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Archive for July, 2016

A number of years ago I had a spiritual guide and a therapist invite me to consider four steps I could take that might lead me to ‘wisdom’ or was it ‘health,’ or was it both?  What remains intriguing to me is that they both offered me the same four steps; oh, the words each used were a bit different but the essence was the same.  This morning, gentle reader, I will offer us steps three and four.

The third step: Do not identify with the feeling.  Do not define yourself in terms of the feeling.  Do not ‘become’ the feeling.  Feelings pass.  Once there was a father who had become angry, quite angry actually, because his son had not come home on time.  He was ranting and raving about all of the punishments he was going to heap upon his son.  THEN.  There was a knock on the front door.  The father went to the door, opened it, and there stood a state trooper.  He informed the father that his son had been hit by a car; the son had stopped to help a stranded motorist and another car had veered off the road and struck him.  Immediately the father’s anger was replaced with anguish, fear and guilt (at having been so angry with his son).  Feelings pass – Pay attention.

Pay attention: We give others control over how we feel.  Consider, what triggers the feeling is not the stimulus; it is triggered by what we say ‘in our heads’ about the stimulus. Thus, we control how we feel.  Yet many of us say, ‘He made me feel. . .’    No event causes a feeling; we choose them.  This is one definition of what it means to be free – we choose how we feel AND we accept being response-able for doing so.  This reminds me of another story:

Once there was a prisoner who had spent months digging a tunnel in order to escape.  Finally, one day he broke free.  He emerged in the center of a playground full of young children dancing and singing and playing.  Being caught up in the moment he jumped out of his tunnel and began dancing around and singing and shouting ‘I’m free, I’m free!’  A little girl dancing next to him said with a certain tone in her voice, ‘That’s nothing, I’m four.’

The fourth step: How do we change ourselves?  How do we choose so that we become wiser, and perhaps healthier?  Imagine you go to the doctor and you patiently tell the doctor your symptoms.  After a time the doctor says, “I know what’s wrong and there is a medicine that will help.  I am going to write a prescription for this medicine and I want your spouse to take it.’  You then respond, ‘Thanks, Doc, I feel much better now.’  Talk about being absurd.  Yet this is how many of us think: IF the other person changes I will feel better and all will be o.k.  How wonderful my life would be if others would change.  What some of us realize is that even if another changes, or if others change, that we end up still being the person we are; over time their changing doesn’t make us wiser or healthier.  Pay attention: I am the one that must change.

The world is right, the mystics tell us, because we are right with ourselves.  I begin by changing what I say about external stimuli AND I begin by learning to choose what I say and hence I accept that I choose my feelings.  As anyone who has attempted to do this knows, this is no small task.  The result, however, is that in so choosing we will become not only ‘freer’ we will also become wiser and healthier.

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A number of years ago I had a spiritual guide and a therapist invite me to consider four steps I could take that might lead me to ‘wisdom’ or was it ‘health,’ or was it both?  What remains intriguing to me is that they both offered me the same four steps; oh, the words each used were a bit different but the essence was the same.  This morning, gentle reader, I will offer us the first two steps and tomorrow or the next day or the next day after that I will offer steps three and four.

By the by, the impetus for this topic was provided yesterday by my friend, George, who sent me the following quotation from DeMello (check out his book: ‘Awareness’): Wisdom is to be sensitive to this situation, to this person, uninfluenced by any carryover from the past, without residue from the experience of the past.

The first step is to, to use more of DeMello’s words, wake up and become aware of and experience the negative feelings that you are not aware of having.  For example, there have been times when I was feeling depression or anger or resentment or envy and I wasn’t aware of the feeling.  I cannot manage a physical ailment if I do not know I have the ailment; the same is true for my negative feelings.  Sometimes these feelings manifest themselves physically or spiritually; pay attention.  Sometimes others will mirror these feelings back to us; pay attention.  Sometimes the very negative feelings we despise in others reside deep within us; pay attention.  Sometimes these feelings are manifested in our behaviors or in our choices; pay attention.  Do I really want to become aware of these negative feelings?  Pay attention to your response to this question.

The second step is to realize that the feeling is in you; it is not in reality – it is ‘in here,’ and not ‘out there.’  In a sense, wisdom has to do with unlearning or relearning; wisdom also has to do with ‘knowing what we don’t know’ – Socrates was deemed by the Oracle at Delphi to be the wisest person in the world because Socrates knew that he did not know.  It is a challenge for some of us to believe that changing the other or the situation will not change one’s self.

I cannot tell you the amount of time and energy I have used these many years in trying to get another to change or in trying to change a situation over which I had little if any control.  The other is not responsible for how I feel; no one can ‘make me’ feel anything.  Yet, our culture seems to believe that the other is responsible for how we feel; if the other would only change then all will be well (I will be well).

For thousands of years the mystics have been telling us that ‘reality is good,’ that ‘all is good.’  Reality is not the problem.  Take all of us humans away from our planet and reality in all of its goodness and in all of its natural violence would continue; life would go on.  No problems, no worries.  We create the problems, we create our own suffering (emotionally and spiritually) – we are the problem and we are the creators of our problems (some paradox).  We identify with our negative feelings; we become them (especially our emotional and spiritual feelings) and this ‘becoming’ causes us no end of suffering.  I have the feelings AND they are not me; they are ‘in me.’  This leads us to the next steps which will appear in PART II.

 

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Gentle reader, following is the final entry for this four part series: ‘Questions.’

JOURNEY QUESTIONS

  • Where is my current life-path leading me?
  • Why am I choosing this life-path?
  • Am I following a well-worn path? Am I choosing a path less traveled?
  • What is my destination? Will my current path take me there?
  • Can I be on my path and not have a destination?
  • Am I a path-maker?
  • What helps me discern that I am on the ‘right path’? What if I discern that I am on the ‘wrong path’? Is there a ‘right path?’

‘CHOICE’ QUESTIONS [‘To Choose’ means that I select freely after consideration.] 

  • How often do I choose? How many times a day do I actually choose?
  • Does it matter whether I am aware of choosing? Can I really choose if I am not aware?  What does choosing without awareness look like – feel like – sound like?
  • What is the effect of my choosing upon myself and upon others?
  • To what extent, if any, are the bones ‘choice’ covered by the skin of ‘responsibility?’
  • What is the motivation that is the life-blood that feeds and sustains choice AND that keeps responsibility supple, flexible, and healthy?
  • What is the motivation that infects the life-blood with a cancer that kills both choice and responsibility?
  • Why do I choose to bring a specific virtue or vice to my world? To what extent do I believe that the virtue or vice I bring to my world nurtures or depletes me and all those that I directly touch and many more that I indirectly touch?
  • To what extent is my conduct truly rooted in my selecting freely after consideration? To what extent does my conduct influence future choices in a way that is more automatic than thoughtful?
  • To what extent does my conduct support my being aware of my choices?
  • To what extent do I have an obligation to reflect upon my choices so that I will learn more about the ‘me’ that impacts the many ‘yous’ I meet each day?
  • How can I help others grow and develop more fully if I am not aware of how I engage, or refuse to engage, choice?

GENERATIVITY, CONTINUITY AND FINALITY QUESTIONS

  • What happens when I die?
  • What is the story others will tell about me after I die?
  • What is the story I want others to tell about me?
  • What is the story I am living out now? Is this my story or is it a story that others have provided me?
  • What is the legacy that I want to leave others?
  • What ‘one line’ do I want written about me in ten years? What is the ‘one line’ that would be written about me today?

As you sit with these questions, others might well emerge from within you – or be provided to you by others or by events that unfold in your life – I invite you to make note of them and then engage them when you are ready to do so – at minimum I invite you to ‘hold’ the questions and as the great German poet, Rilke, suggests: ‘Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’

 

 

 

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SHADOW QUESTIONS: As a fully human being, when I am my healthiest I am a living paradox.  Because I am a living paradox, I have a ‘Shadow.’  My Shadow is composed of all those aspects of myself that have a tendency to make me uncomfortable with myself.  My ‘personal shadow’ is composed of both Light [good] and Dark [evil] – for some, ‘Virtues’ and ‘Vices’ are more resonant.  My shadow is shy and is therefore difficult to access; however I can obtain a glimpse of my shadow by becoming aware of the Light/good/Virtue and Dark/evil/Vice aspects that I see so clearly in others for these might well be projections of my shadow onto others.  I have listed out some questions below that I also find helpful in accessing my shadow.

  • Where are my fears found?
  • Where am I most ‘ugly’ to myself?
  • What part of my life am I avoiding?
  • What do I consider to be my values? Can I also imagine that I also hold the opposite of these?  What are the opposites, can I name them?
  • What do I consider to be my virtues? Can I imagine that I also hold the opposite of these? What are the opposites, can I name them?
  • What annoys me the most about the significant people in my life?
  • Where do I repeatedly undermine myself?
  • Where am I stuck in my life? What familiar issues and fears block my growth?
  • What am I addicted to? How do my addictions serve me?  What do my addictions enable me to avoid?
  • What are the natural gifts and talents that I have that I have avoided developing and/or using more fully?
  • What part of my life am I hiding from others? Why do I choose to hide this part of my life from others?
  • Where do I resist or refuse to grow?
  • What is the sustaining spirit that I so admire in others?
  • What are the gifts and talents that I so admire in others?

Goethe cautions us: . . .so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.

 SUSTENANCE QUESTIONS:  I have learned these many years that it is crucial for me to emerge and hold and pay attention to a series of questions that enable me to remember the life I have been entrusted with.  Here is my current list of questions that help remind me.

  • What nurtures me?
  • What depletes me?
  • In what ways do I care for myself Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally, and Spiritually (my P.I.E.S.)?
  • In what ways do I not care for myself Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally, and Spiritually?
  • To what extent do I live out of an abundance mentality and to what extent do I live out of a scarcity mentality?
  • What is wealth?
  • What is ‘enough’ (money, status, power, etc)?
  • What is the support I need for my life’s journey, at this time? Where do I get this support?
  • What are my highest priority needs? In what ways do I address them?
  • When do I act out of self-interest – for good or for ill?

 

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