Tag Archive 'Leonard Cohen'

Sep 21 2011

Compassionate Witness On Board – #80

When I was in my early twenties, I read an article in Parade Magazine about Liza Minnelli, who had just emerged from rehab. Something she said in that article has stayed with me all these years. It was very simple, yet so vastly profound that it helped change my life forever. She said that she was developing a new relationship with herself and throughout the day would check in, asking, “How are you doing honey?”

That blew my mind! The thought that I could talk to myself that way opened up a whole new way of being with myself. I started checking in with myself and calling myself “honey’ and ‘sweetheart’.  Gradually, over time, the critical voice that was always beating me up became a loving voice. My chronic, internal judge was being replaced by my Compassionate Witness. This is an on-going process that continues to this day.

In my forties I fortified the voice of my Compassionate Witness by doing a two-year training in Hakomi, a healing, therapeutic approach that brings mindfulness, curiosity, and loving presence to whatever is present. Strengthening the energy of presence was building a mighty muscle that would carry me through tough times.

I flex that muscle now whenever I’m haunted by horror thoughts of possible cancer carnage…I take deep breaths and become very present. This invites in my Compassionate Witness, who says, “I know that you feel scared right now honey. Let yourself feel it.” I reassure myself that when and if that time comes, I will be present with what’s present, breathing into it, fully feeling and facing it, putting on my Big Soul panties and dealing with it. (And…if it gets too bad, LOTS of powerful, kick-ass painkillers…because saint I ain’t!)

I know that healing happens in the light of awareness. The glue that binds our painful patterns together is soluble in awareness, which is much like water: “Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water; yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it.”(Lao Tzu)  Awareness is very potent stuff!

When I bring my Compassionate Witness to everything I think, do and feel, something astonishing happens…I gradually BECOME more the witness than the thing that I’m witnessing! Bringing all my shadows into the light, I become whole – welcoming every part of me to the party. My Compassionate Witness throws a great party! Every shadow, every guest who shows up (and they are quite a motley cast of characters!) is welcomed with open arms. Even the biggest shadow of them all…death.

Facing our death is something we’re all going to have to do eventually – it is the big fat elephant in the room. Buddha said, “Just as the elephant’s footprint is the biggest footprint on the jungle floor, death is the biggest teacher. Death or Yama Raja, death personified, drove me to the peace beyond birth and death.”

I want to be in that peace beyond birth and death; therefore, I’m intent on facing my fear of death, and death itself, and making friends with it. That way I am embracing it, rather than bracing against it. Leonard Cohen wrote, “If you don’t embrace the ocean you’ll be seasick every day.” When I come into harmony with all that floats and flounders about in my ocean, I am at peace.

What I resist persists; in that case, I’m hoping that now that I’m no longer resisting, maybe death won’t be persisting! Not any time soon anyway. Hopefully, I’ll have many more years to practice being fully present with my fears about the big “C” and the big “D” — bringing me more into union with the big ME, my true oceanic self!

Byron Katie said: “Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it…it’s just easier if you do.” With the loving support of my Compassionate Witness, my greatest intention is to face whatever happens, and all my feelings about what happens, with an open mind, an open heart, and open arms.

Do you have a Compassionate Witness? There is no better traveling companion on life’s journey…it will help you get through ANYTHING!

In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

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May 14 2011

Transforming Sob Stories Into Wabi Sabi Stories – The Art of Being Perfectly Imperfect – #73

Wabi Sabi (wah-bee sah-bee) is a Japanese concept of life and art in which beauty is found in things that are weathered, asymmetrical, incomplete, imperfect and impermanent. As I age, my body is becoming all of the above and, therefore, Wabi Sabi has become my new kemo sahbee (faithful friend). I’m learning to see myself as a work of art, not in spite of my flaws, but BECAUSE of them. What a concept!

I’ve had a head start with this Wabi Sabi way of seeing myself — over the years I’ve been learning to face my emotional imperfections and accept myself as perfectly imperfect. I was motivated to do this by a painful sense of shame and a belief that I was fundamentally flawed and needed to be perfect in order to be loved. The quest for perfection put a cork in my aliveness that eventually caused me to crack under the pressure. I went to bed one night asking the higher powers that be, “What am I here to do in this life?” I awoke with these words resounding in my mind, “All you have to do is love yourself.” This set me on a new quest to learn to love myself AS IS, warts and all. I am still on that journey. I am learning to love my imperfect self.

One of my favorite quotes that has helped me in reframing my flawed self is Ashleigh Brilliant’s epigram, “I may not be perfect, but parts of me are excellent!” I’ve said this to myself many times throughout the years and it’s always made me feel better about myself. Now, in the spirit of Wabi Sabi, I tell myself, “I may not be perfect, but my imperfections make me unique and beautiful!” Krishnamurti has said that our souls are from the same paper but what makes us unique is the creases formed in the paper from all the folding and unfolding of our life experience.

This Wabi Sabi perspective is helping me face and embrace my body upheavals of the last several years. Despite my careful attempts to remain perfectly in tact, Bell’s palsy set my face permanently askew, gum disease ate away at my jawbone, cataracts clouded my eyes, an appendectomy removed my ruptured appendix, and cancer devoured my uterus, (not to mention the addition of wrinkles and gray hair, oy!). I have had to let go of my attachment to things being perfect. I’ve chosen instead to see and accept the beauty of this cracked, weathered vessel that I’ve become.  A little boy said to his grandmother, “Oh Gramma, you have such beautiful designs on your face.” I’m learning to see myself the way that little boy sees his grandmother.

There is great liberation in perceiving ourselves as beautiful, not in spite of our flaws, but because of them. It is heartening to see ourselves as not broken, but instead broken open — all the better to receive the abundant light and love that surrounds us. Leonard Cohen echoes this sentiment in his song, Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Finally I’d like to leave you with the quintessential Wabi Sabi story of the Cracked Pot:

Everyday a water-bearer carried two pots balanced on a yoke across his shoulders to his master’s house. One of the pots was cracked and leaked water all the way there. This made the pot very sad. “I’m so imperfect. Why do you keep me?” The water-bearer answered, “I planted flowers along your side of the path and the water you spill nourishes those flowers. Because of you, the beautiful flowers that grow there have brought great joy to my master. Your flaws bring joy and beauty.”

The story we tell ourselves about our lives is always our choice. It can be a sob story, or a Wabi Sabi story. We can choose to see ourselves as a crackpot or as a cracked pot watering flowers in our lives. I am choosing to see my life as a perfect work of art, cracks and all!

What’s your Wabi Sabi story? Can you see how your flaws, imperfections, and challenges have made your life a beautiful work of art?

In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

Copyright 2011 Janet Jacobsen

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