Sunday, June 28, 2009

No one has the last word! 06/28/09 b


Truth does not come wrapped in bright paper and tied with a bow, between two covers, nicely worded in sequential fashion like some wonderful Final Theory, which isn’t theoretical at all, but fully factual all the way so that that’s that, and there is no question about it. Truth isn’t like that.

Truth is all squirmy and slippery, and contradictory, and inconsistent, and paradoxical, and conundrumatic. So that the truer it is the less sense it makes, and you have to carry it around with you for days cogitating on it, poking it, and prodding it and turning it over in your mind, and the more you think about it, the more you see that its opposite is also true, and that doesn’t negate it, or cancel it out, but deepens it and expands it and enlarges it, and you find yourself saying, “Of course!” and laughing at the wonder of it all—which includes wondering why people take truth so seriously that they excommunicate one another and go to war when they should be laughing together and singing Pub songs.


Woody and I tripped up to Roan Mountain State Park to take in the Rhododendrons and Flame Azaleas on Roan Mountain, and I asked for directions to Carver’s Gap from an 80-something year old on the path from the cabin to the car. “Honey,” she said, “you’ll have to ask somebody else. I’ve been coming here all my life, but I only go where they tell me to.”

We don’t want to know any more than we need to. Carver’s Gap is somewhere. We know that much, but if someone else will do the driving, why bother with the details? Just get in the car and enjoy the ride!

It would be a different world if people were living their own lives. Most of what passes for life is a substitute for life, a surrogate for life, a replacement for life, a facsimile of life that depletes us and leaves us exhausted and empty. But, if we stay busy enough and tell ourselves to just do what we are told enough, we may not notice the emptiness and be “just fine” all our lives long.

The clouds kept the camera in the bag during the early part of the day, so I drove into the village of Roan Mountain, Tennessee and had breakfast at Bob’s Dairyland, and sat waiting on my eggs and toast among the locals who were already enjoying theirs. As I took in the crowd, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t have a chance with them. Better to keep my ideas to myself, discretion being the better part of valor, and all.

I walk among, live among people who cannot begin to understand what I’m saying. “Why don’t you talk to us about things we can understand?” means “Why don’t you tell us what we expect to hear?”, or, “Why don’t you tell us what we have always heard?”

For people to understand what I’m saying, they would have to reformulate their world view. They would have to un-think everything they think, and ask questions they cannot begin to ask. The gap is too great. It’s FM talking to AM. So, I don’t push the matter. Those who hear me hear me, and those who don’t hear me, don’t hear me. Those who are with us are with us, and those who are against us are against us. We have to do what is ours to do and let that be that.

“Some girls don’t like boys like me, ah but, some girls do!” The Sawyer Brown song wraps it up. Some people can’t hear what I have to say, ah but, some people can. So I say what I have to say and those who can hear it, hear it. But they don’t stop with having heard it, as though I’ve said all they need to hear. They use it as a spring-board into what else they need to hear. We all continue to listen for what else we need to hear.

Life consists of listening for what we need to hear, looking for what we need to see. When we hear it, see it, we know it. It resonates with us, and we have no question about that being what we need to hear, to see. We incor-porate that into our lives, make the shift necessary to accommodate what we have heard and seen, experience the transformation, and look and listen for the next thing we need to see and hear. There is always a next thing.

There is no final word, no Final Theory. We never arrive. We just stop too soon, are satisfied with too little. We go where they tell us to go, think what they tell us to think, believe what they tell us to believe, and are happy with that. But, we cannot quit. The path does not end. There is no settling down with this point of view, or that one, this belief system, or that one, this way of structuring reality, or that one. Here, in the world of how it really is, everything is off the table and up in the air!

No one has the corner on truth. Truth cannot be cornered. Captured. Incarcerated. Truth cannot be dissected. Examined. Exposed. Explained. Truth is not content, but process. It is not a noun, but a verb. We cannot talk about truth any more than we can talk about God. Or, when we talk about truth and God, we can only use words like “mystery,” and “numinous,” and “contradiction,” and say of both truth and God, “There is that which is true and that which is also true.”

But, not everyone can hear that. There are those who ask you what truth is and then answer, before you can, “The Word is truth!” And, that’s that. They say it because they have been told it, and believe it, because they have also been told that to fail to believe it is to go straight to hell and stay there through all eternity. Going where we are told to go doesn’t get us anywhere.

If we are going to get to the Land of Promise, we have to find our own path. We have to look in order to see. And it takes seeing to spur the looking in order to see. Something winks at us, nods to us, flashes across our field of vision, waves to us on the periphery, and is gone. From there begins the search. We don’t get to the Promised Land, we don’t find the Holy Grail, in chronological order, first this, then that, if-then-therefore. This is not a logical, rational, intellectual exercise. This is intuitive, instinctive, insightful, discerning all the way. We struggle to see and then, like that, grasp the truth of what we have always known without knowing that we knew, or are stunned by a reality beyond our grasping, and cannot help laughing, or crying.

When people speak from the heart—as opposed to reading from the script—about what they see and think, about what they have experienced and gleaned from their experience, about their lives, we all benefit. I am drawn to the places where the truth shines through.

This is the kind of talk that saves the world, honest talk, straight from the heart about what we have experienced and gleaned from our experience, and what has helped us most with our lives. We cannot get by on the strength of someone else’s experience, but their frank discussion of life’s impact can help us find our own way.

There is no formula. There are no directions to give. No explanations to make. There are no maps to the Promised Land. No one else’s path to follow. No nostrums, remedies, fixes, or cures. There is only life and living it. What helps? What works? A lot of people are hawking a lot of things, but there is no removing from us the burden of life and living it. What have we found to be helpful? What have we found to work? What enables, allows, assists us in living the life that is ours to live? In doing the work that is ours to do? What do we need to live the life that is ours to live, to do the work that is ours to do?

We crave certitude, certainty, explanation, structure, and we are called to step into the unknown, “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” What’s it going to be? We have to move past what we want into what we also want. We have to know what we also want. We have to open to that part of ourselves that wants more than we want. We cannot just go where they tell us to go. We have a voice—we have to listen to it!

My trick is to connect you with you and get out of the way. You might say that my place with you is to bore you so much with me that you turn to yourself to find what you need. I have to refuse to give you what you want. I cannot become who you need me to be. Only you can become that. I cannot, must not, usurp your power to provide yourself with what you need. That is your responsibility, and you cannot grow without bearing the burden, the cross, that is yours to bear, namely YOU. You are charged with the care and tending of YOU. We find our way in the company of those who are finding their way, but it isn’t the same way. We may drink the same water, but we dig our own wells. We all may wind up in the Land of Promise, but we find our own path.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Being Soft

We don’t have enough soft places in our lives. Those of you who were on hand Wednesday night know that I uncovered my need to soften up in an encounter with a photo of a tree at Rocky Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Soft is where it all begins. Soft is the essential step, the crucial place to be.

Becoming soft means trusting, relaxing, letting be, laughing, enjoying, easing up. But, it’s hard to be soft. It’s hard to be easy. So, we have to be easy on it not being easy. Be soft with it being hard, and let things be as they are for as long as it takes for them to be different. We all will make it as well as we can for as long as we can. What more could be asked of us? What more can be asked of the tree at Rocky Knob? We have to celebrate that tree, and honor it for what it is. The same thing applies to each of us.

The path begins beneath our feet. We start where we are. We don’t have to be somewhere else. We begin by being soft with ourselves. Accepting ourselves as we are. Letting ourselves be. “Easy does it,” is an AA slogan for staying on the beam and in sync with our true best interests, intentions and desires without trying to make anything happen. Of course, we would be better off sober than drunk, but we can-not will sobriety any more than we can will ourselves to fall asleep. But, we can arrange to fall asleep, just as we can arrange to be sober.

There is a Zen technique for dealing with our propensity for internal chatter, or “monkey mind,” during meditation. “Let it come, let it go,” or “This too, this too,” simply acknowledges the noisy thoughts without engaging them. We just observe them and allow them to pass on. This is quite different from “fighting for peace,” or “willing ourselves to be calm and serene.” We arrange to be quiet without forcing ourselves to quieten down.

The same approach applies to spiritual development. We cannot force spirituality. We can be spiri-tual, but not by not trying to be spiritual. “Do or do not,” says Yoda, “there is no try.” This is the Taoist doctrine (And they say they don’t have doctrines!) of wu-wei, or doing by not doing (It’s how water wears away stone and finds its way to the sea, how dandelions grow through asphalt, how we go to sleep and wake up—we do it but we don’t consciously, willfully, DO it). It is a matter of aligning ourselves with what needs to happen (so that it becomes what we want to happen) and getting out of the way.

Getting out of the way is the trick. We have to accommodate ourselves to the possibilities. This is where “easy does it” comes in. We don’t get out of the way by willing it. There is no forcing. “There is no try.” That’s the trick. How do we learn it? Spiritual practice, practice, practice. And the practice is becom-ing soft. Softening up. Getting out of the way.

It’s hard to be soft. And so, we practice. Being soft. Softness. Softness has to do with resiliency. With acceptance. With accommodation and acquiescence. And with persistence. Courage and resolve, kid. Courage and resolve. Soft is steady, constant, unrelenting, yet undemanding and non-intrusive. Soft is receptive, willing, waiting, anticipating. Soft is putting everything on the table, and seeing what comes forth, seeing what shows itself to be important, perhaps to our surprise and consternation.

In talking about his understanding of God, Carl Jung said, “(God) is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans, and intentions, and change the course of my life for better or worse.” How different is this view of God from the popular offering of institutional religion, where God is the benevolent doofus, the kindly Sancho Panza, helping us along our way, serving our ends, seeing to it that we prosper and are happy, and rewarding us with paradise when we die.

The soft understanding of God allows God to shake up our lives and allows our lives to be what they need to be in order to wake us up and change our intended course “for better or worse”—for better AND worse!—in order to become what they must be. If we are going to adopt the soft image, and allow the tree at Rocky Knob to be what it is, and allow ourselves to be who we are, we must also allow God to be who God is and allow our lives to be what they need to be. If we are going to be soft, we are going to allow things to unfold according to their nature, to become what they are, to “do” us, to “live” us, rather than us “doing” and “living” them!

The work of being soft is to sync-up with our lives, with the lives that are our lives to live, the Authentic Me, so to speak. We are all more or less authentic, there is something genuinely us tucked away into each one of us. The idea is to live so as to be more of who we are and less of who we are not—to live with our eyes on the lives that are ours to live. Ah, but. We have eyes for other things! And so, we must get out of the way!

How do we get in the way? What do we do to escape the lives that are waiting to live us, that are our lives to live? To numb ourselves out so that we don’t feel the uncertainty, anguish, and anxiety that comes our way? To avoid the fear of being abandoned or overwhelmed? To avoid the agony of not being able to live the kind of life we wish were ours (which consists of, don’t say it doesn’t, more in the way of avoidance and less in the way of responsibility)? In what ways are our lives spent running from life? Complying and denying? Where are we being asked to grow up, to do for ourselves what we wish someone else would do for us? Where are we not facing what needs to be faced and not doing what needs to be done? Where are we asserting or failing to assert the power of our own personal authority over our lives?

What do we do to keep from being still and quiet? How quiet can we be for how long? What meets us in the silence? How do we meet it back? Then what happens? The only thing silence is good for is listening. When we listen in the silence, what do we hear? What are the voices? Whose voices are they? What are they saying? Are they chastising us? Condemning us? Berating us? Where did we first hear them? Where in our lives, in our lived experience, did they originate? What person in our experience do we most easily associate with the voices? How old were we when the voices made their lasting impression?

We are no longer that old. We have to stop acting as though we are. Step into the silence in behalf of the person you were when the voices made their lasting impression. Stop agreeing with the voices. Whose side are you on? Become an advocate for yourself. Ask the voices what they want. When they tell you they just want you to become somebody, to make something of yourself, tell them they are taking a dumb route to that end. Ask them when has telling someone she is fat made her thin, or when has telling someone he is lazy, stupid, slow and worthless made him the opposite of those things? Point out to the voices that for all the years of their constantly haunting and hounding you, you are still the poop pile you always have been and their strategy of yelling at you hasn’t gotten them anywhere, and that is indisputable evidence that they are as great a failure as they accuse you of being. And then tell them to step aside because there are other voices you must attend.

The other voices have been waiting for you to be quiet long enough to hear what they have to say. These are the voices who know what you need, who know who you also are, who are with you to help you find and explore the path that is yours to walk, the life that is yours to live. Ask them what they have to say, and begin the dialogue that will sustain and guide you through the rest of your life.

There are a number of ways of developing your ability to engage the nurturing voices in this kind of sustaining, guiding dialogue with ourselves. The Clearness Committee exists to help us hear our-selves—our deeper selves—speaking to us. Parker Palmer’s “Circle of Trust,” which Carol Steger and Julie Strope are going to initiate here in the near future is another approach. Keeping a journal is another. Working with your dreams and paying attention to your projections are others. Learning to participate in active imagination is another. The list is long of ways to listen to ourselves and talk to ourselves and deepen, expand, enlarge ourselves thereby. It is a spiritual practice that never ends, and one that cannot begin too soon.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

06/14/09, Negotiating the relationship between inner and outer

We all have sold ourselves short and sold ourselves out for something. Maybe it was for money, or Mother, or Father, or Husband or Wife, or the Children. Maybe it was for status, social acceptance, recognition, adoration. Maybe it was for the title The Most Responsible Living Person, or The Greatest Living American. Maybe it was for our idea of Who We Ought To Be. Maybe it was for security, stability, certainty, comfort, peace, happiness. The list is long. Adam and Eve sold themselves out. We all sell ourselves short, sell ourselves out. The theological term for our inescapable propensity to sell ourselves out is “Original Sin.”

Our sin is our failure to be who we are, who we are built to be, who we have within us to become. It is to settle for less than we can be. Our life’s work is now to redeem our failure to take up our life’s work by becoming who we are. But the way back to Eden, to our true home, to the locus of our natural self, is blocked by the angel of death with a flaming sword, which means that in order to live we have to die. Or, as Jesus put it, “Those who seek to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives (in the service of life—he said, “for my sake and the gospel’s”) will find them.” There you are. The good news is that it is no more difficult now than it was then. The bad news is that it is no easier! We are always at the point of giving self up for what seems better, easier, than self. It is always hard to be who we are. The delight of the forbidden fruit is always there to distract us and to save us from the work of being who we are.

The journey is to recover what was abandoned. We have to go back and redeem what we left behind, what we rejected of ourselves. We have to live what we can of the life that is our life to live. If gestures and fragments are as close as we can come to the life that was to be ours, then gestures and fragments it will have to be.

Carl Jung said something on the order of, “We always are who we have always been, and we always are who we will become.” There is always something of us as we were meant to be apparent in who we have become. We never completely sever ourselves from the gift, the genus, and are never far away from who we are called to be. We are always a mere perspective shift away from the truth of our own souls. The tragedy is that we can be that close and not know “the time of our visitation,” and not recognize the one who is with us always, and not hear the one who is calling our name.

There is always that within us which believes in us. Which seeks after us. Which calls us to wake up and be who we are. But we think we missed our chance back there in Eden, back when we “coulda had class,” when we “coulda been a contender,” when we “coulda been somebody, instead of a bum which is what (we are).” And we think if we can’t be now what we “coulda” been then, why try? What’s the use, or the point? So we turn our backs on ourselves again, and perpetuate the sin of Eden, and do not allow ourselves to become who we are, who we have within us to be, because we can’t do it “right,” the way we wish we had done it back then, when we had the chance and didn’t know what we had.

We still don’t know what we have, and again walk away from the chance to do what we can with what we have to work with. Our sin is a failure of vision and nerve. It is a failure to be ourselves, a failure to believe in our-selves, a failure to do what is ours to do, to the extent that it can be done within the terms and conditions, context and circumstances of our lives.

We are always limited, always restricted by, bound to, the time and place of our living. There is always something that isn’t quite right, something to have to work through, around, something to overcome. We failed to be who we are back then with good reason. There were obligations, you know, duties. There was no money for med school or law school. We were in love. That list is also long. There is always a reason to not be who we are. Always something we have to confront, stand up to. There is always a dragon blocking the path, a Cyclops in our way. And, there is always that within us which believes in us, and calls us to believe in ourselves, and hopes eternally that we will have what it takes to do what needs to be done and become who we are in the time left for living.

Will we believe in that which believes in us is the question. Will WE believe in ourselves is the question. The hardest thing is to believe in ourselves, in our gift, our genius, over time, over the course of our lives. Will we trust ourselves to the gift, to the genius, to the Self we are capable of being—within the terms and conditions, con-text and circumstances of life, within what remains of the time left for living? We give up too easily, quit too soon. The Self/Soul is eternal and timeless. The time is always NOW for Self/Soul. It is never past, over, too late. Self/Soul does not understand the concept “too late.” Self/Soul is always calling us to be who we are NOW! “Dance however you can!” Self/Soul exclaims. “If you can only blink your eyes or wiggle one toe, blink or wiggle in rhythm to the music, and if you can’t hear the music, imagine it!”

Self/Soul doesn’t cut us any slack, doesn’t grant us any excuse. Self/Soul is a “harsh taskmaster,” demanding always demanding that we be as much of who we are as the terms and conditions, context and circumstances of our lives will allow NOW—and demanding always demanding that we push against the limits in order to see what we can get by with, and not give up too easily or too soon in the service of the life that is our life to live.

We begin the work of recovery, of redemption, with the question, “What does our soul want?” Clues exist in the places we are most alive, and in the places we are most dead. In the experiences that are most meaningful and in the experiences that are least meaningful. In the things that catch our eye, that nod to us, wink at us, speak to us. In our dreams and dreads. In the things we feel drawn to (not like alcohol or gambling or strip clubs and other forms of addiction and distraction, but like music or books or tools or conversation and other forms of engagement and enlargement). We have to do the work of participating in an inner dialogue with soul, with that which is deepest, best and truest about us, and find ways of expressing the inner truth of being (who we are) in our outer lives (who we also are). The sum of the spiritual journey is here, in negotiating the relationship between inner and outer.

This is not something we can read in a book (“Five Weeks to Holistic Living,” for example). This is the work we engage in over the course of our lives, merging inner with outer, becoming who we are in the time and place of our living. It requires us to learn the language of soul and participate in regular conversations with the mystery of being. In this work, we are all you have. You are all we have. We remind each other of the strength we have within.

In this work, everything is on the table, or off the table. Either way, it’s the same thing. Nothing can come between us and our life’s purpose, our soul’s intention, the life that is ours to live, “God’s will” for us and our life. Complete integrity of being, oneness with purpose and life, expressing, bringing forth, what is ours to express, bring forth, is IT. Is LIFE. Anything less than that is some stage of death, of dying. How alive are we willing to be is always the question. “Thy will, not mine, be done.”

Easy to say, hard to do. The truth is that no matter how much we wish we were engaged in our own spiritual development, we are always looking for something to save us from that work. Escape and entertainment fuel our lives. We are always running away from something. Hiding from something. Hoping that something will leave us alone. Where do we ever square up to it, stick it out, stare it down? Where do we ever face what must be faced out of the resources and resolve we find within? We are always looking to be saved, to be rescued, trying always to reach the land flowing with milk and honey. Where do we ever stop running and make a stand?
What are we looking for that we don’t have? What is the source of dissatisfaction, disenchantment, dismay, conflict? What is it going to take for us to, here it comes, get ready, be happy?

What it takes is the right combination of outer and inner. Outer is what it takes to meet the physical requirements for life—food, clothing, shelter, tools. Tools are important because that is what it takes to bring forth the inner. Inner is what it takes to meet the spiritual requirements for life, to bring forth, incarnate, express the mystery of being, of who we are, within the visible world. We live to make the invisible visible.

Our work is making our peace with the context and circumstances, terms and conditions, of our lives. Our work is to bring forth what is within no matter what. Life gets to do anything to us, no holds barred, anything goes, and we get to bring forth what is within and honor one another, and live with grace and compassion for it all. That’s the deal. If we want something else, we are standing in the wrong line.

Carl Jung says, “All our troubles flow from being separated from our instincts.” But, if we lived only on the basis of instinct, we would be in trouble as well. Jung goes on to say, “Too much of the animal distorts the civilized person, and too much of civilization makes sick animals.” We live to find the right mix between our instincts and our duties, obligations, and responsibilities—between the requirements of life on the spiritual level and the requirements of life on the physical level. Too much of one and not enough of the other and we are in trouble.

We are here to serve the genius, the gift, the vision that is our vision, the life that is our life to live—regardless of how well that is received and valued. We must receive it. We must value it. We must believe in it, align ourselves with it. Our faith you might say, isn't so much in the God "out there" as in the gift of God "in here." The challenge is to serve that gift and let the outcome be the outcome. May we all have what it takes to do that and go on doing that day in and day out, "for better or worse, in sickness and in health," for the rest of our lives!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

06/07/09, What does being happy have to do with it?

The normal distribution curve would suggest that the majority of people who gather in a church on Sunday morning fit the following profile: They don’t want to grow up. They don’t want to be responsible for their own life. They don’t want to have to go to any trouble, be inconvenienced in any way, or do anything they don’t feel like doing. They want to be pleasantly taken care of, entertained with a lifetime of diversions and distractions, and live happily ever after. And they would want me to tell them how to arrange for that to happen.

Since you are already outside the normal distribution curve by being here on Sunday morning, I can reveal to you the actual truth and you will not cringe, blanch, or run and hide: Here it is, spoken by Shelton Kopp over 30 years ago: “We have to solve our own problems every day for the rest of our lives.” Here’s more of it, spoken by Carl Jung over 60 years ago: “None of the real problems have solutions. We don’t solve them. We outlive them.”

There are no fixes, remedies, potions, cures, nostrums, recipes, answers… There is only living in the mess and waiting out the problems. We outlive what we cannot solve. I know that isn’t inspirational. We don’t want to hear it any more than the people do in the church of our experience. We have our stake in the status quo just as they do. We long to be comfortable in our little world, just as they do, just as anyone would. And we don’t want to do anything to disrupt what peace and certainty we have managed to attain. Our lives are in enough upheaval without our adding to it.

We want me to go away with my take on reality. Leave us alone. We want stability. Safety. Refuge. Rest. And, here is the interesting part, we want to take up the spiritual journey and grow spiritually and live deep, ex-pansive lives. Yet, we don’t want to go anywhere or to do anything new. We don’t what to change. We want to grow without changing. We want things to be better without things being different. We want opposite things at the same time.

Always the tension, the contradiction, the dynamic! “Without contraries is no progression” (William Blake). We cannot take anything at face value. What is true is counterbalanced by what is also true, and we live between opposites, on the boundary between yin and yang, for better and worse, all our lives long.

We want to be reassured that the life we have chosen for ourselves can work with just a bit of spiritual tweaking, with some spiritual mumbo-jumbo, meditation, maybe, or a crystal medallion. A personal mantra—that would do it. But don’t ask us to change. We have worked hard enough to be where we are, and we are not about to give up any of it for the sake of spiritual growth and life lived on terms other than our own.

But, we also know there is no place of safety for those who are alive. There is no immunity, no protection. We know we have to get used to it. Only the plastic people feel no pain. Life is painful, work, trouble. If we are going to be alive, we are going to do the work of accommodation, adjustment, acceptance, acquiescence, adaptation… We move over and make room for life, or we wrap ourselves in a bubble of denial and pretence—pretending we are not pretending and not knowing the first thing about being alive.

The church as it ought to be is only good for those who are into life, living, being alive. It exists as a way-station of encouragement when life rises up to slap us around. “Get up and get back into it” is the message of the church as it ought to be. Not, “Come here and you will be safe and happy until the kingdom comes.”

Being safe and happy have absolutely nothing to do with being alive. Happiness is a cultural substitute for life. People make themselves happy to compensate for being mostly dead. People who are alive don’t worry about happiness. They are too busy living, invested in the experience of being alive. The pursuit of happiness is a dead-end path and the antithesis of the spiritual journey. Happy growth and development is the oxy-est of oxymoron’s.

Being alive is about working the program. Working the program means waking up to how it is with us right now. What is true and what is also true? Where are we most alive? What is trying to come to life in us? Where are we dead? Stuck? Blocked? Refusing to live? What fears drive us? Limit us? Keep us from being alive? What are our dreams saying to us? Our symptoms? What keeps flirting with us as an interest, an urge, an inclination, an attrac-tion? What do we keep putting off? What are we doing to keep from doing what we know needs to be done? The practice is being aware of the life we are living and how it needs to be lived instead, and taking up the work of mov-ing from where we are to where we are asked to be.

We don’t want to work the program. We don’t want to be silent and reflective. We don’t want to dialogue with our dreams and symptoms. We don’t want to explore our stuck places, examine our repetitive, recurring, reactions and encounters, look at our patterns, make inquiries about origins and messages from the gods. We want our lives to unfold according to our ideas for their unfolding. We want the life of our dreams delivered to our door. We want to know how to get what we want. We want to live happily, conveniently, ever after. It is not to be.

I know as much about God as anyone on the planet. So do you. The idea that there are authorities on God—theologians—God scientists tucked away in the high hallways of academia, or the lecture halls of institutional religion, who know what we should believe and not believe is a trick played on us by us. We want somebody to know more than we do. We don’t want to be left on our own, alone with God. Yet, that is exactly the path each of us must tread to the land of promise. We drink the same water, but we dig our own well. Each of us must find our own way to God, simply by waking up to the God who is calling our name. Ah, but. That God asks hard things of us. That God doesn’t love us the way we want to be loved. Therein lies the problem. So, we call on the theologians to tell us what to do to get God to love us the way we want to be loved. And God recedes farther into the background of our lives.

Always the opposition, the contraries, the limitations, the restrictions, the boundaries, the barriers, the terms and conditions! Life is lived in contention with that which does not support life. The universe doesn’t care about us. Doesn’t even know our name. Is not here to serve us and dote on us and make sure we have what we want, or need. We have to work in the service of life. Life is lived pushing against the limits that make life difficult, if not impossible. We are the dandelion buried beneath the asphalt. What are we going to do about that?

We cannot put living off. If we are going to be alive, we have to begin in this moment right now by opening ourselves to the moment, receiving the moment well, seeing what the moment has to offer and what the moment needs, and offering to the moment what we have to give out of that which is deepest, best and truest about us. What are the possibilities for life right here, right now? Who would we have to disappoint in order to take advantage of the possibilities? How would we have to do it, and not do it, in order to be alive right here, right now? What existing structures would we have to ignore? What new ones would we have to honor? How differently would we have to live? What is keeping us in place, locked into the same old, same old, waiting to be rescued, delivered, in-vited to be alive?

None of us is aware of everything. The more aware we are of one thing, the less aware we are of other things. Diffuse awareness dilutes particular awareness, particular awareness inhibits diffuse awareness. We are always missing something. Always unconscious of that of which we are unconscious. Always being challenged to see more than we see, to hear more than we hear, to understand more than we understand. We never graduate from the school of awareness. Don’t even get to the second grade.

But. We’ll figure it out. We will figure it out if we are nurtured and cared for (Mothered) in the right kind of way. All we need is time and the supportive presence of the right kind of community. We need to be upheld, sus-tained, encouraged while we figure it out. If we are Mothered in the wrong kind of way, it’s all over. We don’t have a chance with the wrong kind of Mother. Everything hangs on the kind of Mother we have and are.

We cannot hope to be an “I” except as a part of a nurturing “we.” “We” bring “you” into being. Not by telling you what you need to hear, but by listening to what you have to say. We hear you into the realization of yourself, into the you-ness of you. We ask you the healing questions. We explore with you the lair of dragons. We call you to work the program even as we work it ourselves. We share the path with you and laugh with you along the way.

The training for becoming a nurturing “we” is the work of being a listening “I.” It is the work of seeing, and hearing and understanding. The work of developing eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands. There is no way to do that. There is only doing it. It is the way to Carnage Hall: “Practice, practice, practice,” until we can work the program in our sleep and follow our dreams to the land of promise.

Monday, June 01, 2009

09/24/09, Loose Change

Everything exists in the service of losing our way or finding it. Which is to say that we are never more than a slight perspective shift away from being lost, or found. Everything that happens to us seals us in or opens us up, depending entirely upon what we think about it, look at it, and do with it. Delta Dawn’s betrayal and abandonment could lead to her death, or to her life. Nothing has to be what it is. The future exists as 10,000 possibilities in every moment. Life is always out ahead of us, calling to us, urging us on. We are the ones holding back, complaining, “Oh, it’s too hard! It’s too much trouble! It’s too painful! Just leave us alone! Let us die!”

We don’t know enough to know when to quit, fold up, hand it over, shut down. We think we are tired, we think we’ve had enough, we think it’s too hard, with too little payoff and not enough fun, we think we will get off the bull and sit in the shade, but, so far as we know, this is our one shot at life, and we have no idea of what might happen if we actually lived the life that is ours to live in the time left for living, and there is only one way to find out, and why die not knowing?
We are certain that the agony and anguish of life cannot compare with the bliss of oblivion and seek the bliss to escape the agony. Just give us the mountain retreat, the cave, the cushion! Spare us the pain of income tax returns and cleaning the gutter and deciding what to do with Mama in her dementia and decrepitude! Keep us from the misery of not having our way! We forsake it all for nothing, thinking nothing is better than the dreads of life

Look. If we are going to give up our way for some stupid mountain side, and leave everything to meditate our way into oneness with the Divine (which is, you’ll have to admit, zeroing ourselves out in order to merge with the Universe), why don’t we just zero ourselves out and take care of Mama without the agony and anguish of having her in our way? We are giving up our way for the Guru. Why not give up our way for Mama?

It’s our way that is in the way. The agony and anguish of life is the agony and anguish of not having our way. It isn’t life that is the problem but what we want life to be. Shift the wanting and disappear the problem. No anguish, no agony. Just doing what needs to be done. Even in the monasteries they have to do what needs to be done. I wouldn’t lie to you about that. And someone has to take care of the Guru in his dementia and decrepitude.
Everything is equidistant from perfect union with the Divine, bliss, oneness, transcendence, absorption in the Absolute—what’s important, or whatever it is that we think we are after. If you leave here and go there, or there, or there, you are no closer to “it” (however you think of it). “It” is right here. Right now. Seeing it or not seeing it has nothing to do with its proximity or its availability to be seen.
It helps to sit with something for a while before trying to change it, disappear it, X-it out of your life. Of course, that doesn’t apply to hot horseshoes straight from the coals, yellow jackets, or bad coffee. There are some places you just have to get yourself walked out of fast. You have to decide for yourself, when to sit, and when to leave. It is enough to know that knee-jerk is not the only reaction, and as a life-style it is largely lacking.
There is nothing here for you. We don’t have anything to give you that you don’t already have. We can only give you you. You come in here with you and you leave with you. What happens in between in you. You happen. You becoming you is what your life is all about. We are here to help you become you. You are here to help us become us. I don’t have anything to give you but you. You don’t have anything to give me but me. How do I give you you? By receiving you well. How do you give me me? By receiving me well. We receive each other well, and allow each other to be who we are and who we also are, and it is beautiful. We are beautiful in each others’ eyes.

We are all mirrors and sounding boards for each other, showing each other who we are, and who we also are. Once we know who we are and who we also are, there is only the matter of bringing that to life in our lives. But that is really one thing, the knowing and the bringing to life, not two things. We don’t know and then bring to life. We know as we bring to life. We live as we live. We are alive as we come to life in the lives we are living, by seeing, hearing, and understanding who we are and who we also are, what we are doing and what needs to be done.
There are recipes everywhere for doing what we want to do, but how do we align our wants with what truly needs to happen? This is the search for the Holy Grail. Can we serve the Grail, is the question. Can we get out of the way and allow the magic to happen? Can we trust the magic? Can we take our place and not be jousting for what we want our place to be? “What is MY place?” Can we ask the question and receive the answer?

“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Can we live with that if we are Saul? Can we realize that Saul has his place and David has his? Can we focus on making our place a really good place to be, and leave the other places to those who occupy them? Can we not have to be the shining star? Can we not have to have fortune and glory? Can we reconcile ourselves to our lot, and be content with what is ours to have, and be, and do?

“But, what is OURS?” How do we know our place when we see it? Don’t worry about it. Just do your part and let the outcome be the outcome. “But what is OUR part?” Seeing, hearing, understanding—and doing what needs to be done, what we are capable of doing, out of the gifts and talents and skills and aptitudes and abilities and interests that we have.

Our life calls itself forth. Children who like to draw, draw. Children who like to dance, dance. Children who like to build things, build things. What do you like to do, for no reason beyond liking to do it? What do you do just because you enjoy doing it? Do more of that thing. Not for fame and wealth, but because you enjoy doing it. Not to be seen and acclaimed, but because you enjoy doing it. Do that. See what unfolds around that.

And don’t be in a hurry. Your life unfurls itself over time. One thing leads to another. There is no plan, no timetable. There is only living as only you, as only we, can live. So, “get busy living.” And don’t worry about knowing anything or if you are doing it right or doing the right thing. Just do what you like, what is “most you,” and see what that becomes over time.

And, be sensitive to your urges and inclinations and budding interests. Be alert to the white rabbit when it flashes across your field of vision, or appears momentarily on the edge of your peripheral vision. Don’t pass up opportunities to adventure, but don’t push yourself into adventures that don’t have your name on them. The white rabbit will come back around. If you aren’t sure, wait, watch. Use waiting for the white rabbit as prep time for being ready when it comes again.
We have to trust ourselves. That is the primary act of faith. Trusting our own voice, our own sense of direction. And, we have to trust ourselves when trusting ourselves doesn’t work out like we thought it would. When we make wrong turns and end up in bad places. We have to trust ourselves to get out of there. We have to trust our mistakes to just be mistakes, and steps on the way to getting it right. We have to keep trusting ourselves. Eventually, we will become trustworthy. At least, that’s the theory.
Nothing has to be the way it is, and nothing is wasted. The fact that nothing is wasted doesn’t mean that everything is necessary. Things don’t have to be the way they are. The fact that nothing is wasted doesn’t mean that things are good as they are. They could be better in 10,000 ways. The fact that nothing is wasted means that everything is a part of our experience and has its place in the production of us. We incorporate all of it into who we become through the process of living our lives. This is the way it is. What are we going to do about it, with it? How are we going to deal with it, use it, change it, improve it, integrate it in the work of our own becoming?