inspiration in staying within what is safe and comfortable.” – Alex Noble

What would happen to a company if it is not innovating?  What would happen to education if there were no expansions of new knowledge?  What would happen to you and me if we had stopped growing?

I had the opportunity to chat with an ex-coworker over lunch today.  He was frustrated how little the company is willing to risk on innovation.  The amount of dollars the Research department can spend is a fraction of what Development receives.  Even the tools used for cutting edge research are too old to be efficient.  Yet the company speaks of innovation as its culture but somehow forgets to invest in innovation.  Without the proper tools and resources, it is nearly impossible to conduct good scientific research.  On top of that, the company shelves years of scientific research because no one seems to be willing to take a risk in development.  As we know, scientific research is often ahead of its time, and market research will not be catching on until years later.  But without the blessings of the Marketing department, too many breakthrough research were shelved away only to collect dust.

I asked my ex-coworker why so many companies are willing to hold on to their huge amounts of cash instead of reinvesting it into innovation.  He answered,  “FEAR.”  Fear often holds us back when making a decision.  A company often feels much more comfortable sitting with its half a billion dollars in a CD.  Wall Street likes liquidity, doesn’t it?  Why spend the money on possible failures when there’s a guaranteed interest from the bank?  Interesting enough, these possible failures might just turn into the next best cure for cancer.  Fear is probably the reason why companies are not moving ahead based on scientific intuition.  Fear is definitely the reason why many companies are willing to be stagnate and safe instead of stretching further for just a bit more possibility.

Thinking back to my days of stagnation…  I too have chosen to stay constant instead of reaching for just a bit more possibility.  I too have hold on too tightly when I needed to expand.  I too have sold out my personal innovation and growth for the safety of security.  During the days of my safety, I have found that I nearly lost my soul because I was no longer living.

Risk is essential to grow and expand.  For the goodness of self and for the goodness of mankind.  There is no growth of inspiration in staying within what is safe and comfortable, the safety of one’s own boundaries will only one day turn into a jail for the self that slowly kills the soul.  Friends, let’s choose to be courageous with me, let us walk forward – be willing to take a risk, be willing to innovate, and be willing to fulfill our ultimate destiny.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Choices | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments