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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Loving Life

Loving Life

By Robert Gerzon
In those moments when we love life with every cell of our being, we experience our greatest joy. We've all seen that joyful shimmer radiating from a baby's body, shining from a child's face with pure delight.
What happens to us over the years? How do we "lose that loving feeling"? How can we return to our original Eden of joy?
These questions have guided my life's search. The answer that keeps coming up most consistently is "fear." Fear (anxiety) blocks the experience of joy. More precisely, it is our response to fear that is the problem.
What's the first thing we do in response to fear? We judge. We have been taught to judge. (Have you ever met a judgmental baby?)
"This should not be happening." "You are wrong." "I did something bad." Our judging only creates more fear and more defenses that block love from reaching us.
Nonjudging (acceptance) is the path to peace. Jesus, as well as other great spiritual teachers, was very clear about how to find freedom from judgment's double-edged sword: "Judge not, that ye be not judged."
How can we break this all-too-human habit of judging? Try an experiment today: Notice the judgments that arise in response to events without becoming attached to them. Then release your judgments and enjoy the serenity that comes with unconditional acceptance. It is this spirit of acceptance that ushers us into the paradise of the present moment -- the simple delight in "what is".
The challenge, of course, comes when we encounter a threat to our well-being such as illness, pain, relationship problems or financial difficulties. How can we accept these without judging? Aren't they obviously "bad"?
One of the most challenging assaults to serenity is intense chronic pain. Darlene Cohen, author of Finding a Joyful Life in the Heart of Pain, suffers from crippling arthritis that affects every joint in her body. "I was caught on the hook, and I realized that 'this is my life'; I can either remain unconscious or come into it and live this life." By practicing awareness and acceptance, Darlene found that "tendrils of pleasure began creeping into my hell."
A college student I have been counseling completed the past academic year successfully while battling anxiety and terrifying panic attacks. With growing courage and compassion she is learning to face her anxiety and accept the inner life of the emotions without judgment. This summer she discovered the poems of Rumi, a thirteenth century mystic, and sent me one that had spoken to her. It brought me comfort the day I received it and I'd like to share it with you.
The Guest House
(translated by Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi)
"This being human is a guest-house,
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
…treat each guest honorably…
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond."
Another Rumi poem, a favorite of mine, begins with the stark observation:
"Today, like every other day, I wake up empty and frightened."
So Rumi, too, was anxious. He learned to accept his anxiety (and even proclaim it to the world in his poetry) instead of judging it as something bad. Accepting his existential angst, he used anxiety to become more aware, more radically alive!

Love the life you have -- create the life you love.

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