The Real World

 

Is as subjective as you can imagine.

American physicist Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988) commented on the puzzles and paradoxes of quantum mechanics, “ I cannot define the problem, therefore I suspect there’s no real problem, but I’m not sure there’s no problem.”

The subject of consciousness is all around us, and it reminds me of when I was growing in the mid-west in the Eisenhower years. Joe McCarthy was on his hunt for communists, questioning everyone’s loyalty to this country. His henchman and chief explainer was Roy Cohn, soon to be mentor of the young DJT.

McCarthy addressed the Senate making a list of outright lying claims and alternative facts which – after much tortuous equivocating, which cost lives, reputations, and livelihoods – were rejected by most and clung to by one Richard Nixon – among others – who saw opportunity in the making.

What consciousness is is not only not clear, it has forced many an illusion and conclusion. How, after all, can what we cannot define be defined. Prizes and papers are won and written for the palpable. Feynman was one of the few who dared – in his time – to express the inexpressible.

In his experiments with paths of quantum particles and their relationship with choice – to be a wave or a particle, for one example – the Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner wrote: “It follows that the quantum description of objects is influenced by impressions entering my consciousness. Solipsism may be logically consistent with present quantum mechanics.”

You can see where I’m going with this. I have to think this time we are in has been our collective creation. Much as a cancer can take decades to show its invasion, “here we are,” always has a massive and complex history. Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are doing or thinking is of tantamout importance. You are a vital piece of the puzzle we call the world or the universe and of consciousness itself.

What you are doing makes a difference. What you are feeling makes a difference. Your intention, your focus is titanic to your health and the health of all of us.

“As above, so below,” ancient wisdom/truth, tells me I am influenced by the quantum field as well. We all receive thoughts in the form of ideas, philosophies, needs – all expression – and we all influence.
So let’s step into this wholeheartedly. Let’s get to know our force. Who we are. What we think – when no one’s looking. Let’s go where we will go – for we will go somewhere, make it real.

If we are solipsism itself, let us be really good at who we are. If the world is bouncing off each one of us, let’s be the self we are. Step into you, I’ll step into me. And here’s the article from the BBC that started this riff!

Why Hillary Lost   part 2

At the Womens March this January, the word intersectional

was widely visible.

Google gave me this: “Intersectionality (or intersectional theory) is a term first coined in 1989 by American civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. It is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.”

I believe this focus allowed men, women, children, dogs (I saw no cats) of all ages and sizes, economic interests and everyone who wanted to be represented there to be there. It was the most harmonious experience I have ever known; there truly was room for us all.
This mood/feeling was not active during the election. I saw in the young man’s rejection of Hillary (I mentioned yesterday) the cry for separation. Devotion to separation, to the isolation of our own type or group identity was the Cri De Coeur during the interminable period leading up to the vote last year. By the time we voted, we were ready to kill one another.

Last year wasn’t so much about age as attitude. The delicious taste of freedom to hate, to blame, to say things that hadn’t been said “for eight years.” To take ourselves to such an extreme focus as not to see anything else.

We must seek a better outcome. To be here in this human body, on this earth plane is to seek wholeness and the more we include, the better off we are. We depend on the tree, the bee, the lion and all who show up here. There is nothing among us expendable or valueless. Please join me in listening to the originator of this most useful word. Let Kimberle Williams Crenshaw speak from her Ted Talk to all our hearts.

A Word From My Teacher

As I sit in the midst of boxes for moving (not too far – 20 minutes south, to Kent) I receive a newsletter from my teacher Narayan with whom I have sat many a retreat.
She is somewhat younger but when I first met her fresh, always robed in white, aspect I realized she is peer to all. She spoke of staring at a candle in her bedroom when she was twelve – driving her parents mad. She spoke of what she saw in the world and what seemed, from my point of view, she knew without experience. Some are like that and the rest of us, more like me, paddle the streams of experience – whitewater rapids to backwater sloughs – with and without grace, but paddle firmly in hand.
I share this with you now and in my practice (life – whatever you call it – the living of life) there is a deepening, a tangy spritzy pungent scent to the life I’m living. I feel older and more permeable, more focused, enjoying the ride.

Here’s Narayan:
Practice Over Time

by Guiding Teacher Narayan Liebenson

The forms of practice sometimes need to shift over a lifetime, but the essence of practice can burn even brighter as we come fact to face with the fathomless treasures of old age, sickness, and impending death. These are the most human of experiences. As you lose everything without choosing to, and accept the natural limitations of this body-mind experience, it becomes ever more possible to live with greater love and wonder and with less clinging and attachment. This is the sign of a true contemplative, not just a person who can sit endlessly on a cushion.

It is easy to get lost in concepts of time and age, believing in conventional messages that encourage a reverence for youth and a fear of death. However, older people with a lifelong practice are the lights of a sangha. Some older yogis have been practicing for decades, giving them the chance to meet physical and mental limitations from a completely different perspective than the ordinary one.

A rich arena of investigation is to ask whether one’s practice has to weaken with age. In times of change, there is often a sense of loss as well. In opening and allowing the grief that accompanies loss, a deeper dignity can emerge. What are our ideas and concepts about what practice is and what it means? Is practice something separate from the rest of our lives? Is it possible to open our hearts to things as they are, whatever way they are?

There is experience, and there is, as well, one’s relationship to experience. The awareness of this relationship is what makes all the difference in the world. With an orientation of openness and acceptance, we are alive to life itself and come to see that it was never ours to control. In this way, we deepen our understanding of patience, surrender, and grace.

Older yogis with a lifelong practice have a wisdom that is hard won. They are the visible signs of the humanness of life as well as the possibility of transcendence. We practice for others as well as ourselves; older practitioners need more commitment and diligence than ever before as they age.

Whatever posture you now need to support your practice is the best posture. This is the time to adjust your practice in a way that works for you. I encourage you to practice with an open mind, free from expectations, and to embrace without compromise the aspiration to awaken.

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The What About Love

Lately I’ve been going through boxes. It seems strange to me that in many places I’ve lived, those before me have left mementos. Sometimes special rocks, flowerpots, and more than once, a box of letters. One woman even had me photograph her entire family album and then never wanted it back. Go figure.
This time a letter from a concerned aunt or friend, I don’t think the writer is the parent. Why do I think that? Because the tone is restrained and equanimity is attempted – but then generations past have had more reserve than ours.
It starts, “My Dear One,” and tells current events, the weather, how the river flows as it passes the house and the state (not good) of a tree they must both have loved. Words of love and caring, times shared, but you can tell they are in the past. The writer is not giving her full feelings.
“I know this day marks the anniversary of your marriage. Even as you may experience joy, I feel restraint and I want courage to take the lead from sentiment and self-pity. Even so, the timing and manner of your leave-taking leaves an unbridgeable chasm in my heart. While sorry not to have enjoyed your company these last two years, I wish I thought we could be honest with each other. I question what we had. What I thought, who I thought I knew.”
There is a paragraph about how her choices have affected all family and friends, teachers and ministers and all those whose trust in themselves was shaken by her actions.

Letters are carriers of affect that those around the author do not guess. In a letter I found that my father wrote – and why it was on his desk I do not know, perhaps it was a draft or he never sent it, I will not know. He writes to a friend I never heard of how grateful he was for the presence of my mother. Something he never showed when I was around. He was very dependent on her in his blindness and not all that kind.

Funny what we put out. What we choose to say. What we choose to leave unsaid. What we choose to leave behind and the crap shoot of who will find it. It’s what I love about life – what do you love? What frustrates? What do you want? Do you ask for it? Did you? Did you?
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“I have a question about passion”

I am often asked, “how do I recognize passion,” “how will I know what I want to do.”
It is easy for most of us to know that we like one food and not another, cold vs. hot or sweet, sour and the host of life’s daily choices. What I hear getting mixed up is how to separate out the not-so-fun stuff from “life’s bliss.”
Does the “dream” job entail no suffering? Is the “best” relationship without stress. Are children always positive – or negative. Most of you would say, “Of course not!” because (you’re not stupid) you know everything comes with a compromise.
But getting to the nitty of life’s choices can get gritty. Choices are bound up in habit. Habit is a mental construct we’ve agreed to over and over. The whole idea behind a habit is that we don’t think about it. Often we don’t think about anything leading up to it or past it.
That’s great when it comes to reflexes. Not so great with choices. Being an evolved human means we have choices as well as habits – not to mention the whole of our life which is lived without thought at all: digestion and all those great support systems we have without a moment’s conscious regulation.
I harrow the ground of the mind with meditation and mindfulness for the simple reason of free will; our birthright and our slipperiest slope.
How to separate passion from indulgence? Not simple, but here’s my take.
Passion is momentum. It keeps you going whether you want to go or not. If you are looking to follow bliss you will need to keep it going. Most of us get bored with the trinkets of life – days off, no demands – the touchstone of our hearts is where passion lies and it can be slightly different for each one of us.
What doesn’t vary is the momentum of what we do. I have a button that says, “entropy never sleeps.” What that means to me is that if I get caught in a downward spiral it will take discipline to get back up. To the extent that I have a chorus of angels calling my name and cheering for me, I will get on track. And to that same extent, how I have treated myself – discipline/indulgence (I need some of each) – will prepare the process.

But, mind you, we are always on a track – which track do you want to be on?
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Did You Hear What Aristotle Said Recently?

Oh Bummer, I’m living in the past!

But here, for your edification (and mine), it is:
He said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit.”

The “action” you want to make habitual here is applicable to thoughts, words we say, things we look at/notice, turns we take.
“The road less traveled” is one of the roads that does not lead where we want to go – unless we go there. Simply, if you want to win the lottery you must buy a ticket.

What we do over and over again we tend to space out. Do you notice what you say to yourself over and over? You may not be paying attention but, rest assured, your body is. You may not even notice when you feel defeated in a tiny moment. Your body does. And its memory is infinite and merged into your psyche and, dare I say it, your personality in such a way that we all may notice and you may not.

How much can your dog or horse or cat, your boss or best friend, the guy who cut you off or who helped you in the supermarket – tell. About you?
We leave shards of ourselves around, like DNA falling all around us. You can’t help that and you can’t help or be responsible for what other people see or think. What you can do, and hope you do it well, is be the person you want to be, the person you don’t mind being when everybody’s looking. You do that a lot and you’ve got a habit. A good habit. Congratulations!

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Your Word, My Word

Every day begins with a word. It ends with a word too. Sometimes the one leads the other – it can be either the last or the first. Sometimes just knowing what the word is and who it belongs to are the keys.

This may seem nonsensical to you until you listen to your thoughts as well as what you say. Where did that come from? You might ask if you are listening? A voice from the past, or one masquerading from the future – always in  the past! Words formed in the mind and not spoken are as palpable as any spoken. It is being more and more known that our body language is more powerful and to the point than the words spoken by us are.

Such a powerful connector is mind to body, and so clear, that we cannot fool the most sensitive beings around us – animals, plants and insects – as to what are our true intentions.

We too are on the list of sensitive beings. Those among us who do not include ourselves among the listeners do not fool our minds, but we are fools.

Who are you?

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Everyday Choices

“When you are more aware you can make better choices.”

Deepak Chopra said that in his book, What Are You Hungry For? But anyone can say that, has said it. Your mother or father probably told you that. They may have substituted other words – older, more one thing or another – but basically it’s a simple thing to say and very true.

Not simple to do. It’s one of those moments in my practice – or with myself – when I say something really obvious and they say or I say, “Oh I know that!”

Yes, but what can you do about it? That’s the question, and the follow through pretty much determines how you feel about your life.

What is “awareness?” We all talk about it a lot but defining it in the moment is another thing. The nasty word “discipline” comes to mind. We all think we are disciplined until we really look, then, if we are lucky, we can see the cracks of where we could be better, where life can teach us something maybe without hitting us over the head.

Start with joy, love, fear, a feeling of peace. Their presence or absence and how much and how often. You can go a long way just watching your life according to those feelings.

Emotions cloud the feelings sometimes with justifications, sometimes with resentments or envy. Those pretty much take the equation to a much lower level and as long as we dwell in “I’m better than or worse than,” the fear we live in will be masked by jealousy and hubris and all their relatives and cousins and the truth of who we are will elude our grasp.

In the moments of willingness to take a risk, to take time off, not check something, take a breath, we let in what’s real for us – or it knocks at our door and to the extent we are comfortable or not, we make excuses or see a thing as what it is.

Our lives are changing all the time – our thoughts wiggle around like the microscope slide of pond water. We are never still, even as we are completely still in our human viewpoint, our bodies are oceans of activity. Our thoughts send neuropeptides all over our bodies. Our hearts have more receptors for emotions than our brains, every organ we recognize (and those we don’t) is listening to us, eavesdropping on our every micro moment. Even thoughts we don’t recognize ourselves as thinking are heard in our body in their fullest voice. What passes through the conscious mind is picked up by the unconscious with full comprehension.

The reason meditation is so impressive an avenue for change and positive growth is that it is channeling the unconscious, the part of us not so involved in our outside world of fame and misfortune. The unconscious has, from our sentient inception, been aware of our every thought and move, has received all the input that our cortex was not mature enough to take in and is processing it as I write. The more it can be counted in any decision-making process we embark on, the smarter we can be.

Finding well-being doesn’t happen by itself. It isn’t lying in wait for you ready to pounce. You must receive it. Your motion of looking, seeking, opening – the door, the box, the mind – is a way of saying you’re ready, you are not too full or empty to take more in. Awareness isn’t like food of which you can have enough, it’s a quantum field, expanding as you fill in and inhabit its spaces.

There is a story about what’s important. There is a jar, water, big rocks, small rocks and sand. Maybe you’ve heard this, bear with me. The jar is your everyday life, the choices you make in every minute, and the big rocks represent what’s the most important to you, the smaller rocks, yes, you get it – and the sand, the sand is all the phone calls to return, facebook posts, emails and so on.

Many of us put the sand in first on an everyday basis. We say something like, “oh, they’ll (our loved ones, family, friends) be there, they always are.” Or, “nobody cares anyway so what difference does it…..”  You get where I’m going.

So with the jar full of sand, there’s no room for the rocks, or you have to choose really carefully. What to do? When I have the visual, it’s perfectly clear that you’re going to get nowhere with the sand first, it just doesn’t work. So I take it out – because if I start my day with things like emails, I’ll have a lot of sand in the jar and a few little rocks and maybe a big one on a good day.

When I put the big rocks in first (I’ve chosen ones that fit), and then I place the smaller ones, maybe shake the jar a bit, then I put the sand in. It all fits! And I can add the water, which will make everything happier and more workable.

In practical terms what that all means is I put my oxygen mask on myself (big rock), I take care of what is important to me every day – more likely than not it’s just an attitude (very big rock), not something you’ll see me grinding away at. Keeping the long view (big rock), looking at the nitty (what I have to do to get where I want to be – part big & little rocks, sometimes involves sand) of life not so much as gritty but as supporting the long view. If there’s something I’m doing I find frustrating or painful, hopefully it will be in support of a brighter, more aware future me. If it isn’t, I hope I can let it go. Just as I let this lily be the next thing it’s going toward.

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Where I’m going with this

This is an expansion of my last post, The Long View. When I first wrote it I realized I had more to say but I wasn’t sure what. I found more today – tell me if it expands the ideas for you – or what? Thank you.

The Long View

When I was growing up everyone around me gave me suggestions for “what to do when…” I grew up. My friends and I wrote on our notebooks and in our journals what we wanted, to do, to be, to have and to hold. We girls tried different names on with our “first” names, we got “married,” wore “big” clothes, generally did everything we could to avoid being who we were; little girls growing up.

It wasn’t different for the boys, just different jobs, no name change and different responsibilities. We all had help from those around us. Teachers, parents, aunts, uncles, headmasters, principals, ministers of all kinds and creeds told us pretty much the same things: Do your best by following the designs laid down by our forebears. Take the next step, don’t be a surprise. No one wants a surprise.

When I was ten my mother’s cousins sat around me – I remember a close circle, but that was more how I felt than how they were arranged I suspect – and, talking over my head, decided where I would go to college, what I would do for how long before I married into their version of a suitable match.

I took notes. I listened (it made no sense), smelled their breath, their perfume, their shoes, and, in the invisible notepad in my heart vowed to do nothing they said. Nothing.

What a great set up that was for a willful rebel, for a kid whose mission was to fly under the radar. All of which I did (flew under) and none of which supported me anymore than following their objectives could have.

Now in the age of Facebook I see everyone married to everyone else – transcending age and gender – all goals and paths, up and down laid out in not very elegant prose. (If my mother’s cousins were anything, they were elegant.)

It feels so much like freedom I could almost be fooled into thinking there is less planning today and more “happy being me.” Instead I think not so much in terms of “more” and “less” but in the same. For instance, a few weeks ago I spoke with a young man of 25 who (I think) was trying to impress me with his plans. He said he had just landed a job with a well-known company in the tech field, he was being paid to be trained (and very proud of that) and he claimed to be willing to work for that company for 35 years. He had the list of his steps up the ladder: one year entry level, three years field work, and ending somehow in management after 35 years.

I have to admit my head swam and I might not have gotten all his details correctly. Why would anyone put himself on such a journey. I didn’t hear about discovery, I didn’t hear about enjoyment. I heard entrainment, a version of responsibility. I was at a loss – for words, among other things.

After spending much of the summer researching trauma and loss, fear, recovery and memory – and why would anyone study that unless they felt they would grow in the understanding of those close around them (that would be me!) – I did recognize that I was listening to fear. I was hearing about unacknowledged choices, unrecognized chances and a life lived within the barest of minimum tracks.

Of course I see myself in him. The fear of failure, the holding tight to what is known. We can all relate to some degree to the young who are starting out with what we call “chances of a lifetime,” while we know something about lifetimes and the longevity of denial. Denial has its own life. It can go on and on. It can hide in the smallest cracks, the most reasonable choices, the most sensible moments.

Who among us does not have a story about a dream unfilled, a lover denied. Not all of mine were chances lost, most were gains – but what about the mini-moments of denial, the tiny efforts let go, the chances I thought I couldn’t handle because I wasn’t good enough or didn’t deserve. There are those moments that come to each of us every day. How do we meet and greet them. What plans do we make to avoid them, what skills do we fall back on to justify choices? How do we treat our moment of green thrust? Do we make room?

Being here, where I am now, having parried with choices, with denial, with feeling good and bad about myself, I can see the well- lived, the half-lived, under and over the bar, within or without the spectrum, the degree to which I have been me, myself. It has become easy to see when I stray, when I strain. It was not so easy then. I thought strain was part of it. Part of the path – strain to be on it, strain to be off it. I was often filled with self-conscious confidence, judgement of where I was, where they were. Lots of judgement, like a chocolate sundae, so good at the first bite, a bit sickening at the last.

I don’t have the story that Mark Twain told of being amazed how much his father had learned in such a short time – when he got older and saw the wisdom of his father. I don’t feel anyone is right or wrong. I think there are a lot of confusing choices. There always have been and there always will be. That’s why we are here. Not to have an easy life but to bump up against ourselves, to make our marks like wrinkles as well as those of us who get to be known for something. To keep on going is enough. Putting one foot in front of the other, keeping our eyes and our hearts open, the wind in our face. As James Taylor wrote, “It’s enough to be on your way, enough just to cover ground, it’s enough to be moving on.” But for a life “well lived,” we are tasked to mindfulness, to feelings. (not emotions – that’s another article) We want the best for ourselves and in order to get that, we have to give ourselves the best – and accept it.

 

 

The Long View

A few weeks ago I spoke with a young man of 25 who (I think) was trying to impress me with his plans. He said he had just landed a job with a well-known company in the tech field, He was being paid to be trained and he claimed to be willing to work for that company for 35 years, he had the list of his steps up the ladder: one year entry level, three years field work, and ending somehow in management after 35 years.

I have to admit my head swam and I might not have gotten all his details correctly. Why would anyone put themselves on such a journey. I didn’t hear about discovery, I didn’t hear about enjoyment. I heard entrainment, a version of responsibility. I was at a loss – for words, among other things.

After spending much of the summer researching trauma and loss, fear, recovery and memory – and why would anyone study that unless they felt they would grow in the understanding of those close around them (that would be me!) – I did recognize that I was listening to fear. I was hearing about unacknowledged choices, unrecognized chances and a life lived within the barest of minimum tracks.

Of course I see myself in him. The fear of failure, the holding tight to what is known. We can all relate to some degree to the young who are starting out with what we call “chances of a lifetime,” while we know something about lifetimes and the longevity of denial. Denial had its own life. It can go on and on. It can hide in the smallest cracks, the most reasonable choices, the most sensible moments.

Who among us does not have a story about a dream unfilled, a lover denied. Not all of mine were chances lost, most were gains – but what about the mini-moments of denial, the tiny efforts let go, the chances I thought I couldn’t handle because I wasn’t good enough or didn’t deserve. There are those moments that come to each of us every day. How do we meet and greet them. What plans do we make to avoid them, what skills do we fall back on to justify choices? How do we treat our moment of green thrust? Do we make room?IMG_7843