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Going Gently into that Good Night

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In Buddhism, the most transformative act is to wake up, to see what is present, to actually open up our eyes. It can take a lifetime to accomplish this simple, monumental feat.
 
With many of my clients who have experienced deep trauma, the process of awakening can feel like crawling blindly forward until the film in one’s eyes finally clears. And yet even those of us who have somehow managed to live this long without experiencing intense trauma, it is still difficult to open to what is rather than twisting ourselves up in with the illusion of our own grand design.
 
These last few months of coaching, of living, have rendered this truth acutely. Not everyone is on a spiritual path, or at least, perhaps, not overtly. But most of us are seeking a way of living that can allow for our intentions, our challenges, and the truth of what is around us. And if we are not able to acknowledge what is, we cannot open to what else can be.
 
When we become tethered between our wants and our struggles, eyes wide shut to our circumstances, our bodies always step in to remind us to demand that we pay attention. With our eyes, ears, hearts closed to what is, we get ulcers, injuries, our tissues become inflamed.
 
This is the great gift of our bodies, of our spirits’ fundamental refusal to ignore what is. When we get so wrapped up in our needs and desires, designing for them, against them, in elaborate paths that circumnavigate them as if the deepest truths of our lives were islands to be glimpsed only through binoculars from far, far away, we get panic attacks, insomnia, tendonitis. The body demands our attention.
 
This time of year when there is more darkness than light, more time to plan away the present, give yourself a practice of opening your eyes. Be gentle. You do not need to toothpick yourself awake. Simply ask yourself, what is true right now? What are the circumstances of your life? What is your body telling you?  What in your life is demanding your attention?
 
The process of awakening does ask of us deep curiosity, impeccable honesty, and an incredible amount of compassion, for ourselves most of all. What it yields is a body, a life, a way of living in which we can breathe deeply. A gentleness even in the face of difficulty. A place where we can be comfortable in the darkness, present to both the density and the luminosity of each moment.

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