This amazing picture is from a couple weeks ago, taken in Barkerville--a historic gold town/theme park in northern BC-- with my two sisters and niece.
Cutest baby on the planet, you say? Yes. I know. It's ridiculous.
...and then I'm the one in the middle who looks like she just got poked in the ass, uncomfortable as ever with having my photograph taken. At some point I'm going to work on releasing that I imagine...
These women, my sisters, are amazing. Powerful, brilliant, talented, kind, resourceful, intuitive women. And they are less than half of the people I am lucky enough to call family, the whole of which includes an equally brilliant and phenomenal brother, and a mother and father who might both not be of this world.
I know that I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing group of people to call family, but it wasn't always this way. Not that they weren't always amazing (though we have all evolved over time), but that I have not always been able to see it. This is because for much of my life--right up until my late 20's and beyond even--I was unable to see what I had been gifted with, and focused solely on what I did not have, or what the people who called me family hadn't offered me.
Sadly, for most of my life I focused on the so-called failing of my parents, the differences between my siblings and I, and all the things I thought were missing from my life overall. I found fault in the people around me in a feeble and thoughtless attempt to bolster my own self-esteem. This resulted, of course, in not only still being unhappy with myself standing all alone, but also made it impossible for me to form appreciation-based and loving relationships with other people. Especially with my family.
I suppose things started to change when I began the process of sorting out myself and all my conditioning and fears, a process that allowed for (slow) transition into appreciation and awareness of what I had instead of victimizing myself and judging others for what they were not. Through this process I began to really see people, to see them with compassion and openness, and our relationships grew. I focused on what was common between myself and others, and especially with my siblings this was far greater than I ever could have imagined.
...we all popped out of the same place with pretty much 99% of the same genetic material, after all.
...but then in undertaking this practice of increasing awareness and openness the ability to see connection between myself and all people increased, 'widening the circle of compassion' as ol' meester Einstein called it I guess.
I began, more and more, to see love where before there had only been judgement and criticism before.
I began to realize that as I sorted myself out and healed the places where I was uncomfortable or shut down, I could see the love that had always been around me, waiting to be noticed.
It wasn't until several years into this process, studying with my first teacher in San Francisco, where I realized that this process can go both ways. I imagine that most of the world understands this already (slow learner that I have been), but I realized back then with her help that it's not just in healing ourselves and sorting out our stuff that we become more loving and open individuals, but we can also choose to be more loving, gratitude-filled and appreciative consciously....and then practice that, and that work will in turn heal us too.
We can choose to see love and all the things we love in other people and the world around us, rather than focusing (as we so very often do) on what we think is wrong or bad about anything and everything. This practice amplified everything I had been working on up until that point, aiming as I was to seek love for myself at the same time as I was committed to the practice of seeing the love around me more and more.
It is a scary thing to open your heart to the world when you don't feel solid inside. And it is a scary thing to open your heart to yourself and all you are when you don't feel connected and supported outside.
These two practices, engaged with simultaneously and repeatedly--seeking to see more love for ourselves and for the whole phenomenal world at the same time--are the keys to happiness.
See the love around you today, instead of finding fault or issue with those you are surrounded with. This will change your whole life.