There are transitions and reconfigurations without end. We never get it right for long. You’d think we might understand that by now, and be used to it. But, not. We yearn for long, really endless, stretches of peace without disruption. We don’t want to get out of our routine. We like things like we like them, and don’t want anything changing, and what we really need is help with the transitions.
“Here’s what’s happening. Here’s what I wish were happening instead. Here’s what I’m doing about it. Here’s how it’s working. Here’s how I’m having to change in response. And, here’s how I feel about it all.” This is called processing the impact of transitions, which is really processing the impact of life. We need people who can help us with this process, who can serve as reliable witnesses without offering short-cuts, or solutions, and without dismissing our anguish or discounting our ordeal.
Of course, we wouldn’t need them if we didn’t want things to be different than they are. If we didn’t have to have what we like, what we want, what we desire, we would have no problems with transitions and reconfigurations. We would have no problem with life. Ah, but, take away our likes, and wants, and desires, and we would be without direction or motivation and have no way of organizing our lives! Our lives are based upon, and build around, what we like, want and desire. We know of no other way to live. Getting our way is our way through the world. And so, we have to process the impact of our transitions and reconfigurations. To do that we need reliable witnesses. We need the right kind of company. That’s why these people can’t be your best friends. Your best friends are not the right kind of company.
I’m going to flash back to three or four weeks ago. I said then that this place cannot be your life—that you have to have a life of your own, a life that is a source of life for you apart from this place. This place has to be an aid, an assist, a help for you in living your life, but it cannot be your life. If you don’t have a life, this place will not—cannot—be good for you.
The work of soul, the spiritual journey, the spiritual quest is never anything more than finding and living your life, the life that is yours to live, the life that brings you to life, and infuses you with life, and makes you alive, The search for the Holy Grail is the search for life, your life. No one can give you that, can give you your life, the life that is yours to live. That is yours to work out for yourself. That is the hero’s journey, which isn’t complete until you return to the homeland and restore life to the people, basically by telling them they have to work it out for themselves.
Jesus came, remember, that we might have life and have it abundantly. We have been conditioned to think that he was talking about saving us by dying in our place on the cross and then getting us to heaven when we die. We think that heaven is the place of abundant life. Eternal life, we call it. We are so sure that’s how it is—because that’s how we have been told that it is for so long by so many people—that we don’t want to think about it. We don’t want to consider other possibilities. And, our lives are organized around what we want and don’t want.
We have to be at a crisis point in our lives before we can recognize that what we want isn’t the most important thing. Until then, we think that someone is crazy if they say what we want isn’t the most important thing. So, we have to hit the wall, either by not getting what we want, or by getting what we want. Either way, we wake up to the fact that what we want is not the most important thing. What we want has nothing to do with what needs to happen.
In the aftermath of being slammed, we can go right on doing what is important, as though nothing happened, because nothing happened. A tree falls into the stream and the stream flows right on, as though nothing happened, because nothing happened.
When we are aligned with the integrity of our own life, when we are living the life that is ours to live, nothing can take that from us. Then we are simply doing what needs to be done, the way we are capable of doing it, in the moment of our living, with the materials available then and there, out of the spontaneity of life living life, of life living us, and what needs to happen, happens. There, it isn’t a matter of wanting or not wanting, but of simply perceiving what truly needs to happen, and doing it—of knowing what is truly important, and doing it—in response to the situation that arises in the moment of our living.
Ah, but! Who can live like that for long? We can’t read the book to our child in the moment that needs to happen because we have to go to work to earn the money to buy the book for our child. We have to postpone our attention to what is truly important in deference to what is also truly important. What needs to be done has to be set aside in light of what also, what else, needs to be done. Our life, the life that is ours to live, has to be lived within the context and circumstances of life in the world. We cannot simply “eat when hungry, rest when tired.” We have to plan ahead so that there is something to eat when we are hungry, some place to rest when we are tired.
Life for us is more complicated than life for a stream. We are not a stream. When a tree falls on our house, or on our car, or on the road in front of our car, we have to stop what we are doing and take care of the tree. And, yet, we need the freedom to respond spontaneously to the moment of our living out of our sense of what needs to happen here and now, never mind the implications for then and there. We live on the boundary between the yin of spontaneity and the yang of responsibility, between the must and the ought.
When to do what? We make the call! We decide! We work it out! We live like a stream when that is appropriate, and we live like logical adults when that is appropriate, and we strive to live in the center of what is appropriate without striving, trying, making an effort, or even thinking about it.
The life that is ours to live unfolds and blooms precisely in the midst of the life that is being lived. We find the grail, not by looking for it, but by being ready when it appears. We spot the white rabbit, not by hunting for it with guns and hounds, but by being alert to it dancing on the outskirts of our peripheral vision. That’s why this place cannot be our life. This place is not our life. It isn’t even my life, and I make my living being here.
Our life is in addition to our duties and obligations and responsibilities. The stuff that we have to do isn’t what we really HAVE to do. What is that? We probably don’t know. We don’t think about it. And, when we do, we think the wrong things about it.
When we think about what we have to do, we think in terms of achievement, and accomplishment, and success. We think in terms of “making a difference,” whatever that means, and having something to show for our time and effort. What we HAVE to do has nothing to do with any of this. I HAVE to walk through scenes looking for photographs. Even if I didn’t have a camera, I would have to walk through scenes, looking for photographs. Someone else HAS to listen to music. Someone else HAS to work crossword puzzles. Nothing comes of any of it. Nothing, remember, is at the heart of life. We can’t live until we can live for nothing.
That’s why these people can’t be your best friends. These people have to be your sounding board. They are here to help you process your life, your experience with life, without protecting you from the struggle of coming to terms with the terms. Look at it this way: We hang out with people who do not challenge us in the least, and with whom we have “a lot in common.” They think like we do, believe like we do, have about as much money as we do, vote like we do, and spend their time doing things we like to do. When we get a divorce, all of our best friends are divorced. When we get drunk, our best friends are getting drunk with us. And, they are incapable of hearing us talk about things they don’t want to hear or cannot understand. They are our best friends. How healthy is that?
And, not to belabor the point, but, when we fall in love, we fall in love with our “soul mate.” We fall in love with someone who sees the world like we do, and we are as one, until we wake up one day wondering how we could have been so wrong. The point is that we look for oneness, for identification, for belonging, for merger. But what we need are people who can keep us on track, who can help us find the life that is ours to live and live it no matter how difficult and trying that may be. And, it will be difficult and trying. And best friends, and true loves, aren’t much help in the work of holding our feet to the fire and doing what needs to be done.
We have to process our lives and the impact living has on us, on our spirit, psyche, soul, self. We have to articulate the experience of life. We have to say what the problem is, specify what ails us, walk around it, examine it, explore it, experience it in order to transform it, integrate it, assimilate it and be whole, and well, and alive. We have to live consciously, with awareness, if we are to be alive in the life we are living.