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Dr. Cara Barker

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Cultivating Self-Affection During Tricky Times

Posted: 03/27/2013 10:34 am

Fragrant scents of cherry blossoms and pink dogwood fill the air alongside the lake. Each of the flowering releases a gentle rain of perfumed petals to those of us in wonder, down below. Spring, in all her glory, dares the frosty air. Do we? Do we dare to shake off the wintry cold that hardens hearts and dampens dreams? Do we dare to bloom today, to become that which is best in our hearts, and that which most inspires our spirit? Do we dare? During this week of Easter, we do well to consider what might bring new life and which of those old self-imposed constrictions need crucifixion for rebirth to come.

If we are not willing to come into our best self, what stands in our way? Rumi put it this way:

"Dissolver of sugar,
Dissolve Thou me."

Easy for the poet, the mystic, we say. At least, that is the assumption. But assumptions have a way of getting us in trouble. The fact is that we have no idea what sacrifices were exacted from master teachers in order to arrive at their own awakening and the gift each left behind for willing students. Sure, we have biographical accounts. But this is a far cry from walking in those dusty sandals.

This week offers such a reminder. Regardless whether you hold the story of Jesus as literal or metaphorical, the lessons are timely. Here is just a smattering:

1. Give up self-blame. There will be many willing to crucify you if you decide to dissolve your old way of life, if not with nails, then at least with words and judgment. When you dare to dissolve the way you've been holding yourself back and decide to follow what your spirit advises, flack will come. When negativity needs a target, opt out. Step aside. Do spiritual aikido: Get out of the energy.

2. Find a garden. If not literally, then do so symbolically. We each need a space, a place in which to step out of the ruckus of the world, a zone of quietude in which to reflect and contemplate what is best for us, what "cup" to hand over, and what is ours to carry.

3. Be prepared to stand your ground when you feel betrayed, by those you thought would understand, support, protect. Most especially, be prepared for your monkey mind to oppose your grand plan. "He" will be upset by your decision to be all that you came here to be. Monkey mind hates uncertainty, hates sacrifice, and hates clarity. In other words, monkey mind prefers, make that "is attached," to playing big boss. Don't let him. He is creative, knows your "buttons" to keep you in line. If your inner GPS advises you to take a break, to go into solitude, depend upon monkey mind to "read you the riot act," to usher up all the reasons why this is unwise. Monkey mind is brilliant at stirring the pot. Tell him to have a banana, to take a chill pill. I'm serious. True, this is through your creative imagination. Just remember, the use of your creative imagination is the most powerful tool we have to shift our lives. (See archives, March 13, 2013).

4. Throw a party. Once you have dissolved your beliefs about why you dare not shine as you really are, why you dare not cultivate affection for yourself, invite a few over for your "last supper," that is, a time of celebration to acknowledge what you appreciate in your loved ones who stand by you, when you are poised for a new leap of faith. Break bread. Toast one another. Dance. Say goodbye to the old and make space for what is at the door. Thank them for witnessing your leap of faith, for "holding steady," and holding you in their hearts during your physical or spiritual/psychological absence.

5. Surrender what is dying in your life. Release the old husk of life you've been living, those behaviors and relationships that deplete that are just too much darn work-intensive, those "puppies" where you are doing all the heavy lifting. Relationships that are real have a quality of mutual exchange in them. They are energizing, revitalizing, inspiring, and warm. Give up the rest. You do not need them to prove yourself to you. We get it. You are OK as is.

6. Forgive all that depletes life. Include in this relationships that are deadening, beliefs about yourself or others that rob you of joy, vitality. Make a list of them and address them one by one. Free yourself, for in the past you "know not what you do." Now that you recognize what kills off life, forgive yourself for ignorance in the past. You have done your best.

7. Be prepared to wait in the dark. Throw away your watch. Go into your cave. You will know when the time comes to return to new life. One way to go to the cave is through spiritual practice: meditation, the expressive arts, and prayer, a walk in the park or nature, a literal retreat. Do this every day and watch what happens. Let go of your plan. Remember? You let that go. Give yourself a chance to simply "be." At night, attend your physical body through soothing massage, ointments, soul-cleansing baths, and scents that awaken and calm your senses. Come for a visit with your deepest self. Show respect. Grieve what is ending, wait what is coming. Be still and know that all is well.

8. During this process, do whatever you can to cultivate self-affection. I capitalize "self," because we are referring to your sacred self, the center point of soul as psyche. These days, we are enjoined to forgive others, and even self. But, there is a vast difference between forgiveness and cultivating self-affection. Forgiveness is the preliminary step to self-emancipation, through dissolving what has been problematic. Cultivating self-affection moves us into the seedbed of possibilities, stepping smack into the fertile ground that I termed the "goosebumps way." (See archives, March 13, 2013). Cultivating self-affection requires creative action. Here's where the goodies are, my friend. Cultivating self-affection means taking your heart's delight, including rediscovering your heart's delight, seriously. Not that sort of "seriousity" that leaves a deadly grimace on our face or stiffness in our shoulders. This is not the place for martyrdom. No, contraire! Cultivating self-affection is a means of grabbing your ground of original being, devoting yourself to whatever arises in your heart that brings pure delight, and beauty, and discovering where this leads in the land of uncertainty.

9. Leave no forwarding address. How can you? If we don't know where our process is leading, best not to restrict life's flow. Yes, this is risky. But, isn't life fully lived risky? Likewise, choosing to opt out of life, and leaps of faith, carries its own toll, one I'd rather not pay. We are here now. Why not live now? Why not love the whole of who we are, this life we live, with all we've got, and be about the adventure? There are endless iterations of who we are, of the way sacred self-expresses. Ours is to get introduced, to come into loving relationship with the all, and celebrate this grand and glorious life, regardless the bumps along the road.

Toward this end, I will be taking a sabbatical for the next seven weeks, from my work, and my blog here on The Huffington Post, and the Internet. The "time has come," the walrus said, "to speak of many things..." And, so, I shall be following the above nine steps, once more in my life, for it is time to cultivate self-affection for where I am at this stage of life, and the new life that is underway. It is time to test out my reconstructed feet. Today shall be my last post until May 21, when, God willing, I will return. Know that I shall hold you and yours in my heart as I enter the creative underground and take notes.

Before I do so, allow me to gift the following love letter, imagining that the beloved were addressing you today.

Love Letter to the One Who Dares:

Suppose the beloved had a message for you today that went like this:

Stop being so hard on yourself! Yes, you. I am talking to you. Stop being so unfair to you. Give yourself permission to step back, to witness, and to find awe for which you are that has been hiding.

Your planet is on a collision course. Everywhere you look, notice the rushing here and there, the disconnection with human beings, with life in all its forms, the epidemic of loneliness and secret pain, the side-talk of he said/she said, the gossip, the blame, the suffering, the fear undergirding the mess.

Surely this is not living. Surely this is not the "more" you have been seeking. Search between the cracks and crevices of your schedule, your plan, and your previous agreements with yourself. How much room is there for you to appreciate your heartbeat in this present breath? How much space are you willing to give yourself to simply "be"? How much "skin" are you willing to put in the game to discover the magnificence awaiting to arise through your life?

How rare to find those who sit quietly, or hilariously, with one another, meeting in the moment, content to be together in the moment, without distraction, cell phones, screens, excesses of any kind. How rare and precious to participate in unanticipated love without strings.

How much space are you willing to give yourself to simply "be"? How much "skin" are you willing to put in the game to discover the magnificence awaiting to arise through your life?

Know this. I wish you fresh, gentle breezes. I wish you that special joy that comes from letting go. I wish you gold, finding it in hidden places, such as the daffodil in all her glory. I wish you life: the resurrection of who you were called here to become. I wish you fertility of self-expression, that sort which inspires you to new heights, from your innermost depths. I wish you peace, sweet dreams, and glorious sunrises to bless you on your way. I wish for you an age of inspired realism as you reclaim your original way on this earth, your wonder, and your mark upon the path that we might celebrate together.

Consider: If you took to heart the meaning of this letter, what might shift for you today? What is time to dissolve in your own thinking which limits you? Be brave, my friend, be brave. You have the right stuff in you, regardless what you have believed up to now in private moments of self-doubt.

Be the Love You are,

Cara

Your Turn: What say you? I'm listening! Thank you for forwarding this.

For more information, see my archives on HuffPost and/or carabarker.com.

For more by Dr. Cara Barker, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

 

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