The Gift of Rejection

InnerPeace1Sometimes experiences that are most hurtful can actually be a gift. Such is the case for those who have experienced scapegoating or rejection from those they love. A friend of mine was feeling the pain of having been shut out by most of his genetic family after coming out as a gay man. His father wouldn’t speak to him, his siblings and others refused to return his calls or emails. He was no longer invited to family events. As is often the case, family members were twisting the story to say that he had separated from them, that he had rejected them – to justify their scapegoating behavior.

All of this was truly painful for him – however it was also a gift. This young man had the benefit of knowing immediately who was actually his family. He knew without doubt who in his life would love and accept him unconditionally, as he was, for who he was. He knew immediately who would support him in living an authentic life – and who would not.

Sometimes this knowledge is invisible to us. Until a life-changing event (perhaps a divorce, death, serious illness, or revelation like my friend’s above) we may not realize that some relationships we hold dear are actually not loving at all, not supportive, not accepting.

Similarly, if you witness family members shutting someone out, gossiping or treating others badly, know that given the chance they will very likely do the same to you. Stand up for someone being treated badly – don’t collude with your silence. Don’t participate in the tribal mindset.

If you are unwilling to stand up for someone being mistreated for fear of rejection yourself, then know this: your fear is an indication that you are not being unconditionally accepted – you have already been rejected.

Unlike this young man’s so called “family,” when we really love someone, we want them to live their best life. We want them to leave toxic, abusive relationships or even relationships that make them unhappy or depressed. We aren’t interested in manipulating them or those around them. We don’t begrudge them their success, happiness or joy. Rather, we are interested in deeply listening to the story of their life journey, to their struggles and hopes. Likewise we are willing to share our journey with them too.

True acceptance, deep listening and sharing are the hallmarks of those who are actually our family, regardless of arbitrary genetic linkage. If you have felt the heart-wrenching pain of being abandoned, manipulated, scapegoated or rejected by those you love – see it for the gift that it is. Focus on deepening and encouraging relationships that are supportive and caring. Be with those who love being with you and who you love to be with!

What do you do with your suffering? Use your knowledge and experience of rejection to strengthen your emotional resilience, non-judgment and compassion for others – especially those who are excluded and marginalized. This is the mark of emotional and spiritual health. This is the mark of becoming truly human.

True Freedom

Photo R. Meshar

Photo R. Meshar

If I’m not able to freely choose that which contributes to my health and wholeness – whether it be healthy, mutual relationships, nutritious food or enriching activities – then I’m not truly free because something or someone else enslaves me. That enslavement, addiction or distraction impoverishes me because it keeps me from being able to choose freely for those things which will keep me healthy and sustain my life.

Justice begins within.

Spring Cleaning – Saucha

 

The new year is always a good time to clean, edit, organize. To that end I give you my “Spring Cleaning” post.

Last week I purchased some wonderful triple-milled French soap that was on sale. It makes the bathroom and shower smell great and it lasts twice as long as regular soap. On sale it is a good value and an affordable luxury.

This is the time of year when we may do some deep cleaning – both outside and within. The practice of saucha comes to mind. Traditionally, saucha is one of the niyamas or observances of the 8 Limbed Path of Yoga also known as Ashtanga Yoga. Saucha refers to the practice of cleanliness. Cleanliness of our bodies, our environment and our thoughts or mind.

The idea of the observance of saucha or cleanliness is not unique to Yoga. Ritual bathing and cleaning practices are prevalent in the Judaic (ritual bath, Kosher practice), Christian (baptism, foot washing) and Islamic (ritual washing and Hillel) religions. It is also readily found in many cultures including both Hindu and Japanese cultures or consider the Chinese practice of feng shui.

The practice of saucha keeps us healthy. Keeping our bodies and living spaces clean promotes health and releases life energy (prana) for healing, meditation and other activities. It is difficult to think clearly or accomplish something in a space that is cluttered, dirty or noisy.

Similarly, a lack of order that causes us to search for car keys every day steals time and energy. In our minds unwanted, intrusive thoughts or obsessions steal our time and mental energy. Practices of racism and discrimination distort our minds and defile our thinking. In our relationships, failure to maintain clear boundaries cause us to feel used, unappreciated or worse – violated. (To learn more, I strongly recommend reading Anne Katherine’s Where to Draw the Line and Boundaries.)

Saucha is the remedy for all these.

 

 

Saucha reminds me that the practice of cleanliness is a practice of maintaining physical health but also a spiritual practice. This is true whether it is making a bed, washing dishes or meditating to clear my mind. If I want to be a virtuous person I must become those virtues. This means that if I want to be kind I must practice kindness. If I want to be generous or honest I must practice both. This includes being with people who can embody what those virtues look like for me.

January and February are good months to clean house and maybe our lives. It’s constant work to remove relationships, food or activities that fail to leave my body, mind or life in better condition (eliminating junk food or TV – which is junk food for the mind – for example).

Keeping my surroundings ordered and clean promotes free-flowing energy. My home is not just for me. Everything I have is a gift. My resources must be well cared for and available for others too. This means extending myself with the practice of hospitality.

It is an ongoing challenge to seek out those with virtues I admire and spend time with them. Working with others to dismantle the legal and social structures of white privilege and racism is included here.  Attitudes are slow to change which is why unjust laws must be corrected first.

This is what the practice of saucha looks like in my life. Why practice suacha? Remember the airline’s directive: “Place the oxygen mask over your mouth first before helping others.” I can’t be a healing presence for others in the world unless I am healthy myself.

Do you make time for spring cleaning or saucha in your life? What are your spring cleaning and saucha practices?

Photo nrGreenFest.org

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InnerPeace – Joyful Living

Photo R. Meshar

Am I qualified to write a post on what it takes to live joyfully? Probably not any more so than others who also live joyfully. On the other hand, I certainly have seen the back side of this coin. Meanwhile, others have commented to me that I seem very joyful, happy and peaceful. Students have even written it on their course evaluations. So perhaps writing down a few of my observations is helpful.

Those of us who come out of physically or emotionally abusive families, usually have not learned the the healthy psychological habits of living joyfully. Just like learning to set healthy boundaries or only allowing healthy relationships into one’s life, living joyfully is a learned skill. The joy, of course, is within us – within each and every one of us. But it is a skill to learn how to allow that joy to emerge, allowing it to penetrate our everyday life and relationships.

Here some of the habits necessary for joyful living –

1. Take time to reflect and be grateful every day. Do not seek happiness in external things, situations, addictions or behaviors. If you are caught in addiction seek help.

2. Retrain ruminations and thoughts away from victimization, bitterness and resentment. Drinking thoughts like these is no different than drinking poison – and wondering why the other person doesn’t drop dead. Rather, retrain your mind to focus on the positive things in your day, in your life. Get help through therapy if you need it.

3. If you can’t find something positive – create something. Greet the cashier at the grocery store. Say a pleasant “hello” to someone on the street. Do something nice for yourself. The amount of positive energy in your life is dependent on the number of positive actions you are willing to take.

4. Create a network of healthy and supportive relationships. This is a minimal requirement to begin living joyfully. Without others who also live this way we do not have good models to emulate or the support we need to make difficult decisions and choices. Again, introspection, spiritual direction and therapy can be helpful here.

5. Once healthy relationships are in place, begin removing dysfunctional, abusive or unhealthy relationships from your life. Usually this last step will usually happen on its own. Oil and water will separate.

As adults only we can decide which relationships are life-giving for us. Accept relationships and situations for what they are – as they are. Decide what you are willing to tolerate and more importantly what you are not willing to tolerate. This is not about creating drama or ultimatums. It is about slowly, but surely, removing yourself from unhealthy situations. If positive change occurs you can always re-assess. Until then, healthy adults do not worry about other adults, neither do they take care of them, either financially, physically or emotionally.

To allow yourself to take care of another adult, or to allow yourself to be taken care of by another adult is not love – it is co-dependence, enabling and perhaps enmeshment. If other adults in your life need care, point them to resources to get the help they need. Real love desires that other adults have independence and freedom.

6. With your new-found freedom, healthy relationships and energy enjoy your new, joy-filled life!

Justice begins within.

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