“Hope can sometimes be an elusive thing, and occasionally it must come to us with pain.” – Gerald G. May, ‘Addiction & Grace’

On the seventh day of this month, we took a long walk to our destination. On our way there, we encountered a stray, of the human kind.

From afar, I was struck by his skin, smeared in black, and the way his torn t-shirt was draped to the side like a monk’s orange robe.

The scowl on his face and the way he was striding forth commands you to get out of his way.

Even so, a part of me wanted to stop him and to speak with him. But I traced his right bared arm to his hand, clenched tightly around a bottle of liquor, now empty. I feared he could hit me with it.

So I stood aside, he stalked right by, and the sudden stench of sewage overpowered the air, trailing his misery.

STRAY
I slipped my hand into the hand of the one I was walking with, and held on tight.

“Why, are you scared? Do you fear that man?” he asked.

No. I was looking for comfort. I was thinking about how tightly that man was holding on to his bottle. An empty bottle. It was his lifeline. His only way of numbing his pain. I feel pity for him… his outer condition is a reflection of his inner condition, and it’s clear he’s in a very, very bad state…

Google defines Pity as “the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the sufferings and misfortunes of others.” I believe this feeling of sorrow and compassion can only arise from having once recognised ourselves, in them.

I remember only too well, a time in my life when I, too, felt lost and “homeless”. In my time of wandering, I identified with the beggars and the strays on the streets. It was a humbling time of transitioning, where I was brought to my knees by the awareness of my own ‘drunken stupor’ from my various addictions.

I was a human in need of grace.

“Grace is the invisible advocate of freedom and the absolute expression of perfect love.

…grace seeks us but will not control us. Saint Augustine once said that God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them. If our hands are full, they are full of the things to which we are addicted.

And not only our hands, but also our hearts, minds and attention are clogged with addiction. Our addictions fill up the spaces within us, spaces where grace might flow…

…we may not be able to make our hands completely empty in order to receive the gifts of grace, but we can choose whether to relax our hands a little or to keep clenching them ever more tightly.

…simply relaxing one’s hands may seem too passive. As we shall see, however, this simple choice may be the greatest kind of struggle any human being can face, and it may call forth the greatest courage and dedication…

…We may go through a great deal of humbling, if not outright humiliation, before we come to this simplicity of hope. We do not like admitting defeat, and we will struggle valiantly, even foolishly, to prove that we can master our destinies.

God, in whose image we are made, instills in us the capacity for relentless tenacity, an assertiveness that complements our yearning hunger for God. But most of us overdo it; our spirit of assertiveness quickly becomes a spirit of pride.

We will never really turn to God in loving openness as long as we are handling things well enough by ourselves. And it is precisely our most powerful addictions that cause us to defeat ourselves, that bring us to the rock bottom realization that we cannot finally master everything.

Thus, although in one sense addiction is the enemy of grace, it can also be a powerful channel for the flow of grace.

Addiction can be, and often is, the thing that brings us to our knees.

…it is possible that at some point in our journey with addiction and grace, we might even come to see addiction as a kind of gift.

…Addictions teaches us not to be too proud. Sooner or later, addiction will prove to us that we are not gods.

Then we will realize that we are our own worst enemies; we cannot beat ourselves. At that point, when we have exhausted all the available false repositories for our hope, it is possible that we will turn to God with a true sense of who we are, with an integrity that is both humble and confident, with a dignity that knows itself because it has met its limits.

Hope can sometimes be an elusive thing, and occasionally it must come to us with pain.

But it is there, irrevocably. Like freedom, hope is a child of grace, and grace cannot be stopped. I refer once more to Saint Paul, a man who, I am convinced, understood addiction: “Hope will not be denied, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” – Gerald G.May, ‘Addiction & Grace’.

Love,

Mish.

****

“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.”- Swedish Proverb

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Love Is Allowing Yourself To Feel

Originally posted on 28.06.12:

“We must not numb our pain.

When in sorrow, sorrow.

When in anger, anger.

FEEL IT.

It’s the only way to go through it.” Paul said to me, as we were discussing the problem of alcoholism in Finland.

His main language is Finnish. So when he speaks in English, it’s very simple. But I get it. And I love it. It comes out sounding like a poem.

Paul is saying we must go through the process of whatever it is we’re feeling. So when we’re in sorrow, then allow ourselves to be in sorrow.

Having spent many years working in a rehab for alcoholics in Helsinki, he’s seen how desperately people try to numb their pain, instead of dealing with the root of that pain. In the end, the only thing they create is a bigger mess, ruining their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.

…I feel like I can relate to them.

For over a decade, I’ve tried to numb my pain through many ways.

It has led to many addictions that can be a whole blog post by itself.

The past one year and a half, I’ve been learning that there are better, healthier and more effective ways to deal with pain. Today, I’m just going to focus on one: Giving yourself permission to feel what you feel.

I’ve been having a hard time processing my feelings the last couple of days / weeks / months. Here I am, learning about love and sharing what I learn on The Love Culture. But I am highly aware, too, that these whole other spectrum of “dark” emotions are well and alive and brewing in me.

Anger

Grief

Disappointment

Resentment

Bitterness

Unforgiveness

Fear

They’re not there all the time. At least not on the surface. But when it’s triggered, the rawness of the pain and the way I crumble, surprises me.

Seeing the way that I am when I’m in pain–and being made aware that I’m not much different from the person causing me pain when I’m hurt–just left me feeling absolutely lost in my own darkness. 

And then someone comes my way today, to remind me of my goodness and help me see the Light, within and without. I feel loved, supported and cared for. And it’s bringing me release. Which got me wondering…

Could this be the reason why we hold on to our hurt?

Is it a cry to be loved?

I believe the answer is, Yes.

This question and answer have, in the past, allowed me to let go of the need for justice or to set things right–at least, not in the heat of the moment. Understanding that both the perpetrator of pain and the one in pain is both crying out for the same thing–to be loved–frees me to open up my hands to receive the Love that I need from God, others and myself, to heal, instead of keeping it clenched in a fist of fury, ready to retaliate.

But this time around, I’m feeling conflicted.

Here I am, talking about love and compassion on The Love Culture, but I wasn’t feeling very loving or compassionate at the moment towards the source of my pain. I felt disgusted instead. And I felt bad for feeling this.

Then a friend comes along and gives me this reassurance:

“Dont ever be afraid to feel “negative” feelings.

They are just signals, not the be-alls and end-alls.

In the great silence of which you understand, there is the unfolding of His greatness and love, which can NEVER be taken away by our feelings.” – TW

I felt grateful for this reminder.

His permission (yes, we don’t need ‘permission’ so to speak, but when we’re stuck and unable to move, it helps to have someone say “IT’S OKAY, GO AHEAD”) to feel without condemnation, allowed me to navigate my way through this, by trying to understand,

“What are my “negative” feelings signalling?”

That I need Healing.

That I need more Love.

Both of which I can choose to receive in prayer, even in this time of pain.

What is your pain telling you? What are your “negative” feelings signalling? May your permission to feel, and your courage to face your darkness, give you the Understanding to Love and Be Loved.

Love,

Mish

****

“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.”- Swedish Proverb

The Love Culture on FB: https://www.facebook.com/theloveculture

Owning my Shadow / Taming my Dragon

 “…sometimes it may seem dark, but the absence of the light is a necessary part.” – Jason Mraz, 93 Million Miles.

“You are so shiny… very shiny. Don’t get me wrong. I feel so f*cking lucky that you are here, that we are friends, I feel so peaceful… But you are too shiny. The kind of shiny only 70 year olds have with their accumulated experience. But you’re not 70… something is missing. I can’t sense any darkness in you… Maybe you hide it.

Like me, I have my loneliness and sadness, and I carry it with me wherever I go, do, it is a part of me… I don’t hide. 

But you… I’m not seeing anything.

You are perfect,
too perfect. 

Humans are not supposed to be that way…” – G, describing my aura, in Berlin.

Trust me, when G shared what he shared, nothing made sense. Being bright, and full of light is supposed to be a good thing, isn’t it? If he can’t sense any darkness in me, that’s an even better thing, isn’t it?

My mind understood nothing. All I had were questions and a growing sense of discomfort with each passing day.

Then one afternoon, as we were making our way to the biggest art supply shop in Berlin, he says, “We see the bad in others that we don’t want to see in ourselves… we project it out.”

That idea struck me as bizarre.

It was such a radical thought, I felt myself getting a little defensive. How can he equate me to so and so, and reduce it to a mere projection? But even in my moment of resistance, deep down, I felt that he may be right.

For two weeks, I was put through a masterclass of a different kind. There were no classrooms, no lectures, no teacher. Just Life, unfolding in a way I was totally not used to.

It was so uncomfortable, I had to drink every single night just so I could feel at ease. But something was happening. I was not meant to feel comfortable. I was meant to get in touch with my darkness…

…to own my shadow.

I got reacquainted with the Coward in me, the Liar in me, the Insecure, Self-Centred child in me… It was shocking, but it was also healing and liberating.

By getting in touch with my own darkness again, it helped me to see that I’m not much different from The Loved Ones I am struggling to forgive.

It brought forgiveness.

Image Source: Hot Topic http://shout.lt/rlSP

Image Source: Hot Topic http://shout.lt/rlSP

In my last Silent Retreat, I was speaking to my Spiritual Director about a personal struggle, and I was being all solemn and serious. Smiling and relaxed, all she said was, “Have you watched ‘How to train your dragon’?”

“No,”
“Watch it.”

I still have not seen the movie, but after an unexpected encounter with my “dragon” today, I’m interested to watch it.

All sorts of things were coming up this morning. I was observing, a growing sense of Superiority, thinking I could do this or that better than this or that person. And then, I was observing a growing sense of disgust and shame towards what I had perceived as someone’s Ignorance and Stupidity. I reacted by tuning out, and taking selfies instead of listening. I knew I was being rude and judgemental, but at that point, I did not care.

Coming home, I felt drained and tired. Went to bed and picked up a book I’ve been reading. And what do you know, my lesson of the day has just begun. The book says, “If there’s an aspect of ourselves that we don’t accept, we’ll continually attract people in our lives who act out that aspect.”

What a scary thing to read! I do want to stop attracting certain kinds of people into my life. So I’m ready to do what it takes to move forward.

A page later, it says, “Start by concentrating on qualities that offend you. Take out your list of words that describe the people you dislike or hate, and examine each trait. No matter how resistant you are, you must own each of these traits in order for the process to work. Find a place in your life where you’ve displayed this trait or where someone else might have perceived you as embodying this trait. 

Try on each trait like you would a jacket…”

So I did, and things began shifting in me.

I began to see that my growing sense of “Superiority” this morning, showed up to point to me that the very thing I had resented in someone else, was also well and alive in me. I am capable of it, and am still struggling with it, this need to Compete and Compare. This need to be better stems from an inner struggle with worth and Inferiority, the need to prove oneself. I had thought I had grown beyond that, but I see now, I’m still growing in this area. With this new insight, once more, I am reminded that I am just like that person that offends me.

We’re more alike than unalike.

Next. I began to realise why I had felt so offended with what I had perceived to be Ignorance and Stupidity.

Every person is being our mirror, reflecting back to us the things we can’t see about ourselves. I am learning that the thing that we dislike the most in the other, the thing that “offends” us, is the thing WITHIN that needs our attention the most!

I began to see the root of my anger.

It goes all the way back to my own acts of Ignorance and Stupidity in the past and present. It has cost me so much. I have lost so much. And it has put me through so much pain. In the end, my annoyance with the other person’s Ignorance and Stupidity is really my annoyance with my own!

It’s reflecting my own Shame and Disgust towards my own Ignorance and Stupidity.

Next, the book teaches us to look for The Gift behind the negative traits.

The Gift of my Ignorance and Stupidity is a conscious, life-long commitment to growing, learning, and keeping an open mind.

In acknowledging its place in my life, it sets me free from the Fear, Shame and Disgust I’ve associated with it.

And by coming into acceptance of my own Ignorance and Stupidity, I am able to feel more compassion towards others who are, like me, still in their own process of growth.

“One can only face in others what one can face in oneself.” James Baldwin. 

mish

That’s the “selfie” I took while trying to tune out someone. But now that I realise I was trying to tune out MYSELF… LOL!

Epic day. Feels like I got punched in the face, but it’s just Ego. 

Three cheers for Growth!

Love,

Mish.

****

“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.”- Swedish Proverb

The Love Culture on FB: https://www.facebook.com/theloveculture

Beloved Beast | Let us kiss the beast within ourselves

“It is one thing to feel loved… when our life is together and all our support systems are in place. Then self-acceptance is relatively easy. We may even claim that we are coming to like ourselves. When we are strong, on top, in control, and as the Celts say, “in fine form,” a sense of security crystallizes.

But what happens when life falls through the cracks? What happens when we… fail, when our dreams shatter, when our investments crash, when we are regarded with suspicion? What happens when we come face-to-face with the human condition?

Ask anyone who has gone through a separation or divorce. Are they together now? Is their sense of security intact? Do they have a strong sense of self-worth? Do they still feel like the beloved child? 

“This [brokenness] is what what needs to be accepted. Unfortunately, this is what we tend to reject.

Here the seeds of corrosive self-hatred take root. This painful vulnerability is the characteristic feature of our humanity that most needs to be embraced in order to restore our human condition to a healed state…” – Nicholas Harnan

…Yet as soon as we lose our nerve about ourselves, we take cover. Adam and Eve hid, and we all, in one way or another, have used them as role models. Why? Because we do not like what we see. It is uncomfortable–intolerable–to confront our true selves…

“And so… we either flee our own reality or manufacture a false self which is mostly admirable, mildly prepossessing, and superficially happy.

We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing.

We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public.

And in time we may even come to forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty face is what we really look like.” – Simon Tugwell

…come out of hiding. No amount of spiritual makeup can render us more presentable…

“Over the years I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection.

Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. 

When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions.

The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned,I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.”… [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned.

Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” – Henri Nouwen.

“…To feel safe is to stop living in my head and sink down into my heart and feel liked and accepted… not having to hide anymore and distract myself…

…no need to impress or dazzle others or draw attention to myself, a new way of being in the world… calm, unafraid, no anxiety about what’s going to happen next… loved and valued… just being together as an end in itself.

…If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.

We cling to our bad feelings and beat ourselves with the past when what we should do is let go.” – Chapter 1, ‘Come Out Of Hiding’, Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning. 

Love,

Mish.

****

“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.”- Swedish Proverb

The Love Culture on FB: https://www.facebook.com/theloveculture

“The Ebb & Flow Of Life!” – Chris Assaad

Love this post by Chris Assaad: “Today was one of those days when I woke up and for no apparent reason I was feeling a little lower in spirits than usual. I began to wonder why.

Maybe it’s the cold, rainy, dreary weather and lack of sunshine as winter officially sets in. Maybe it’s a subtle feeling of discouragement as I come up against obstacles along the path to my dream and as I focus on how far I have yet to go to my goal.

Perhaps it’s a combination of fears that have crept into my subconscious and affected my mood. Fear of failure is always high on the list and then of course, there’s fear of everything that comes with success.

Or maybe it’s a bout of loneliness that triggered my fear of never finding the relationship I long for and of being alone for the failure or the success. Blah blah blah!

Ok that’s enough. This is how our minds work a lot of the time and if we don’t catch ourselves, we can get completely submerged in destructive thinking.

There are two levels to this pattern. The first is that when I wake up feeling a slight change in my mood, my first response is to assume that something is wrong and to go hunting for a reason. Well, we’re all professionals at that and when we go in search of evidence for why we’re feeling down, we’re bound to come up with plenty of great stories. Oh how we love our stories!

The fact is that there is an ebb and flow to life. There are highs and lows. There is bitter and sweet. There are gray days and sunny days and it’s all part of the package. If it were peaches, sunshine and roses all the time we’d probably get bored pretty quickly.

The second level is that we resist the mood and immediately try to “fix” it or escape it.  In some instances this takes the form of eating, drinking, doping, buying, consuming or indulging our way out of the problem. In other instances, we run, we hide, we deny or we slam on the brakes and shut down completely.

The bottom line is that the idea that we’re supposed to be on a high all the time is misleading and it can cause us to have false expectations. It’s no wonder that we live in a world mired in addictive behaviors aimed at escaping the lows that we all inevitably experience.

What I’ve been learning is that the best way to cause a shift in our mood when the darkness hits is to completely surrender to the experience of it.

This means facing the feelings, writing about them, talking about them with someone we trust and sometimes, even laughing about them.

The more we resist the valleys of life, the more entrenched in them we become. But when we honor our darker feelings and accept them as part of the nature of who we are, then they lose their hold on us.

When we acknowledge our feelings, give them voice and allow ourselves to feel the ugly, scary stuff, then the darkness passes and gives way to light.

Most importantly, when we’re having one of those days, it’s an opportunity to practice loving ourselves more, to dig deeper and have greater faith in our dreams, to build up our spiritual endurance and press on in the face of fear and uncertainty. It’s an opportunity to learn about ourselves and grow by getting to know a side of ourselves that makes us uncomfortable.

There is an ebb and flow to life.  Rather than fight it or resist it, let us embrace it.

Let us adjust our expectations of what is “normal” and practice accepting the highs, the lows and everything in between.

There’s a lesson in all of it and it’s by fully being wherever we are that we can maintain a sense of inner peace and remain empowered regardless of what the day holds or what the weather outside looks like.” – Chris

Chris Assaad is a rad singer/songwriter and a TDL reader. Check out his website here.

Read this gem of an article from The Daily Love ❤ Disclaimer: Just because I share an insight by Chris / The Daily Love, does not mean I am aligned with their teachings / programmes in all its entirety. There will always be things we agree with /don’t agree with. Please apply personal discernment. Take what you can, leave out the rest.

Love,

Mish.

****

“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.”- Swedish Proverb

The Love Culture on FB: https://www.facebook.com/theloveculture

Love Is Allowing Yourself To Feel

“We must not numb our pain.

When in sorrow, sorrow.

When in anger, anger.

FEEL IT.

It’s the only way to go through it.” Paul said to me, as we were discussing the problem of alcoholism in Finland.

His main language is Finnish. So when he speaks in English, it’s very simple. But I get it. And I love it. It comes out sounding like a poem.

Paul is saying we must go through the process of whatever it is we’re feeling. So when we’re in sorrow, then allow ourselves to be in sorrow.

Having spent many years working in a rehab for alcoholics in Helsinki, he’s seen how desperately people try to numb their pain, instead of dealing with the root of that pain. In the end, the only thing they create is a bigger mess, ruining their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.

…I feel like I can relate to them.

For over a decade, I’ve tried to numb my pain through many ways.

It has led to many addictions that can be a whole blog post by itself.

The past one year and a half, I’ve been learning that there are better, healthier and more effective ways to deal with pain. Today, I’m just going to focus on one: Giving yourself permission to feel what you feel.

I’ve been having a hard time processing my feelings the last couple of days / weeks / months. Here I am, learning about love and sharing what I learn on The Love Culture. But I am highly aware, too, that these whole other spectrum of “dark” emotions are well and alive and brewing in me.

Anger

Grief

Disappointment

Resentment

Bitterness

Unforgiveness

Fear

They’re not there all the time. At least not on the surface. But when it’s triggered, the rawness of the pain and the way I crumble, surprises me.

Seeing the way that I am when I’m in pain–and being made aware that I’m not much different from the person causing me pain when I’m hurt–just left me feeling absolutely lost in my own darkness. 

And then someone comes my way today, to remind me of my goodness and help me see the Light, within and without. I feel loved, supported and cared for. And it’s bringing me release. Which got me wondering…

Could this be the reason why we hold on to our hurt?

Is it a cry to be loved?

I believe the answer is, Yes.

This question and answer have, in the past, allowed me to let go of the need for justice or to set things right–at least, not in the heat of the moment. Understanding that both the perpetrator of pain and the one in pain is both crying out for the same thing–to be loved–frees me to open up my hands to receive the Love that I need from God, others and myself, to heal, instead of keeping it clenched in a fist of fury, ready to retaliate.

But this time around, I’m feeling conflicted.

Here I am, talking about love and compassion on The Love Culture, but I wasn’t feeling very loving or compassionate at the moment towards the source of my pain. I felt disgusted instead. And I felt bad for feeling this.

Then a friend comes along and gives me this reassurance:

“Dont ever be afraid to feel “negative” feelings.

They are just signals, not the be-alls and end-alls.

In the great silence of which you understand, there is the unfolding of His greatness and love, which can NEVER be taken away by our feelings.” – TW

I felt grateful for this reminder.

His permission (yes, we don’t need ‘permission’ so to speak, but when we’re stuck and unable to move, it helps to have someone say “IT’S OKAY, GO AHEAD”) to feel without condemnation, allowed me to navigate my way through this, by trying to understand,

“What are my “negative” feelings signalling?”

That I need Healing.

That I need more Love.

Both of which I can choose to receive in prayer, even in this time of pain.

What is your pain telling you? What are your “negative” feelings signalling? May your permission to feel, and your courage to face your darkness, give you the Understanding to Love and Be Loved.

Love,

Mish

****

Michelle Tan is the Founder of The Love Culture ‎~ Inspiring A Loving Way Of Living. https://www.facebook.com/theloveculture

Her mission is to make space for Faith, Hope & LOVE through her writings, clothing line ROX/STA http://www.roxstastudio.com & music.