So, lately, I’ve become more aware of my intrinsic need to follow a feeling rather than a thought. For example, while I’m driving, I usually listen to talk radio, but today, I felt the need to listen to music instead. Now – that may seem really mundane and silly, but the way my brain conversations go, it’s kind of a big deal.
My brain: “Don’t spend the time searching for music. It will take energy. Just keep doing what you’re doing – you’re going to be at your destination soon anyway. “ OR: “It doesn’t matter what you’re listening too. Just leave it on and don’t make the effort. It doesn’t matter anyway.”
Wait a minute.
“It doesn’t matter anyway???”
What a load of crap that is. Yet, it’s kind of my default brain patterns. I’m sure there’s some psychoanalysis I could do to determine why, but, in the end, does it really matter? Doesn’t it matter more that I can at least recognize it now?
And, why is it a load of crap? Because if you want to make the very most out of your precious time on this earth, every minute of every day matters. If you value yourself, if you value your family, if you value the grass underneath your feet, it matters.
I just watched one of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday programs. If you’ve never seen one and are at all interested in spirituality, you have got to check this out. Very cool stuff – Oprah and a guest have conversations about spirituality and life – the kind of conversations that I love having with people; conversations that help us think differently.
“While we’re here, the goal and the purpose of being here is to align our personalities with our souls. When that happens, the intentions of the soul flow through you like the breath of a musician through a flute.”
Can you imagine what your life would feel like if you could hear your soul’s intentions? I bet you would literally feel lighter without the weight of an outer shell. What a sense of great, endless joy you would feel.
Dr. Jean Houston was another guest and her comment about the soul also made my heart smile: “It’s the lure of our becoming.”
In other words, the soul entices us to become who we really are at our core – minus the fears, worries, habits, jealousies and put-downs. And the reward for doing this? I would imagine more peace and more love for your life and who you are.
Can you think of anything more satisfying?
Holding back…a theme that’s just recently surfaced.
“Surfaced” is definitely the right word – I think it’s been there all along but I’m just now seeing it in this certain light. The light of fear. Like most people, fear rules me – in ways that I don’t even know about.
Last week, I had a dream that I was running away from something. I don’t remember what. As I was traveling/running, I was also taking care of a Komodo dragon. Isn’t that just very, very odd? I haven’t been to the zoo lately or aquarium. I haven’t seen one on TV either. So, I had to look it up. I had to see what the dream sites say about Komodo dragons. Not surprisingly, depending on the site, the dragon has many meanings. But, one that particularly resonated with me is that a Komodo dragon can represent fear. Hmmmmm. Double hmmmmm.
I have literally been taking care of my fear – nurturing it, making sure it was fed and comfortable. Probably because it feels like an old blanket – something that’s always been around but has never been tossed out. But, writing that I’m going to “overcome these fears by kicking out” this dragon seems very fake to me. Disingenuous. Self righteous. All too easy.
So, what I think I’m going to do is befriend it. Try to accept that it’s there but not give into its neediness – at least not so automatically and hopefully, not so often. I remind myself that everyone has a Komodo dragon, be it a baby or perhaps even more than one. Then I don’t feel so alone.
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
My favorite part of the above passage is “…and the point is to live everything.”
So, as I’m getting wrapped up in my daily list of to do’s and automatic “shoulds,” I will try to remember this. I will try to remember that where I find joy and meaning in my life is by kindling that sensation way down deep inside, the one that I finally got to know, the one that reminds me of who I am and that I’m actually alive.
And by the way, if you haven’t come across Rilke yet, I strongly recommend checking him out.
It finally hit me. I now know what I need, at a minimum, to have a good day. And, it’s what I do/feel/think that determines if I have a good day or not. Not someone else who makes an off-handed careless remark that hurts my feelings. Not someone who cuts me off on the road. Not a situation that makes me feel uncomfortable and then conjures all kinds of stories up in my head that just aren’t reality.
It’s the choices I make as a result of these happenings – called life. And the choices that are positive and best for me require training and compassion. Training of the mind. Compassion for myself. To know who you are and live a life that feels like it’s yours, requires hard work. Purposeful work.
A Life That Feels Like It’s Mine
One step forward – my footprint
One leap upward – my joy
One scream hello – my voice
One smile inward – my peace
Here are two concepts about understanding who you are and how you want to live that are so compelling, so refreshing, so out of the Western mindset – they make my heart quiver and sing.
Our purpose is to look for the intersection between our deep gladness and the world’s deep need.
Let the greatest aspiration for your life, organize your life.
If these resonate with you, how do you discover it for yourself? Slow down, sit down, and close your eyes. Let yourself hear the silence: the birds chirping, the breeze passing, your breath going in and out.
Every excuse will pop up about why you don’t have time: cleaning, sleeping, errand running, showering…believe me, I’ve succumbed to these a million times, and I still fight them daily. I think it’s because I’m afraid of what I might find – it might be different than how I’ve lived in the past. Those habits are familiar and comfortable and very ingrained.
At the end of the day, though, I want my life to reflect both of the statements above (well, I’d like to at least get close to one). And, I know – deep down inside – getting quiet is how I will get there.
Lately, I’ve noticed something about myself – noticed it A LOT. What the Buddhists would say is the root of all suffering: attachment. Now the first time I heard this, it was difficult to wrap my brain around the concept. The word “attachment” is a little confusing in this context. It seemed too nebulous, too unclear, too intellectual.
But, over time, I’ve come to understand it a bit better. And, what I’ve noticed is my attachment to expectations. For instance, I expect a close friend to respond a certain way to a major event in my life. When this friend does not react the way I expect her to, I get upset. Perhaps, really upset. I wanted her to say certain things, to do certain things. And, when she didn’t, it upset me and caused me to “suffer.”
Sometimes when I use the word “suffer,” I think it sounds a tad over dramatic. But, I have to remember that it’s really kind of perfect.We live our life each and every day, and if each and every day is controlled by an attachment to expectations, chances are high I will feel a certain level of jealousy, anger, bitterness, etc. The word “suffering,” in this context, doesn’t feel so over-the-top any more.
So, does this emotional pattern I describe above feel good? Do I want to continue reacting in a way that makes me feel bad? Not even a little. But, what can I do?
Notice this is a pattern for me. Be kind to myself. Remember that lots of other people feel this way too. And, break the pattern by slowing down and getting quiet. This is how I can heal and find peace.
In the Deep Study with Elesa Commerse, we are devoting a year of learning and practice to exploring what it means to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. As part of this year-long course we are participating in a bold initiative created by Elesa called Willing to Listen. In order to be a volunteer for this project, you must be willing to learn and practice the skill of deep listening.
Deep listening requires that the listener be able to sit still and in a dignified posture, to be natural in facial expressions and body language, to give your complete and undivided attention without judgment, providing commentary, finishing someone else’s sentences, or providing feedback. It requires concentration and compassion. It requires practice.
I am fortunate to have a mother who is a deep listener. Her training came from the challenge of being severely hearing impaired most of her adult life. When we are together, we choose conditions that enable her to hear – we sit closely and look at each other. There is no background noise from the television. There are no cell phones (she does not have one). We don’t interrupt one another and we are comfortable with silence or a pause between thoughts. The experience is extraordinary and one that I find rarely in my day-to-day life except at Touching Earth.
At Touching Earth, by practicing deep listening, we find ordinariness rooted in the great mystery of the here and now. In the moment, that moment, we break down the walls that separate self and others and we listen with our whole being. This simple or seemingly ordinary act creates holy ground upon which we have extraordinary glimpses into the precious nature of human life. We serve others by holding a space of compassion as if our lives depended upon it. At Touching Earth we are willing to listen.
Recently, I had the opportunity to have someone sit across from me while I talked about my personal experiences (positive and not-so-positive) of the past week. This person didn’t say anything. She greeted me. She said, “I’m here to listen to what you have to say.”
Then she let me talk. She didn’t make any comments. She didn’t try to finish my sentences. She didn’t roll her eyes or give a sarcastic smile.
She gave me her undivided, whole attention. She nodded. Her eyes were warm. She gave me a sweet smile. And, she just let me untangle my thoughts and feelings unobstructed.
It was liberating. It was comforting. It was clarifying.
For the month of May, anybody in the greater Chicago area can have this same powerful experience. It’s being called “Willing to Listen” and is sponsored by the Deep Calm at Touching Earth. There is no cost to participate, and several listening stations will be available throughout the month. You can learn more by reading the press release.
My dear teacher and The Deep Calm’s/Touching Earth’s founder, Elesa Commerse, is this idea’s creator. Here’s why she’s passionate about “deep listening.”
“We are living in very stressful times. One of the most powerful and healing things we can do as a human being is to fully see and hear each other without passing judgment or reacting. For many of us, daily life has become a big exercise in training how not to give any one thing our undivided attention. As human beings, we are left feeling fractured, lonely, isolated, unseen and unheard. ‘Willing to Listen’ is a way to reclaim our power as human beings to be there for each other through the simple act of listening.”
All “deep listeners” receive free training in deep listening and mindful speaking. If you’re interested in listening and/or hosting a listening station, call 773.777.7754 or e-mail: email@example.com.
In my last post, I referenced the blog “Brain Pickings.” I’m coming to really LOVE Maria Popova’s writings. She recently posted about the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor. In the below excerpt, he describes what helped him and his fellow inmates cope with life in unbearable circumstances.
“What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
<<We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.>>
My brain just did a double take…..…huh?
After physically feeling some re-orienting up there (in my brain), I feel that Frankl’s above statement reiterates a truth I’ve heard before: the power found in purposefully taking responsibility for your words (both to yourself and to others), your actions, and how you respond authentically to your own life.
What is life expecting from me? I’ve never thought about this before…
This list makes me smile. 🙂