Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!  I hope that all of you enjoyed your holiday, and got at least a little extra time off and rest.  I enjoyed having my kids at home, and hanging around the house more.  I also had the opportunity to watch a few movies, and one that I particularly enjoyed was Despicable Me.  It was a hilarious animated movie about a self-satisfied villain who adopts three adorable little girls. At the same time, I have been reading a book about the struggle that a lot of modern western women have with becoming rigid perfectionists as a way of trying to succeed in a patriarchal society: Addiction to Perfection by Marion Woodman.  Thinking about these two at the same time led me to some thoughts about what it means to me to live authentically in the present moment.

In Despicable Me, the villain, Gru, lives a solitary, outwardly directed, extremely rational life. This is the very essence of what we think of as yang, or the masculine principle.  (Note: masculine and feminine principle don’t directly refer to men and women – both men and women contain a balance of both masculine and feminine energies.)  Gru’s masculine energies are so overdeveloped that he decides to shrink the moon, a powerful symbol of the feminine, down to a potato-sized sphere that he can pocket and thereby gain personal glory and financial power.  In order to do this, he needs the help of the the three orphans, young girls who are the very essence of the female energy, open hearted and connected to each other.  All of the girls, the youngest one most of all, express their feminine energy by continuing to trust, love, and help Gru, even when a normal/rational person would have rejected him.

Over the course of the movie, the patience and openness of the girls  eventually transforms the villain into a loving father, and the moon regrows to its normal size and is returned to its rightful place in the galaxy. Watching this movie made me think about the world we live in, and what we value.  Action, getting things done, making change, are all highly valued.  We often feel we need to justify our existence by doing something great or being seen as someone “important.”  While there is nothing wrong with wanting to do things, if we get trapped into thinking that we must do something in order to justify ourselves, we miss out on half of life.  As Marion Woodman says:

Living by principles is not living your own life.  It is easier to try to be better than you are, than to be who you are… it can’t all be “must,” “ought to,” “have to.”  And when the crunch comes, you have to recognize the truth: you weren’t there.  Then the house of cards collapses.  In trying to live out your principles and ideals, the part that matters most was lost. When all the doing is done and I have to face myself in my naked reality, who am I?  What are my values?  What are my needs? Am I true to myself or do I betray myself?  What are my feelings?  Am I capable of love?  Am I true to my love?

This kind of wondering is what I want to bring to my practice in 2011. Rather than what I want to do, I want to try to ask myself in each moment, How do I want to be? Rather than having a list of resolutions, I want to try to be in process in each moment.

The first part of The Eightfold Path of the Buddha is Wise View, and the first of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings is Non-attachment to Views. Both of these teachings are about recognizing that clinging to anything leads to suffering.  Even clinging to our ideas about our yoga or meditation practice.  When we approach each moment openly, completely fresh and new, then we live balanced between our masculine action energy, and our feminine open and receptive energy.  We don’t have to follow societal pressure to be going and doing all the time.  We can choose to sometimes just sit back and see what comes to us.  We can be open to the people right in front of us, like Gru, with all their flaws, in the same way that we can be open to ourselves, just as we are in this moment.  Not attached to some idea of how they or we should be.  As Thich Nhat Hahn says, “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”  We can be who we really are in this moment, with all the vulnerability of the orphan girls, and recognize that sometimes this is enough.

May our lives continue to reveal themselves to us, and may we be open and receptive to all of it.

with much love,


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