May 10, 2016

Irenic Rites of Passage.

Shauna Lee Sexsmith Article image

“Love says ‘I am everything.’ Wisdom says ‘I am nothing.’ Between the two my life flows.” ~ Sir Nisargadatta Maharaj

There are times when we hear a call to jump feet first into our life.

In the early part of 2003, I found myself doing just that, jumping into a new life in Romania. As I was kneeling in the middle of the Carpathian Mountains, witnessing the holographic nature of nature, “the whole in every part” I knew I had done just that.

The world before I arrived seemed like such a distant memory. When you move to another country alone, a whole other universe opens up where you have a lot of conversations between yourself, nature, God, and a companion soul if you are lucky.

The wilderness that was the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, a rich bounty of breathing life, living in togetherness, trees, rivers, skies, and now me, provided nourishment, grounding, and profound soul growth. This time of oneness-holy and beautiful- was an invitation to lean into the essential self, and practice self-compassion.

During my first two weeks, I began sitting every evening with the cook from the orphanage I was working for, Anca. A series of conversations about feelings and nature called for me to be entirely present; riding the wave of pure emotion. The rhythm of her words, the feeling of unearthing something beautiful out of the void reached my bones.

She taught me about compassionate self love, the art of nature, and how to sit with my own shadow. She was my Romanian doula of knowledge-there to walk beside me-a woman who tenderly guided towards the latent power of energies.

As I walked through those mountains, the strange way I always felt compelled to give myself permission to feel disappeared. The thousands of ways I had learned myself into not feeling this most basic phenomenon were lifted.

At first, my feet, being somewhat frail, began to feel free and in-tune with my beating heart. Something I would soon learn as the fundamental shift away from a self thought safer to live in, a self constructed of things which allowed me to never have to truly show up, emotionally that is, to my own life.

When our heartbeat begins to sync with the heartbeat of the universe, the divine source of everything that exists within each of us, the one that asks us simply to “be” in witness with life, and others, we learn the process of reconstituting the soul… cultivating a heart that is courageous and unconditional.

The truth is, I had spent so much time tripping on the past that I forgot the unity of life that is ultimately holographic and indivisible. The stories we tell ourselves make us feel out of touch and off key… The very old lines that loop in our heads, depending on which were headlining, could get us lost for hours at a time.

But the more we allow ourselves to dance that dance with the true emptiness which goes beyond the human self, beyond ego’s petty games, we begin to witness them for what they are -a judgement. Mental constructs  Beliefs that try to make us think that we cannot be both the sculptor and the mold, and a masterpiece all at once.

Everything interpenetrates everything, and as I began spending nights clearing the way with Anca, I started to de-layer, deconstruct, and lean into my essential self. See, throughout experience, emotional tremors can shake the sturdy foundation of our hearts, and once the dust settles sometimes we continue with fragments under our skin. Wholly, and yet imperfectly beautiful, we must seek the essential in others as much as we do ourselves.

Fear, Barriers, Difference begin to feel like Courage, Oneness, Love…

Being with nature every morning, and reflected by Anca every evening I learned how to be in myself with compassion and kindness. Somehow, in our constant quest for self-improvement, we’ve failed to see an essential ingredient, the thing that makes it feasible for the self to come into unity – self-compassion.

Today I remember a few things I learned while living in Romania:


1. Be willing to surrender and accept each paradox within yourself.

Real love is divine. it comes from the relationship with your own personal God, the relationship with self that existed before we separated all phenomena. We live our lives within ever increasing and growing spheres similar to ripples that form in a pond. True indivisible self that includes all is at the center of these circles and your will guides them as each new paradox of experience begets another and begins to include new experiences that seem to call for —Gentle strength. Savage compassion. Quiet Courage. The paradoxes in you are also in me and when we stop shaming ourselves and accept duality as a necessary part of growth, we allow ourselves to connect to our true nature.

2. Release yourself to nature

Sit, she would tell me. Sit amongst the twigs and trees. Breathe. Breath, is the connecting link between matter and energy and consciousness and mind. Place your palm against the protruding roots and feel the elemental vibration. The grounding energy provided by nature gives each of us access to where we began. Where everything began. Freedom. Exploring your own nuances from a naturalistic and contemplative perspective allows you to see how none is above that which sustains all. “Whenever you come here, touching the harden earth below our feet, you come home to compassionate listening and love.”

3. Courage. Tend to your heart like you would a garden and grow it wide.

The works that reconnect us to our true nature, and rediscover our innate connection start with developing self-compassion and a courageous heart. Each of us is woven by the same intricate flows of matter and energy, but only with open hearts can we feel that flow. When we develop a heart full of courage, we can love valiantly through every situation without hesitation. We are not concepts to be broken apart and analyzed but experiences to be felt and embodied.


When we live from the heart we become stronger, tending and growing ourselves, so when needed, love becomes that which we are, not which we conditionally give.

When all else has fallen love will still stand.


Author: Shauna Lee Sexsmith

Editor: Erin Lawson

Images: Courtesy of Author   //   Flickr/Tif Pic

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