love lessons for a love teacher…
October 22, 2012
She’s back…oh, how we need her bravery and kindness. My dear friend Nicki Peasley guests posts for me today as I recover from a crazy run of kindness stuff, just trying to follow her lead in love. You can read more of her goodness here.
Love is my favorite 4- letter word (although my children would tell you I have a fondness for many others). If I had to claim the skill set of which I am most proud, at the top of the list would be kindness, compassion, and gratitude (and the ability to share these gifts authentically and creatively with others). Yep, my whole life, I’ve been pursuing the art of being human, well on my way to becoming a master “love teacher.” (Yes, I’ve really introduced myself that way).
But as it turns out, my love train was missing a critical source of fuel. While loving others kept my engine going for a long time, I had forgotten the most important ingredient in navigating the journey through life…loving myself.
About 6 months ago, I began to spiral into a dark hole of depression and anxiety. Despite my obvious unraveling, I kept practicing Love with a vengeance, (there’s an oxymoron)—desperately seeking to defeat the spiral with kindness, compassion, and gratitude—for others. If I could just do a little more for the world, I would be ok. I would be enough. I refused to listen to the voice within that was crying out, “Stop. Rest. Eat a bag of Cheetos. Watch a Desperate Housewives re-run!”
Until Self refused to be ignored any longer. And she went on a sleeping strike. Now, when you mix a case of insomnia with a biochemical imbalance (that I’ve managed since my early 20’s), a type A personality (I can always get one more errand, one more e-mail, one more chore in before car pool), extreme tendencies toward perfectionism (Damn, I forgot a comma in that blog), an excessive need for approval (ask nicki—she can’t say no) and my own soul story (which includes a martyr, an empath, and a warrior)— you’ve got recipe for big batch of breakdown brownies.
I should share, too, that 9 months ago, I gave up my 18- year affair with anti-depressants. I thought that at 40 years old, certainly, I had all the experience and wisdom and skills and tools I needed to keep myself thriving. And, of course, Love conquers all, right? Wrong.
Back on meds, my mind is beginning to settle. I am seeing some light again—within me and all around me. And there are still times when I feel as if my body has electric currents running through it. While I once resisted this feeling with every cell of my being, I am now able to greet it with softness, curiosity and acceptance. Knowing that it will pass, just like all emotions do.
I read a passage by Pema Chodron (a brilliant teacher of loving kindness) in which she described her experience with anxiety. When she went to her teacher for solace, he told her that what she was feeling was actually a form of spiritual bliss! And its intensity, albeit painful, was nothing to be feared. And as she learned to lean into the pain, she discovered the bliss.
Amazing how a shift in perspective can allow one to hold the human condition (whatever it is) is a whole new light. Could it be that anxiety is really Love in disguise? A painfully deep and beautiful connection to self and other, to the earth, to Spirit, to the light and dark of it all? That, perhaps, there is great power in raw vulnerabilty? Hmm…I’m open to the possibility.
Like all challenges, this episode in my life has come with a huge gift. The gift of learning to love myself. To practice kindness and compassion and gratitude—for myself. To bathe in the healing energy of the sun, listening deeply to my true voice, whispering sweet nothings (that are really everythings), “May I be safe. May I be strong. May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I accept what is. May I be free of suffering. May I be at peace.“
And it is from this place of being peace that I can easily set aside my infatuation with goals and to do lists and high self-expectations. And realize that it is my imperfections that make me beautiful. That my presence is enough. That my worth is not defined by my achievements. It is defined by Love.
Love that is made manifest in the contemplation of a leaf; in the mindful eating of an apple; in a roadside conversation with a homeless woman; in a meal prepared for a neighbor; in some early morning snuggling with a beloved child; in coffee and tears shared with a friend; in the embracing of a tree; in offering a simple smile to a stranger.
And it is from my meditation for self- healing that I send on the wind loving kindness for the world. “May all creatures be safe, strong, healthy, happy, free of suffering, at peace…”
I am a work in progress. There are many times when I find myself shifting back into old and destructive thought patterns… and I have to begin again. To hold my heart with gentle hands. To breathe. And watch a mindless tv show with a bag of Cheetos.
During this season of stillness, I am learning to live in my body in a graceful and
loveful way. To trust and surrender. To hold fear and shame and anger with as much
tenderness as I hold joy and sadness. For to be an authentic love teacher,
I must cultivate the courage to hold it all. And to love myself unconditionally—in
darkness and in light.
Nicki Peasley is a student of life and a teacher of love. In the past, she developed curricula and worked (played and learned and told stories) with elementary and middle school youth. Now, she is living in the question of what’s next. Perhaps just being human is more than enough.