attachment · detachment · spirituality · work

“I am your Density…”

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I’m sitting in a booth across from my friend before we head to a 40-minute silent meditation followed by a “dharma talk.”  We’ve done this for the last few Friday nights in a row, and we’re arguing (“discussing”) the concept of releasing attachment.  Our difference lies in the fact that I like attachment.

“So, am I not supposed to love my little brother,” I ask combatively.  Am I not supposed to want things, to want to feel connection or connected?

My friend is clear that this is not what non-attachment means, … but she’s also clear that it sort of does.

This morning, a decade later, I’m listening to the latest of the 21-day meditation challenges put out by Oprah and Deepak Chopra called “Desire and Destiny.”  One point Deepak shared today illuminated this irritation for me:

Desire is often interpreted in spiritual philosophies as a selfish distraction which, when indulged, pulls us away from our connection to Spirit.  I believe that desires are seeds planted within to do just the opposite.

I appreciated hearing this from a “spiritual teacher,” as it’s a departure I’ve long held between myself and (what I interpret to be!) the teachings of Buddhism or practices like it.  I do want to be attached — I want to suffer from grasping at my desires and my relationships.  I want to stoke and spark and rail against and fall apart into the yarn-pulls of my heart and discover what it is they mean for me.

If I don’t attach to them, how can I learn from them?

The subtle-til-they-become-violent nudges of my desires recently led me out of a career that was killing me.  A friend suggested during that time that I stand at the copy machine and repeat to myself, “I am grateful to be standing at the copy machine.”

. . . I was not.

And later rather than sooner I made my way into a new career that fuels, inspires, and scares the hell out of me.  This shift has brought me into a deeper relationship with and authenticity around how I earn a living that I don’t believe “Detach and Accept” would have taught me.

My attachment to worldly things often wreaks miserable havoc on my serenity, but there has never been a time when it hasn’t also led me toward a richer understanding of myself, and my destiny.

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faith · fear · recovery · spirituality

Float like a Waterbug, Sting like a Bee

It isn’t so much that I’m afraid of heights as it is I’m afraid
of falling from heights.  Therefore, when, 2 months ago, I found myself
in Moab, Colorado dangling on the side of sheer rock face
struggling to find a toe-hold in the millimeter-wide crannies, I began to
panic. 
Now, to pull back the scene a little bit, I was about 15 feet off the ground, strapped into a harness, and attached to a grounding line held by my belay partner only a few feet below.  But it didn’t feel safe.  It felt like I
was stabbing the rock cliff with my feet, trying desperately to find purchase in thin air,
my adrenaline kicking up so high I could taste it.
Muscle-fatigued and terrified, I called to my partner below that
I wanted to come down – I was done.  The rock climbing guide on our trip overheard my plea and walked over from the lines
and climbers parallel to me.  He
suggested that I sit back in the harness, take a break, feel my weight being
held, and catch my breath.  Then he called
up, “You can come down, but if you want to keep going, I’ll help you.” 
Later that evening, back on flat earth in front of a
crackling fire, he chuckled he could see my shoulders slump at that moment, a
moment of resignation, a knowing that, indeed, because of his help, I was going to and was able to keep going.  This sanguine moment of, “Shit, alright, fine.  Let’s do this.”  And, together, we did.  He called out places where I could find my
footing, and shortly thereafter I was at the top, my heart a fluttering canary,
stress-tears straining back in my eyes, weak from fear and exertion – and once
safely back the 60ft to the ground again, proud.
He told me of a concept called a “retro-climb.”  It is only after
you have accomplished this ridiculous feat of effort that you feel pride,
accomplished, and glad you did it at all. 
In the moment, you only feel fear, anxiety, terror.  Honestly, I’ve not felt so frightened in
recent memory, despite the intellectual knowledge that I was completely safe,
held, and cared for.  (My naturopath had
a field day turning down my maxed-out adrenaline once I’d returned to SF!)
In my own personal work lately, my mentor suggested I seek
an internal guide to show me my blind spots. 
As some of you know, I sometimes use a Shamanic Journey meditation
practice that introduces you to internal guides of both human and animal form.
And so, the other morning in meditation, I “went in” to find
a guide to show me what I’m missing, since there are whole areas of my life
that still feel unresolved and cause me distress (see: “romance and finance”; aka
serially single and perpetually under/un-employed).  In this meditation, as the title of this blog
may suggest, I came across a waterbug.
… Now, the waterbug does not
seem like the fancy-dancy spirit animal one would hope for!  It’s not a lion or eagle or even
antelope.  And yet, here it was.  I won’t “bore” you with the details of the
meditation, but the lesson was clear: 
The waterbug floats on the top of the water, not because it
is defying the law of physics, but
precisely because it knows, believes, and trusts in them so completely that it knows it will be held on the
surface.  It is not defying gravity, it
is embracing the truest knowledge that because of the laws of nature, it must and will always be held.
The rock climbing guide and I had a long conversation one
evening about spirituality, and he revealed that his largest question for “God”
or the Universe as he continued to expand his life and open his vulnerable self
and admit all parts of him was, “Can you really love me that much?”
I replied to him that my question is, “Can you really hold me that much?”  Can you really let me know, help me feel, to
my core, that I am held?  That I am
safe? 
The waterbug teaches me that it floats because it doesn’t tense and struggle.  It floats because it relaxes and trusts, and simply embodies a knowing that if it steps onto
the clear surface of a pond, it will be held. 
And furthermore, having seen that it has been held and carried before,
it doesn’t continue to question whether it will be held again in the
future! 
So this is my lesson for the moment: to embody the true
knowing that, like sitting back into a climbing harness, I am expertly and even
lovingly held.  And, should I ever choose
to question (as it can become a choice rather than a habit), there will always
be help offered me.
And p.s., if I mess up and tense up and fall through the
surface of the water… I can swim.
deprivation · faith · fear · recovery · self-denial · spirituality

The Facts of Life

Not like “the birds and the bees”; like the theme song: “You
take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…”
In this great rumpus race for which we have signed up by the
very nature of being born, we are subject to a variety of experience.  Some of these we deem good, some bad, and
being pleasure-seeking beings, we are partial to those we deem good.
In my own personal relationship to the universe, life, fate
and its many faces/facets, I have oriented my understanding to be one
that says, Everything happens for our own good. 
Even the bad things.
For my alcoholism, I have found recovery, a community, and
way of life that brings me fellowship, understanding, pleasure, laughter, and a
sense of being deeply understood.
For my childhood, I have come to tell myself that because of
my experiences, I’ve become sensitive, compassionate, empathetic, resourceful,
strong, and creative.
For my cancer, I have taken my struggle and survival as
impetus to engage in my life more fully, playing in a band, flying a plane,
acting and singing in theater.
For all these horrors and more, I can look back and deem them “good,”
because they have led me to becoming more useful and engaged as a human.
And yet.
Fuck. All. That.
That we are thrown against the shores of life brutally onto
the rocks of experience, shaping us, reshaping us, and winnowing us down to the
raw beauty of ourselves—  Hey Universe, would
you lay off a minute, huh?
Because perhaps, Shit. Just. Happens.
And that is the worst understanding of all for me.  It is the least controlled, the least
controllable, the most chaotic, disordered, entropy-laden reasoning for it all.
What it means is that we are not “safe.”  And if there is anything I have struggled for
in my lifetime, it is to feel safe.
But in this quest, this blazing, self-propelled quest for
safety, I have built up around myself an armor, a buffer, a multi-layered
sequence of dance steps that I believe if I dodge left, you, it, experience,
failure, hurt, calamity will needly dodge right.
Yet, the Universe has its own dancesteps, and sometimes they
are to bowl you over like a rhino in a football helmet.
Furthermore, by dodging experience as a whole –monstrous as
I believe or fear it to be– I also dodge whatever good that rhinoceros might be trying to hand me.  And therein lies the rub, eh?
As I mentioned a few days ago about the dam, restricting my
own self, need, and experience out of fear of what might happen if I let things
flow, I am scrubbing up against my own realization that I
am restricting myself for fear that bad shit might happen.  I am hoping to control the all of my
experience so I am not harmed anymore.
Because forget all the above bullshit (which I also happen
to believe) about all those bad things becoming or being seen as good things –
don’t fucking think that I want or wanted them too.  They were all still egregiously painful.  And, as I mentioned, human as I
am, I don’t want pain.
In my attempt to restrict my experience of pain, however, I
believe I restrict my experience of benevolence.  Grace. 
Fulfillment.
And so, I am stymied, victim of my own prison, of my own
design to be safe, I am restricted from the greater joys and rewards of life.
“You take the good, you take the bad… “
Am I willing to expose myself, to be vulnerable and open to
the whole of life’s experience, knowing that in my disarmoring, I am (also)
opening myself to unforeseen goodness?
determination · fortitude · health · life · recovery · spirituality · surrender

Snookered.

See, the thing about being saved is that it’s not an
absolution.  You aren’t swept back from
the cliff’s edge and wrapped in a cosmic swaddling, rocked into unseeing bliss.  What you are is placed back firmly onto a
path.  A long one.  Back from the edge, back from the place of
giving up on the work of this lifetime, you are nudged—not so gently, but not
without compassion—onto a path that will require of you work for the rest of
your lifetime.
The cliff’s edge, the leap from it, the ultimate sacrifice
as it might be called is the choice to give up all the work that will ever be
asked of you.  It is to say, Forget it,
too hard, too much, there’s no help, no hope. 
To be placed back onto the path you had made some kind of decision—by
omission or commission—to leave means that you are now responsible to take up
the work you’d abandoned.  It is to look
up from your crumpled knees and see winding before you the path of your
lifetime, the work that will surely be needed to accomplish it, and the
knowledge that to be alive is to do that work.
To be alive is to agree. 
To be alive is to sign an agreement daily that you will, however
falteringly, place one foot before the other. 
To be alive is to agree that you yourself and your life are more
worthwhile than eliminating all the possibilities it holds, all the better and
all the worse. 

And so, pulled back from the edge, “saved” as it were, you
walk with a grim humor, knowing that somewhere you have chosen this.

abundance · ambition · deprivation · doubt · god · spirituality · trying

Tuning by Ear.

Because I’ve begun a round of work with a new mentor recently, we’re talking a lot about “god.”
Specifically, this past Saturday, I read to her my current conception of this ineffable “power”:
“My Higher Power is in all things.  It lives & comes from a place inside me where I’ve never been scared & where there is always calm wisdom.  This place doesn’t give me instructions or guidance, it simply can reinforce or reassure my own decisions.  (Though I wish it did give guidance & instructions!)
This force is impersonal in some ways, because it belongs to everybody, and because it also doesn’t act out of reward or punishment because it is not human or personified.  But the force works toward health & wholeness.  It is the source of wholeness & would be satisfied for all to connect to it & recognize it.  This power is one of divine flow and order; it is unrushed.  It is often seen in nature, because it is in the natural cycle of life & death, but it is bigger than that. 
When I feel in touch with this power, I feel calm, energized/alive, unrushed, wise & accepting — accepting of myself & of the outside world & circumstances.  When I feel in touch with this power, I feel a stable ground to stand on, and I don’t have racing questions about my life.  I feel at peace. 
I sometimes get impatient with this power because it is so slow/calm & not clear w/instructions or answers to my questions.”
My friend/mentor listened to this. I anticipated we’ve move on but she said gently that it sounded like there was a bit of conflict there. Did I agree? Hell yes! It makes me mad that I can’t get answers, but I don’t believe that I’m supposed to. That’s not what this power is about. 
Then she sagely suggested something: “You have a belief that makes you unhappy.”
But, what can I do about that, I asked? Am I supposed to reconceive my higher power, or just come to accept that I don’t get answers? I like this conception of a higher power. 
She agreed it’s a good one, but … she has an alternate belief, which I don’t have to subscribe to, but she wanted to propose her own experience: She does get answers. She believes she does get information and guidance and instructions. (Not like, crazy woo-woo hearing voices.)
As we spoke, I posed my own question: Is it possible that I am receiving answers, but I’m simply not hearing them? My ear isn’t attuned to them? 
She said she doesn’t believe in a working toward whatever is “God’s will” kind of spiritual world, but rather toward whatever is for the “Highest Good.” Which makes a lot more sense to me. Because this whole “God’s will” vs. my will thing is a real bitch to suss out. 
And then she said something radical for folks among my kind: The Highest Good often is what I want. Where I get f’ed up is where I believe that “G-d” doesn’t want me to have what I want. 
She said that our desires and impulses and intuitions are often calls and pulls from that deepest place within us. (Surely, that doesn’t mean Ice Cream for Dinner, but you get the point, I hope!)
So, I gave myself the assignment this week of trying to attune my ear to hear the guidance that I feel I’ve been deprived of. 
And this morning, I had an odd experience of noticing. 
I’ve been doing the Deepak/Oprah 21-day meditation challenge, as I tend to do when they come around. 20 minutes, free, a good start to the day (no matter what may be happening in the news about them personally, thank you).
This morning, the “centering thought” was: “I receive the wisdom of life.”
So I tried out my friend’s theory. A bit frustrated and tangled up in my own thoughts: “Alright, “God,” Should I try to go to school this Fall or not?”
I’ve been waffling on whether to go to grad school for my teaching certificate without having the proper knowledge foundation at the moment. There are 3 more exams to be certified, 2 to get entry into the grad program. One of these tests, I believe I can pass; one will need a LOT of studying; and the third, I’ve signed up for a summer Physics course at the local city college, because I need all the help I can get. 
Do I float another year? Do I try to push myself to do it this year? There’s still room in the program, and my acceptance is contingent on passing the 1st two tests before school begins. 
What do I do? 
What happened this morning (in aggro-meditation!) was this: I had a simple thought that sounded exactly like all my other thoughts do: “You can try for anything you want, Molly.”
There was no magic bell or deep baritone indicating whether this was the “Voice Of The Universe;” it sounded like most of my other swirling thoughts. But it held my attention differently, because this is not a thought that I usually have. 
I do not usually believe that I can have or try for anything I want. I am usually talking myself out of things. Flaking on social engagements. Procrastinating with Netflix. I am used to believing that the road to abundance is a scrappy struggle against myself, where I wind up exhausted and often, not having even left my apartment!
You can try for anything you want, Molly.
But it sounds so impulsive to just “try”! It sounds to ungrounded, and I don’t want to take developmentally unrealistic steps and then simply get disheartened. I don’t want to charge into something half-cocked and half-prepared because I want to stop waiting on my life!
But I believe the point of what that thought was saying was that I can try, and I can fail. I can try, and not fail. I can wait for next year. Or not. 
Seems like it’s back to my original idea of not getting clear instructions, doesn’t it???
Yes. And. 
I think what I heard was that the road of life is less narrow and forsaking than I imagine it to be. That the road is wide, and forgiving, and will get me where I want to go. 
The point is to make a decision. To try, however falteringly, to believe that I can have what I want. That the road will be there to support me. That abundance is for me, too. 
I don’t know what I will do yet. This is all very new, as of about 30 minutes ago. But, I’d kinda like to try — and see what happens. 
career · clarity · inspiration · love · spirituality · writing

I’ve started hearing voices again.

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I’ve started hearing voices again.
Now, before you call the padded-room brigade, this is a good thing.
In the time and space I’ve had since quitting my full-time
job at the end of October (despite the roar of negative thoughts and virulent
self-questioning), I have begun to find space behind the thinking. And it is
within this space that I’ve always germinated the seeds of my writing.
When I explain it in person, I raise my arm behind my
head, and wave my hand in the general direction of “back here.” I tell them
that it’s like there’s a room back behind my head, where the ideas start to
percolate. They marinate, germinate, ruminate, and when they’re ready — the indicator popping up like the thermometer in a slab of roasting turkey — I open
the door and chase them onto a page.
By the time the door opens, they’re pretty fully-formed. But
they need the time and space and freedom to sit back there, talking amongst
themselves, these ideas. I can hear them back there, murmuring. I begin to hear bits of
phrases. The sense of a topic, a genre.
My waking thoughts start to curve in that direction; they
start to gather information that all funnels to the same place. I collect these bits and feed them like coal into a furnace.
It’s partly, I know, the time and space that I have to
think, not crowded with the demands of a 40-hour job. But it’s also working on
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” reading the book at night, becoming immersed the language. (I used the word “rightly” twice in a recent blog; I become a sponge and a
regurgitant of what I feed my brain.) It’s also watching Netflix’s “Peaky Blinders,” and
being stunned by the cinematography, the bold and sweeping camera work
inspiring me, reminding me of the nuance and exaltation of art.
It’s listening to NPR, and a man’s purple report of bison grazing in Canada, when the song of birds “split the
silence like a candle,” and it became “the end of a day that started as a
morning.”
I begin to collect these images, words, sensations like a
magpie, not knowing what will be useful, but shoveling it all in anyway,
trusting my process of alchemy.
I’ve begun hearing voices again. And this brings me hope.

aspiration · dissatisfaction · dreams · mortality · spirituality

Near – Far. Near – Far.

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Anyone else remember those segments on Sesame Street?
Well, I recall it this morning around desire. Around the
idea that if we’re not happy with what we have right now, why would we expect
something more would make us happy later? If we’re not content in the “near,”
how can we expect to be happy in the “far””
That said, I don’t know that I completely agree with this concept. I do “get” that it is
important to recognize the gifts around us. Especially at this time of year,
it’s easier to get that reminder to “give thanks.” It’s what I’m teaching my
4th graders lately, about gratitude, being happy with what’s around us,
noticing what we have, and how lucky we are. By nature of our birth, we’ve
landed in a circumstance where we’re healthy, educated, and pretty well off. In
many ways, we’ve hit the lottery in comparison to the 8 million other souls on
this planet.
I can count my blessings, though they are innumerable.
And yet.
What about the phrase, “It helps to envision our spiritual
objective before we try to move toward it”? Isn’t that implicitly saying that
we can want more, and we have to clarify what that is so we can get there?
Isn’t there an inherent longing or dissatisfaction? A seeking?
So, today, I sit with the duality of … reality (sorry!): I
am content with my life, and I want more for it.
A friend once said to me when I was in a lot of pain around
a previous job, “Just stand at the copy machine and be grateful you are.”
Included in that idea is being grateful for: being alive, healthy, employed.
And yes, of fucking
course I am and was. But does that mean, Don’t dream beyond that?
Does that mean the longings of a soul are symptoms of being
ungrateful? Hmm….
Happiness breeds happiness. Contentment seems to attract more
of itself. I am a “law of attraction”
kind of believer. I comprehend that living in where I am with adulation and
appreciation and awe is crucial.
But. …
How do you truly sit with that frisson?
In the immediate present, in the “near,” I am going tonight
to perform in a community theater production. A good community theater, at that. For years, I’d been
dabbling at acting, and only at the start of the year did I make a conscious
commitment toward it.
I am adamantly grateful, and also, this was all borne of
restless desire and dissatisfaction.
I don’t know. I don’t think I can “figure it out,” and maybe
I don’t have to. But, I will always find it difficult to “sit” in gratitude for
things that make me feel I’m wasting my life. I have too much respect
for the time we’re given to simply “be” in where I’m at when that feels deadening.
And maybe that perspective is “wrong,” and it perpetuates my dissatisfaction. Maybe this longing and seeking
keep me from feeling fulfilled, but for today at least – however off-balance
it may make me – I do have one foot in
the near, and one firmly planted in the far.
Because, sorry Ekhart Tolle: I believe in the Power of Then.