How do we engage ourselves, know who we are, what we want to do, be, when we grow up or any other time? When I was young I thought of my life as an out-of-body experience. In the world of Meyers-Briggs (did you know they’re WOMEN? – I didn’t until recently – I assumed that only men could make those formulas) I am an INFP and very into the “F.” So all that hiding in plain sight I did in my birth family was mirrored – think Narcissus – by my roots of shame. I may have looked like a tree – or a stump according to my parents – but all I see now is how powerful the law of attraction is. If gravity holds us in our seats, the law of attraction gets us what we ask for. I was the kid my parents asked for, maybe you were too.
It takes years of courage to know who we are and what to do about it. Often others know who we are way before we do but are at a loss for what to do about it. In 1990 I was deep into photographic processes. Hours in the darkroom mixing paper, chemicals and film finally produced what I found to be an excitingly deep and surprising outcome.
I became enamored of the process, got some proficiency and got a body of work together which I took around to photography galleries. One said,”It’s too beautiful, I’ll never sell it.” Another, “It’s too processed.” Women loved it. Men didn’t.
So it’s like a Buddhist story I tell about a farmer whose son is everything to him. The son goes to war, the son dies, the farmer is nothing. The son comes back, the farmer has everything. Ilusions. The farmer has an illusion. When I discovered the process I thought I was so cool, I thought, “this is who I am.” No one was doing anything like it. Great. Then when it didn’t shake the world, I felt like a fool, a shit, not an artist, not worthy.
It’s taken years just to love it again. Without the need for it to go anywhere. – Oh, I should say that it did win a spot at the Corcoran Gallery in the Smithsonian. And I thought that was so cool. I thought it would go on from there. I thought, I thought. But it didn’t and I still love the work and I still love the process and I think I’m cool.
“The very purpose of spirituality is self-discipline. Rather than criticizing others, we should evaluate and criticize ourselves. Ask yourself, what am I doing about my anger, my attachment, my pride, my jealousy? These are the things we should check in our day to day lives.”
I saw this posted yesterday by the Dalai Lama on Facebook. It encompasses all life as I know it and it reminded me of the advice a friend got when she asked for help with her new husband and his children.
She had been suffering watching what she considered bad and confusing parenting that as she saw it was leading to behavior issues with children she now found herself living with. She didn’t want to put a charge in her new married relationship and when she asked a friend, who also happens to be a phenomenal therapist, she got the answer, “Be a safe place for the kids.”
What a good idea! It kept her out of her new husband’s and his ex’s faces and it allowed her some autonomy with new and fairly adult housemates. She also, on her own, decided she would not participate in actions she thought eroded the children’s taking responsibility for their actions.
Instead of getting enmeshed in the situation and adding to what was already confused, she added clarity and kept herself a safe place both for the kids and her husband. She did not tell him what she thought – a marvel of self-restraint. She didn’t tell him what she “saw” or describe or ascribe anything to anybody.
Her self-discipline kept her safe for everyone to go to – they wouldn’t be shamed or abetted, she didn’t take sides. Her role-modeling allowed anyone who could to learn and anyone who wasn’t ready to wait – safely.
A simple (ha!) act of non-engagement can be our strongest stand. Taking our self in hand can be the most powerful step we choose. Vietnamese Vipassana master Thich Nhat Hahn asks us to “let peace begin with me.” He advises to take a breath when the phone rings, the door opens, any entrance into our physical space or our emotional mind, take a moment of breath connection before acting. We will be more ourself, and that is all we’re here to do.
I just came across an ashtray I made in school at Christmastime for my mother. I remember the making of it so well. The shape of it, the thing of it was all for her. She was an aloof, beautiful, untouchable woman. She had Admirers, she had furs and massages and ointments and so many occasions for her display. She read far into the night and smoked.
My gift to her was a small heart-shaped ashtray with a rose in the center. On the back it is signed, “PAM 1952” the art teacher would have had us do that. I remember giving it to her with some trepidation. Would she like it? Would she put it down without noticing? Would I find it in a drawer years later?
But those are my adult thoughts. At the time I just wanted her to like it and love me. Notice me, smile at me. That’s the part I don’t remember now. Did she smile? I don’t know. But she kept it by her bedside until she died in 1993. Her cigarette ashes are part of it now – oh yes, I have it now. I put it in a drawer, and found it when looking for something else. I think it’s time for the love to come out. I placed it with other endowed objects where it has a life of inclusion. Something I am just beginning to live with myself.
This morning in my meditation I asked for courage. Courage to be who I am – which means I accept myself – to do what I need to do – which means I have a clue – and the willingness to act with love, every act from love.
Notwithstanding my teachers’ groans over my punctuation, I feel set to a high standard. It means that in every moment I am awake to myself, to my dreams and desires as well as my shortcomings.
As unlikely as it is that I will accomplish every goal, it is very certain I will act differently than if I had not entertained these thoughts.
I often feel like a bowl of water I’m carrying. If I go too fast, act with haste, some will spill out – perhaps on you. But if I still myself so I can see my reflection, my path will be free of spills and you will walk with me in peace.
I take wisdom from the world of distinctions. The spider is determined to be a spider, not a lot of choice. While I may not have the choice to change what I am, I have the choice to change who I am. Everyday, every minute I can make a choice, in that choice lies the difference of who I am.
May you have the courage of your conviction, compassion in every step and love in your heart.
When she was little, when she first came to us, we used to sing “All the Pretty Little Horses” every night. It was the beginning of her English and her song.
Now, here she is graduating from high school and being welcomed at Sarah Lawrence College. When she went to the accepted students revisit day and went to sign up for next year, the young man taking her name said, “Oh, I read your application!” and the woman who had written her a note on her acceptance letter came up and hugged her. What a day!
How far she’s come and how far she will go – and she’s just being who she is, our kiss from the universe.
In preparation to help people solve their most pressing problems and help them with their most sought after concerns I googled “what do most people search on Google” I got a smallish list of famous people and astrological quests.
It was clear to me there was nothing I could help with in those categories. So I searched deeper. Slightly different but similar issues came up. I thought, “aha, people are not looking for answers to what is bothering them, they want distractions – and, yes, help with the future!
Realizing I was on my own I abandoned Google and went to titles of books. Jackpot! People Google distractions but they buy solutions! I’m in the game!
If anyone knows how to quantify the amount of hours spent getting help vs. hanging out online, I’d love to know. I have the feeling people are swift in getting their help and spend the rest of their hours online playing games or getting quotations to impress us.
How many CSI re-runs do you watch before you get enlightened? Yes, that’s a joke! Don’t give me a number!
But my point is that we are anesthetizing ourselves with crime shows and reality TV and loosing our voice doing it. Yes, our voice. The one you speak your Truth with, the one you answer your mate, your friends, your boss. They know what you say. Do you?
When your “true self” is wrapped up in the reality of others’, when you know more about Bree or Michael or someone on Lost than you know about your child, spouse or parent, well, you might be a little lost. I just went to the Lost site and found that six million, five hundred eleven thousand, six hundred seventy-three people have gone to the site and “liked” it. Wow! They’re lost!
There is, luckily, another way to spend our time. Let’s begin with appreciation. Appreciation is the highest achievement of the human soul. How often do you engage it? How often do you express your “like” for something – that’s not on facebook? How often do you tell the “ordinary” people in your life how extraordinary they are? How often, instead of reaching for that cookie, do you reach for yourself – take a breath, meditate, have some alone time, some “with” time with the one you love. Oh, did you say, “I love you.” That’s always a good thing to do.