desire · pause · spirituality

Changing the Question

12-5-18.jpgWith the new move and J trying to make the house a livable space, we bandy about the question:  What do you want?

What color do you want on the walls?  What kind of couch do you want?  Do you want to keep my plates or yours?

As J’s spent a few months in a new job, and I continue to work in my field while thinking about its long-term potential, we lob one another the question:  What do you want?

What kind of work do you want to do?  What kind of conversations do you want to have?  What do you want to feel?

But, last night, as we again circled around what we want in and out of our lives, I asked J something that gave him pause — and when that happens, I know it’s something that I should pay attention to, too:

“What does your soul want?”

What does your soul want for this lifetime?

When retracting the question from outward manifestation to inner truth, it’s no longer answered by paychecks or paint chips.  It takes more than a peripheral answer.

What does my soul want this lifetime?

It’s so easy to crowd this question out with particulars; those feel so much more manageable and actionable.  But what’s the point in taking action if you don’t know where you’re going… and certainly if you don’t know why you’re going?

I don’t yet know my answer to this question.  While the heart of it will likely stay the same over the decades, I’m sure it will evolve slightly, so it will be important to ask this question regularly to check the fidelity with which I’m answering it through my actions.

What does my soul want?

Erg.  I’m going to have to get quiet and still enough to listen for an answer.  But at least I feel I’ve found the right question.

 

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gratitude · spirituality · success

Pete and Repeat were on a Boat…

10.3.18.jpegFrom the viewpoint of grace, which can [and will, when asked with gratitude] always give more, our lives should be a rising arc of abundance. ~ Day 13: Success Through Gratitude; Oprah and Deepak’s “Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude” Meditation Series

Okay, show of hands!  Who here has experienced life this way?  Who here wants to experience life this way?

Clearly when I track the history of my life, it is apparent that the above “law,” as they call it, is true.  It’s when I am wrapped in the horse-blinders of daily living that I entirely forget that law is so.

“A rising arc of abundance.”  Gosh, that sounds so nice, doesn’t it?

One way I’ve begun to sneak a peek over the side of those daily blinders is by writing down my weekly accomplishments before my Goals Group call on Tuesdays.  When, a few weeks ago, we’d arrived at the question of how we would “reward achievement,” we’d all come mainly to the idea that we would acknowledge what we’ve done.  So simple; so uncommon.

Therefore, to instate a habit of it (I love habits), I’ve begun to write down my week’s accomplishments on the Slack page we share to keep track of the weekly Goals Pages questions, our answers to them, our commitments to action for the week, and other somewhat germane comments (see: Kuramo’s vlog about self-love!).

On my own channel on the site, I’ve begun to keep this written log of everything I’ve accomplished in the week, and once I get started, it just pours out of me!

Anything from “cleaned the floor” to “got a massage” to “sent my bio to the J Weekly” to “went with a friend to the opera”!

All of these are accomplishments, achievements.  They’re ways that I am being and becoming more authentic and present and seen in the world (Yes, even cleaning my floor!  It means that I don’t have to feel gross at home, don’t have to fret when my piano player is coming over to practice, and don’t have those Serenity Moths gnawing at my self-esteem).

My world is only seen as a rising arc of abundance if I choose to see it that way.  This abundance is not limited to my bank account but there is clear evidence of an upward trajectory over the past dozen years.  And according to the groups with which I hang, financial abundance is an outward manifestation of our internal growth.  God is not separate from money, but money is also just a tool, but God is present in all aspects of my life including my finances, but my finances are only one measure of success…  Pete and Repeat…;)

I’ll conclude with another passage from that day’s meditation which may help to sort out this cycle of god/money/work/gratitude/action/grace:

What saves me from greed and selfishness is to take every gift with humility and gratitude. … Contrary to popular belief, it is not spiritual to shun external rewards — external rewards can be a sign that I’m connected to my true Source, which wants the best possible life for me.  What I need and want to avoid is my ego stepping in and claiming to BE the source of the good things in my life. 

Grace is always the source of abundance, not the ego’s selfish, anxious struggle.  

Grace needs my hands through which to work its goodness, and I need gratitude to become a conduit for that grace.  Pete and Repeat…

Good luck.

 

attachment · detachment · spirituality · work

“I am your Density…”

lotus-on-fire-3-lyle-barker 8 12 17

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.

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.