Archive for June, 2014

New Leaves

June 22, 2014

A friend recently suggested that feelings may be primarily transient, and not very useful as indicators of the progress of our lives. I responded with a short essay that I’m now turning into my post for this week.

Before I present that reflection, however, I want to review the insight which came to me during a morning meditation. I found myself considering what purpose is being served by my strict adherence to a weekly posting schedule. (Yes, I know, I missed last week. I was preoccupied with an important personal event which took precedence over everything else in my life.)

My contemplation this morning encompassed the vivid presence of Divine Spirit in the posts of a fellow student of MasterPath (Lesley King – The Inner Adventure) and my unanswered inquiry into the extent to which that presence shows in my own writing. What I received in lieu of an answer was another question – why do I continue to demand of myself a weekly post?

When I started this blog a year ago, my motivation was to demonstrate a commitment to writing that might be relevant to finding an agent and/or publisher for my then recently completed novel. Six months later I started a far-more-than-fulltime job which continues to occupy most of my days. And then a delightful but attention-demanding new relationship bloomed in my life, leaving even less time to focus on writing. Nonetheless, I’ve written something thoughtful – and I hope of general interest – weekly for a year. My circumstances have changed far more dramatically than I could possibly have envisioned a year ago. My relationship to this blog has, I now realize, also been transformed.

Meeting the demands of my ”day” job makes ample use of my mental and interpersonal, outer-directed skills. Building my new relationship stretches, embellishes, transforms, beautifies all aspects of me, but particularly my physical and emotional bodies. I know that I would not have been gifted with this delightful and rich blessing of commitment had I not already achieved a strong relationship to my Divine inner Teacher. I also recognize that I am now being nudged, once again, to preserve time and attention for the next step that Teacher will be asking me to take. Rather than pushing myself to put words down – I started to say on paper, but really it’s only on screen – I realize I need a break from words, a break from busy-ness, and instead, more mental silence.

So I will be continuing to post, when those silent periods allow Spirit to reveal to me material that seeks expression. I’m curious to see what schedule of posts results from freeing myself of the obligation to write weekly!

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I do want to share the gist of my response to my friend about transient feelings, and their relevance, or lack thereof, to the meaning of our lives.

“Would you grant that the feeling tone of a life can change, can also be positive or negative, loving or constrained – or sad, or calm, or impatient – and that this tone has an expanse across time, and breadth across activities? Rather than saying I am feeling happy these days, should I have said that the tone of my life has altered from practicing containment and patience, to active flowering in a variety of ways?

“I planted an avocado pit about 8 months ago, that had cracked open and put forth a small shoot as it sat in water on my kitchen window. In its pot of earth in the living room, it slowly grew, putting out a single leaf, sometimes two, which would drop off before new ones emerged. This pattern went on month after month. The plant became taller, more mature, but never fuller until just last month when it began producing new leaves without losing the original ones. Now it is both taller again, and sporting a head of 15 leaves. It is still a young avocado tree but it is nonetheless quite a different plant than it was 4 weeks ago.

avocat1

“Months of patient, repetitive experience (in my case years of it) have given way to a different look, a more fulfilled form, changed and more expressive energy, a happy presentation of what it is to be an avocado tree me… My energy level has escalated such that my daily being is much more productive. Next, unanswered, question – is happiness the result of that increased productivity, or the energizer which makes the productivity possible – or both?

“I’m pretty sure I won’t be puzzling over the answer any time soon. I prefer to focus on putting out more leaves.”

Leaves which I will share as they manifest.

 CIMG2428

Illusory Time

June 9, 2014

We’ve all heard that time and space are illusions, that love can bridge both and eradicate them. But how many of us have actually experienced the collapse of space or time?

I’ve had inklings of what it is like to deny space, most notably when I’ve been conducting multiple chats on Facebook with friends scattered around the world – connected simultaneously to Singapore and Norway, for example. But time has, until recently, remained rather solidly real. Oh, I’ve lost myself in contemplation, or in an activity, and – as we say – lost track of time. That experience has always ended with a solid thump back into awareness of time as a sequence, a flow that inexorably carries on while I’ve been doing other things. You know – “life is what happens while your attention is elsewhere.”

Lately, I’ve been gifted to experience a different sense of escaping the constraints of time – or rather, to begin to understand in a very profound way that time is indeed an illusion, a habit of mind that one can shed. My spiritual practice has triggered recognition of a number of mental lies, beliefs conditioned into me from various sources – parents, society, misinterpreted experience, self-doubt. One by one these falsities have shown their color, and I’ve been freed of their constraints. Several have to do with my perception of myself, and possibly do not have general application. The most recent, however, has to do with time and is certainly widely relevant.

I follow a couple of blogs which focus on aging – Time Goes By Time Goes By, and Aging Abundantly. It is important that there be a voice for older people, and even though I don’t always agree with these two, nor do they agree with one another, both writers present the experience of growing older and both confront and counter stereotypes that we all meet daily. They are rooted, however, in an acceptance that time passes and that we are necessarily caught within time’s reality.

I am learning to exist in a different reality. Focused on what I am doing in the present moment, time does not exist. Only when I choose to give my attention to something that happened in an earlier phase of my life – and only if I choose to consider the event in the context of “its” time – does time exist once more. If I instead immerse myself in the event as though it is a present happening, time vanishes.

As children we have all certainly been admonished to “act your age”. As adults, we mark milestones of age (legal drinking age, “the big five-oh”) and measure our accomplishments against some yardstick of what we should have achieved by this or that age. Retirement looms, eligibility for “senior” discounts, a host of societal norms that impose on us the supposed reality of time.

I remember my first encounter with a different concept of time. It was an effort to explain a Pueblo Indian concept that time is not a sequence, but a set of different present moments. The teacher described sausages tied together into a circle. The tribe lives within one sausage/season/period at a time. It is planting season until the circle rotates, and then they are living within the season of summer rain. Another rotation places them within the season of maturing corn. During each season, attention is fully devoted to the activities of that manner of being.

Since plunging into my new job, and a new relationship, I am interacting with various people in very vivid and engaging ways. I find myself so intensely focused on each present demand for my attention that my only awareness is of the activities I’m completing, and the people for whom I am completing them.

It was a shock, yesterday, to realize that 2014 is almost one half done!

I write dates daily, but their only meaning has been a set of numbers that identify a document which I may need to retrieve from my hard drive. My days are defined by who I will see, where I will find them, whether my computer will cooperate with the necessary data entry, and how I relax from work.

My interactions are an exchange between equals, whether co-workers or members of my social network. If I take a conscious step back into the time continuum, I recognize that all these people are chronologically younger – often much younger – than I am. Little about my days allows or enables me to take that conscious step back. Quite the contrary. As a result, I go days, weeks – lately months – living in a continuing present tense, being whatever age matches those with whom I engage, feeling essentially ageless and outside of time altogether.

What a marvelous sense of freedom results from this existence outside time!

Now if I can just figure out how to similarly collapse space, in order to be at once in the several different countries I still want to visit…

Lemon Delight

June 1, 2014

Fixing myself a salad supper using Belgian endive and lemon flavored olive oil, I flashed back to the first time I was offered this salad by the housekeeper employed by my parents, in Paris. Francine had worked in a large hotel most of her life, and had quite a number of stories to tell about life under the German occupation. Some were funny, others distressing, like the one about her desperately hungry coworker who was whipped for eating two bites from the discarded remains of an apple she found on a supper tray set out into the hall.

Francine is also the person who first began to teach me patience, how to mask my reaction to a situation and to bide my time until I could find a safe and effective way to retaliate. In different terms, she taught me to convert reaction into response.

My friend from Cameroon describes the French, who ruled his land for decades – as part of French West Africa – as duplicitous people who mask what they really mean behind polite phrases. He has gently scolded me for being “like the French” when I ask what he would prefer in a situation, rather than state what I think and then ask his opinion of my proposal. At first I was puzzled by this interpretation, since in my own mind I was genuinely neutral, and willing to do whatever he wished. Now, I’ve adapted my communication, to state that I have no preference among several options and would like him to choose for us both.

I’m still learning, in other situations, to feel comfortable openly asking him for what I would like. A lifetime ago, a mentally ill mother who took pleasure in denying me anything I wanted, set me on a path of masking my desires. Francine refined my skills of indirection. Time, experience, life as it happens all combined to instruct me to accept and be happy with what I could get, rather than to demand the fullness of what I wanted.

There is value in patience, in being tactful, in making lemonade from lemons.

Scent of Lemons   by Janet Triplett

Scent of Lemons
by Janet Triplett

But there is also a time for a serving of lemon meringue pie!

I’m savoring my slice just now – a demanding but satisfying job as the (gluten-free) crusty base, a delightfully sweet/tart lemony balance of romance and a social life for the filling, and a meringue topping of frothy happiness and spiritual delight.

There. I’ve said it. That I have what I want.

In the saying, I am confirming my right to this happiness, rather than daring fate to snatch it away from me in the way that, so long ago, my small pleasures were demeaned or destroyed.

How very long it sometimes takes to undo negative conditioning! Especially when that training wears the face of positive qualities like acceptance, patience, diplomacy, tact.

My spiritual teacher, from MasterPath, speaks of iron shackles and golden chains being equally binding. The shackles are clearly negative and therefore easier to identify and shed. The golden chains are so subtle and seemingly so benign. But oh, how constraining they can also be.

I feel blessed, to become able to perceive and free myself from them. I thank Thee, Master, for showing me the way.


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