Awakening - Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have

Discussion in 'Your Religion & Spiritual Center' started by CarolineJ., Jan 1, 2011.

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  1. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    July 31 - The Eye Is the Lamp

    ~The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light.~ - Jesus

    Jesus implies that the eye that is clear lets light in. Considering the eye as something that lets light in and not just something that observes light outside itself opens the heart of the matter. To make it through the days, we must consider our heart as something that lets the reality of others in, and not just something that maps its way through the desires and fears of others. To let others in as well as to let ourselves out seems essential to staying authentic.

    There is a liberating paradox that often cripples our hearts when seen as either/or. It involves the tension between risk and safety. Often risking openness is seen as a dangerous way to lose all safety, and keeping closed is seen as a way to stay safe. This reflects a walled-in, walled-out sense of being in the world. Within the wall is safe; outside the wall is not. This belief, of course, never acknowledges the suffocating dangers of the wall itself. The mask worn after the face has grown becomes a wall that rubs and cuts.

    The paradox is that in true interior ways, the only path to deep safety, that sea of inner peace, is through the shifting sands of risk.. Risk opens safety. It doesn't shut it down. Only through the risk to open can we inhabit and receive the strength and fullness of what is whole.

    This raises the very profound question of how to define self-protection. Is it hiding who you are or is it being who you are? Is it guarding yourself with all that you see or is it clearing yourself to let light in? Is it preparing yourself against all that can hurt you or is it opening yourself to all that can heal you?
  2. June-

    June- New Member

    Depends on whether you are in an open or closed society. How would this work in those FDLS groups? For a woman in Saudi Arabia? For a slave anywhere?
    In some homes here.

    I think it depends.
  3. carolyn33

    carolyn33 New Member

    Favorite one...
  4. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 1 - The Pain of Becoming

    ~For the flower, it is fully open at each step of its blossoming.~

    We do ourselves a great disservice by judging where we are in comparison to some final destination. This is one of the pains of aspiring to become something: the stage of development we are in is always seen against the imagined landscape of what we are striving for. So where we are - though closer all the time - is never quite enough.

    The simple rose, at each moment of its slow blossoming, is as open as it can be. The same is true of our lives. In each stage of our unfolding, we are as stretched as possible. For the human heart is quite slow to blossom, and is only seen as lacking when compared to the imagined lover or father or mother we'd like to become.

    It helps to see ourselves as flowers. If a flower were to push itself to open faster, which it can't, it would tear. Yet we humans can and often do push ourselves. Often we tear in places no one can see. When we push ourselves to unfold faster or more deeply than is natural, we thwart ourselves. For nature takes time, and most of our problems of will stem from impatience.

    Before my experience with cancer, I was sorely driven as an artist. I pushed myself greatly. I think the creative impulse was deep and irrepressible in me, and ultimately healthy, but it was my secret need to achieve some sort of greatness that made me press until something began to rip. It was the unending, relentless push to measure up - and quickly - against some imagined form of myself that made the flower in my mind tear.

    I do not believe that people bring cancer on themselves, but I do believe that wherever we weaken ourselves, that part will give way to illness first. It was not by accident that the cancer struck the creative side of my brain.

    Perhaps one of the hardest remedies to accept for our pain of becoming is that wherever we are in our path - no matter how flawed or incomplete - is a blossoming unto itself. However much we've done at the end of the day is more than enough; it is dream becoming truth.
  5. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    I really like this one. It calms me.
  6. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 2 - The Mermaid

    ~A mermaid found a swimming lad,
    Picked him for her own,
    Pressed her body to his body,
    Laughed; and plunging down
    Forgot in cruel happiness
    That even lovers drown.~
    - William Butler Yeats

    We want so badly to share our innermost experience with our loved ones, but often, like the mermaid, we forget that not everyone can go where we go. Indeed, we all share this mysterious fact - that no one else can go into our depth completely. We must travel there alone. It is where we commune with God.

    The lad can visit the mermaid's depth, but can't live there or he will drown. And the mermaid can visit the lad's life on land, but can't stay there or she will suffocate. We must, each of us, return to our inmost element in order to survive. Frequently, we judge each other for not coming along, even take such an inability as rejection, when in fact, if we are kept out of our native element too long, we will suffocate or drown.

    The living terrain of relationship actually exists in the overlap of our inmost natures. The mermaid and lad return to embrace where the deep and air meet. It is the mermaid's responsibility of love to bring her treasures to the surface where thay can be shared, and the lad's obligation to rinse his treasures in their common surf. In this way, every authentic relationship becomes a home where we return from our solitary communions with God.

    Never was this clearer to me than when wheeling Anne, my partner of twenty years, to the operating room where she would have surgery for cancer. I went as far as I could and watched her grow smaller through the glass doors. I realized then, that whether it be our quarrel with God or with dead parents or with the limitations of our humanity, each of us must go beyond the glass doors of our experience alone. And the work of compassion is to guide our dear ones as far as we can and to be there when they return. But no one can go beyond the glass doors for us or with us.

    On land or at sea, entangled in community or independent in isolation, we all share this essential aloneness. And in the journey between the depths and heights that nourish our souls and the touch of others that keeps us sane, we are humbled into the miracle of love.
  7. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    Another good one, very thought provoking.
  8. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 3 - The Stripping of Our Will

    ~These bodies are perishable, but the Dweller in these bodies is eternal.~ - Bhagavad-Gita

    Most vegetables and fruits grow within a covering that must be peeled away if the sweetness and ripeness is to be eaten. There are many ways this speaks to the human journey, but perhaps one of the most important involves the way in which who we are grows within the covering of our will.

    We often protect our little seeds of effort, desire, passion, and curiosity by wrapping them in grand designs and ambitious plans that in the end rarely have anything to do with the sweetness and ripeness of what finally grows within us. However, it is important to remember that, just as corn cannot mature unless it is covered for months by its husk, we need to incubate who we are within layers of who we might yet become.

    There is nothing wrong with this. Most things in life need a protective container in order to grow. We can hurt ourselves, though, when we keep the fruit that is us covered too long. We can go bad, can begin to spoil within, if we stay encased in old plans once who we are inside has matured. Perhaps when we move or change careers or relationships, we are trying to free ourselves of all that has covered us, even if it has helped us grow. Although, we may come to realize that it may be our way of loving that needs to be shed and not who or what we care for.

    The most humbling part of this is that, though we need to make plans and work toward goals and imagine possible futures, none of it can prepare us for the moment that we ripen. Once the soul fills out like mature fruit, all of our fantasies, ambitions, and deep complaints turn to useless skin. Once ripe, once able to feel compassion and joy, all forms of sacrifice and postponement for the future begin to make us decay inside. Like the silk that keeps the corn shiny, all our delicate dreams of tomorrow have served their purpose when the heart pops up like a kernel.

    Since none of us can control or time the ripening of our sweeteness, we can only try not to define ourselves by all that covers us, even if it has helped us grow. In this way, we can strive hard and long, wanting to be the sun itself, only to ripen and burst with our little bit of sun exactly where we are. So dream, as you will, plan to build your version of the pyramids, scheme to make and spend several fortunes. For nothing matters but the sweetness, the sweetness incubated in our dreams and sufferings, finally brought to air.
  9. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

  10. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 4 - Agitations of the Dark

    ~When the dark is at rest, the light begins to move~ - The Secret of the Golden Flower

    Just how do we deal with agitations of the dark? How do we make our way through the tangle of being confused or sad or blocked in understanding a way to tomorrow? It seems natural enough to treat our problems like an overgrown path and go hacking our way through, doing small violence to ourselves. Yet this insight from an ancient Chinese text implies something harder and simpler. It implies that agitation itself is dark, that only when we can keep our hands off will there be room for light.

    How many times have I examined and reexamined the words of another in my mind, growing dark vines by going over and over what was said: What could it mean? What could all that wasn't said mean? What must I now do in response or in non-response? The thought-weeds grow, blocking the light.

    I laugh when I think of how many hours I have spent in my life weaving storylines that never came true until, like weeds, they covered my heart. It is as if the light, in infinite patience, won't force itself into our hearts. No, it seems to wait and wait for us to open, content to fill whatever small space we can clear in ourselves.

    It seems that agitations of the dark always cover over. For myself, I worked for years covering over sore lesions of esteem with agitations of accomplishment, till my heart was then covered with a thicket of achievements. Only when I put the achievements aside did the light begin to move. Only then did a Universal warmth reach my sore center. Only when I let the dark energies rest did I begin to heal.
  11. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 5 - The Chick Being Born

    ~Every crack is also an opening.~

    When in the midst of great change, it is helpful to remember how a chick is born. From the view of the chick, it is a terrifying struggle. Confined and curled in a dark shell, half-formed, the chick eats all its food and stretches to the contours of its shell. It begins to feel hungry and cramped. Eventually, the chick begins to starve and feels suffocated by the ever-shrinking space of its world.

    Finally, its own growth begins to crack the shell, and the world as the chick knows it is coming to an end. Its sky is falling. As the chick wriggles through the cracks, it begins to eat its shell. In that moment - growing but fragile, starving and cramped, its world breaking - the chick must feel like it is dying. Yet once everything it has relied on falls away, the chick is born. It doesn't die, but falls into the world.

    The lesson is profound. Transformation always involves the falling away of things we have relied on, and we are left with a feeling that the world as we know it is coming to an end, because it is.

    Yet the chick offers us the wisdom that the way to be born while still alive is to eat our own shell. When faced with great change - in self, in relationship, in our sense of calling - we somehow must take in all that has enclosed us, nurtured us, incubated us, so when the new life is upon us, the old is within us.
  12. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 6 - The Heart's Pleasure

    ~We are born with this need to cry our naked cry inside each other.~

    We are so shy about our sexuality that we often miss the quiet teachings that overcome us in moments of true intimacy. The deep intensity of sensitivity during orgasm, for instance, is a sweet paradox in how we all cherish that moment and want to return there, over and over, and yet none of us can endure that ecstasy for very long.

    This heightened moment reveals a great deal to us about both our very human limitations and our deepest moments of being alive. It is not by chance that we feel compelled to be naked and vulnerable in the presence of another, that despite all our fears and defensive styles, we want to be held and touched completely just at the moment when we are unbearably sensitive.

    This is the heart's definition of pleasure, and though we need this moment of exposure and release to feel complete, we also must accept that we cannot bear it for very long. This is why the cries of ecstasy and agony often sound the same. That we ned to feel such complete sensitivity and vulnerability in union with another is proof that no one can live this life alone. In this way, true intimacy cannot happen without trust. When we let our bodies become this sensitive while holding back the heart, we forego ecstasy and experience its smaller echo, climax.

    In actuality, this moment of ecstasy, of holding nothing back, can be experienced not just during sex, but in the being and doing and truth telling of all our relationships - in the ecstatic moment when we allow oursleves to be completely revealed and held at the same time. In this daring and fragile moment, the heart rehearses all its gifts: being who we really are, holding nothing back, trusting another, being complete, and witnessing the completeness of another.
  13. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 7 - What We Bring Along

    ~A river doesn't hold all the water that passes through it.~

    In our journey through time, we all struggle constantly with what to bring along and what to leave behind. It feels so hard to throw anything away, but if we don't, we will drown underneath a weight of our own making.

    The river is a good model. It doesn't own the water that rushes by, yet it couldn't be in more intimate relationship to it, as the force of what moves through shapes it. It is the same with everything we love. In truth, there is no point to holding on to the deepest things that matter, for they have already shaped us.

    The purpose of sentiment, then, is to release the powerful feelings that sleep in us. Sometimes books and cards and shells and dried flowers do this. But often we carry more than we need, seldom trusting that what these small treasure represent is already living within us. Often the most useful gift we can give ourselves is to lay our lives open like a river.
  14. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 8 - Surrender Like a Duck

    ~Beneath what I try to see is all I need.~

    It was years ago, but I remember it clearly. I was walking along the shore of a lake in the middle of the day, and there in the sun, a good ten yards out, was a duck curled into itself, asleep. With its slick tufted head tucked into its body, it bobbed peacefully in the lapping of the water.

    This little scene undid me, for here was an ultimate lesson in trust. Without any intent or knowledge of itself, this little duck, asleep in the womb of the world, was a deep and wordless teacher. If only I - if only we - could surrender this completely to the mystery of life, we would be carried and renewed.

    It was obvious that the duck would wake and swim its little patterns on the water, but this little creature's ability to let go so completely allowed its time on Earth to be filled and saturated - if just for a few minutes - with a depth of peace that only surrender can open us to.

    Only rarely have I let go this completely, yet those moments of total surrender have thoroughly changed my life. When struck with cancer, I somehow fell from the ledge of my fear and entered the operating room like this little duck. It was the threshold to the other side. When lonely and afraid to reach out, I have somehow collapsed repeatedly into the ocean of another's love, and it has cleansed my weary heart. And in my search now for wisdom to live by, I stumble at times and surrender what I think I know, so completely, that I find myself adrift in a deeper way that is neither wise nor unwise, but simply life-affirming.
  15. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 9 - Preparing the Way

    ~So long as you haven't experienced this: to die and so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.~ - Goethe

    To die is not a bad thing. Cells die every day. Paradoxically, it is how the body lives. Casings shed. Coverings fall away. New growth appears. It is how we stay vital. Likewise, ways of thinking die like cells, and we suffer greatly when we refuse to let what's growing underneath make its way as the new skin of our lives. It is the stubbornness with which we refuse to let what's growing underneath come through that pains us. It is the fear that nothing is growing underneath that feeds our despair. It is the moment that we cease growing in any direction that is truly deadly.

    When resisting this process, we become a troubled guest, moaning like a human crow. We double the pain of living when we try to stop the emergence that all life goes through. Imagine if trees never shed their leaves, or if waves never turned over, or if clouds never dumped their rain and disappeared.

    I say this as much to remind myself as you: Little deaths prevent big deaths. What matters most is waiting its turn underneath all that is expending itself to prepare the way.
  16. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 10 - At Random

    ~Random is the instant a horse at full speed has all four hooves off the ground.~

    This is the original meaning of the word. It refers to the mystery of unbridled passion, to the lift that results from total immersion and surrender. In our age, however, random means without design, method, or purpose. It refers to utter chance. It helps us dismiss whatever appears to be beyond the control of our will. If we didn't author it, it must be accidental.

    Yet our lives are full of unexpected surges of kindness that seem to come from nowhere. Just when you're thirsty, a cup is gathered and passed around. Just when you are lonely to the point of snapping that bone way inside that you show no one, someone offers you a ride or steadies the grocery bag about to drop from your grip. Just when you feel nothing can raise your sad head from the lonely road, the deer stutter across the road in exact rhythm with Handel.

    So what might we learn from the horse at random? Consider how all of its energy and desire mounts for the brief moment it inhabits itself fully, and in that moment, it flies. Only to touch down again. And to fly again. And touch down again. For us, the moment at random is the moment of holding nothing back, of giving our all to whatever situation is before us. In that charged moment, we come as close to flying as human beings can - we soar briefly with a passion for life that brings everything within us to meet our daily world.

    I experienced this again and again in the many hospital beds I lay flat in while going through cancer. When I could hold nothing back - not tears, not pain, not frustration or anger - I found myself at random, off the ground, though I couldn't get out of bed. And remarkably, it put me in the flow of the lives around me.

    For just as pain in the body signals other cells to flood the injured area, our honest experience lived at random call other lives to our aid. Just as blood flows from healthy parts of the body to those that are injured without either part knowing they will meet, so too in the Universal body. We flow to each other's aid, often without knowing where we are headed. Mysteriously, the life force heals itself this way. And what we call "chance" or "luck" or "coincidence" is the circulation of life healing itself through us and in us.
  17. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 11 - While Running

    ~To see takes time.~ - Georgia O'Keeffe

    While running in May, I saw a neatly trimmed hedge, and sprouting briskly through its symmetry were scraggly blue flowers wildly obeying no form. It made me smile, for I have spent many years resisting being pruned and shaped. I loved how the wild blue just hung there above the hedge.

    While running in June, I saw an older man out pruning that hedge. He was so involved: clipping gingerly, then backing up, sweating through his eye, as if the world depended on his diligence. I was touched by his care. We nodded briefly, and without a word, it was clear that it wasn't the hedge, but that he needed something to care for. I realized this is how I've lived since surviving cancer.

    While running in August, I came upon a slim fountain gushing from an unseeable center, as high as it could, reaching without arms until it ran out of reach, and at its closest to the sky, it began to fall back on itself; always what was rising up replacing what was falling away. Sweating and heaving, I realized that this is what it means to be free.
  18. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 12 - To Live Out Loud

    ~We are here to live out loud.~ - Balzac

    Early on, we know enough to cry and sound our way into the world; this is the primary purpose of voicing ourselves. Whatever comes out becomes a lifeline, a vein of expression by which we affirm, again and again, that we are vital, a quickening part of all the majesty and variety of life.

    But soon - perhaps in school, or at home, or when first venturing after a sense of love we somehow think is not within us - too soon, we start believing that we cry and sound in order to be heard. And everything changes.

    Then we become anxious to be received, to be accepted, and approved. But imagine if birds only sang when heard. If musicians only played when approved of. If poets only spoke when understood.

    There have been many times I've stuggled through the expectation and disapproval of others to refind my voice and rejoice as a living piece of things. Certainly, there is a particular joy and nourishment in being heard. But I have come to realize that sounding my way into the world, to express who I am, must always come first. Since wanting to be thought well of never goes away, I always have to keep the reactions of others at bay long enough for my voice to make it to the light.

    I must tell you of an old man I know who came here from Italy. He's spent his life working as a plumber. He is a good, sweet man, and when he laughs, which is often, he cries, no matter who's around or whether or not anyone understands. He keeps his pipes clean. He lives out loud. Unknowingly, he has shown me how to love the world.
  19. Intrepid

    Intrepid New Member

    I was at a workshop yesterday and a couple of teenage boys (around 18) gave some fine speeches that brought the room down. I remember thinking that so much of who we are is really because of our wiring and our inherited traits. Of course we can change some things about ourselves and be different, but for the most part, personality stays stable.

    We are here to be who we are. I don't know if that is living out loud, or living quietly. I think it takes us most of our lifetime to really know ourselves and when we finally meet ourselves, it is sometimes to late for so many as most of life has already gone by with people living according to whom they thought they were.
  20. CarolineJ.

    CarolineJ. New Member

    August 13 - Bird-Rock

    ~Maybe that's why I want to touch people so often - it's only another way of talking.~ - Georgia O'Keeffe

    I was aching and vulnerable, feeling far from home, when, through the harsh shore wind, I saw a large rock surrounded by the rough churned-up sea. The rock was covered with all kinds of animals: willet, gull, cormorant, sea lion, seal, pelican, otter. All had found refuge from the hammering of the sea; climbing, winging, hauling themselves on the rock; living together, laying on each other, finding this rock-oasis of wind and sun; too tired once on the rock to fight, each having been wrung out by the pounding of the wet, wet hours.

    I realized this is how the wounded find their way, how we have found each other, even in this book. Every survivor, regardless of what they survive, knows the hammering of the sea, and the rock we find refuge on is an exposed place where we finally accept each other - too tired to talk except through simple touch.

    The wellness group I attended weekly was such a rock. The meeting rooms of recovery are such a rock. The thousand wuiet rooms of therapy are such a rock. For those who have suffered, tolerance is not a political positions or even a principle. For those of us who have suffered, who have hauled ourselves into the sun, anything exhausted beside us is family.

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