Do you believe you can be kind and be clever and witty, too?
A friend was visiting me for the last week and we did a lot of remodeling tasks. On his second day here he brought me a piece of German chocolate cake from the Piggly Wiggly along with a treat for himself. I thought for just a moment about telling him about my experiment, but I didn’t. [What should I be calling this? Sobriety??]
When I ate the cake, I felt a calm in my chest and then my perspective pulled back and I felt a distance – a separation from myself. Now I was watching myself from the outside. I continue to have that perspective, blended with a dollop of shame, as I continue to eat candy (ice cream, cookies, etc.).
My pain now is coming from withholding the truth from my friend. I did finally tell him I had done my experiment, but put the timeline slightly different so I didn’t blame him. The story I told myself was I didn’t want to hurt his feelings when he brought me the cake. . . blah, blah, story, excuse, blah.
Truth-er: I knew this was coming before he got off the plane. I didn’t tell him ahead of time deliberately to have a jump off point.
This morning I read this note from Cheri Huber, the Zen teacher:
“This is just the latest in a long series of offerings aimed at getting people who want to wake up and end suffering to move out of ego’s comfort zone. In support of the merits of this current challenge, someone sent me an article from New Yorker Magazine about an extraordinary athlete, Kyle Korver, who understands very well the benefits of such challenges. Here’s part of the article:
But [Korver’s success at basketball] also has something to do, these past few seasons, with a Japanese ritual called misogi. According to Janine Sawada, a religious-studies professor at Brown University, the word misogi dates back to eighth-century Japan: it originally described a mythical taboo journey to the underworld, and, later, in medieval Japan, the painful but purifying deeds of ascetics. Korver practices a decidedly modern version: “Once a year, you do something that you’re really not sure you can do.”
Read the whole post at http://blog.thezencenter.org/from-the-guide.
I have done something this year I didn’t think I could do. I went over 60 days with no candy and I took almost every moment of craving to explore the feelings of desire and loss that came up.
The phrase, “Now what?” keeps coming up. I’m thinking that he left a Snickers in the freezer because he’s not the kind of person to take a bag of snacks for the flight home to Arizona. I don’t know if I’m more grateful for the five windows he put up in my sunroom or the tearful lesson that cake is going to bring me.
This is very hard to do. Close to the hardest thing I’ve ever done. How I have gone nearly 60 days, I don’t know.
Every day I want candy or ice cream or a chocolate chip cookie dough.
Yesterday evening was rough and I got in the car. . . [ominous sound]. I drove by the Kwik-Trip (candy, chocolate chip muffins) and Culvers (hot fudge sundae, chocolate custard in a waffle cone), the Piggly Wiggly (well, grocery store everything!) and Walgreens (double-wide aisle of chocolate abundance), but I didn’t stop at any. As I drove I felt the gnawing feeling in my chest:
The feelings of emptiness; missing a limb; frustration; identity-less-ness (who am I if I’m not what I eat?); anger at my own lack of understanding; and the frightening feeling of powerlessness.
Experiencing these feelings takes me to where I am on this “experiment” now: The realization that I was probably about seven years old when I set the identity and belief that when I can buy and eat what I want, then I am a grown-up, a [powerful] adult. I am not an adult if I control what I eat – I am an adult when I buy and eat what I want. Sort of Mary Tyler Moore hat-throwing on the corner, but with a Toblerone candy bar. Candy is my power totem.
I see now the next level (oh, I am so not there yet). I am not seeking the illusion of power by controlling what I eat, nor am I seeking the power of doing whatever I want. I seek the middle-way: to be neutral in my response. At this moment, though, I just don’t want to feel “this” feeling and want some chocolate ice cream to make it stop.
So, very, very hard to do.
Listening to a podcast this weekend, I heard the teacher (Geneen Roth) say, “There is nothing to fix. You are not broken.”
Immediately, I felt my throat clamp and my chest fold in on itself. I stopped the recording and stayed with the feeling.
It hurt like a son-of-a-gun.
I said out loud, “I am not broken.” I didn’t believe it.
I said out loud, “I am broken.” I believed it and it still hurt.
I had the thought, “What would I say to anyone else I heard voice that?”
I would respond, “You are the antithesis of broken. You are a complex, adaptive, luminous being. You created this belief as a way to maintain your sanity and safety.”
I knew I would completely believe that for the other person, but not for me.
Then, I remembered the Avatar® Rat List® exercise, in which the student deliberately creates charged beliefs. I’ve learned a lot when I’ve been willing to experience the belief fully. As I debated whether to do “I am broken,” or to flip it around to “I am not broken,” I flashed on a lecture Harry gave at Wizards®. I’ll paraphrase:
An old monk greeted a novice on her first day at the monastery. He took her into a large room filled with other monks. They called her names like Stupid! Dumbass! Ugly! They screamed she would never be able to do a good job! She was worthless! She didn’t fool anyone – she was a bad, bad person!
As they left the room, the novice shook and started to cry. The old monk leaned down and whispered into her ear, “Do not concern yourself with what they say. It is just their job to criticize.”
He took the novice down the hall and into another room filled with more monks. They smiled and called out to her, Oh, how smart and beautiful you are! You are a wonderous talent! You will do everything so well; you are such a good person!
The novice beamed as she felt much, much better now. The old monk leaned down and whispered into her ear, “Do not concern yourself with what they say. It is just their job to praise.”
I got it then. (I love the really fast ah-ha!!)
It’s not real. Neither belief is real. I don’t need to explore my “broken-ness” or my “whole-ness.” I don’t need to affirm that “I am amazing.” Neither one is real, no matter what they feel like or how much pain/glory I feel. It doesn’t solve anything to focus on creating the so-called positive one any more than dwelling on the so-called negative one. Besides, which is which?
They’re just thoughts. It’s their job.
The second-most interesting attribute of any belief is that the person believing it feels it is obvious and logical. The most interesting attribute is that someone who does not believe the same way feels it is completely illogical and wackadoodle (poetic license).
I believe that our consciousness/soul is not individual, but shared by everything (every person, every thing, etc.) I believe we are actually inside or permeated by the soul – it’s not limited to being inside or a part of each of us. We have the ability to be attuned to it and aware of it – perhaps the only beings that can. or…the only beings we know of that can communicate that we are aware of consciousness. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “…we are aware we are aware.”
For me, this view is the only one that makes sense when you remove the ego and our need to perpetuate the “I-self.” My book, The Soul We Share outlines my journey to this belief:
“We are part of it and, at times, aware of it.
Aware that we are one with all, and without this human form.
We share it; we move through it and with it.
So does everyone and everything.
Everyone. Everything. No one thing has any more value than another. Yet, every thing contributes to the whole.
The whole is not only greater than the sum of its parts; the parts are aware of and are the whole at the same time.”
~ The Soul We Share
Today I watched a TED talk by David Chalmers, “How do you Explain Consciousness?” Watch the talk! It’s fascinating. In it, he speaks of two crazy [sic] ideas: (1) consciousness as a fundamental building block of the universe and (2) consciousness is universal – panpsychism.
Dr. Chalmers, they’re not crazy ideas and they’re not mutually exclusive.
I listened to a really helpful podcast this weekend. Erin Olivo: Emotional Literacy talked about how to respond when you have a strong emotional response to something. Two questions stood out to me:
- Is there another way to think of this?
- Do I have the right to make all these rules?
The rules idea made me think even further – did “they” who trained me on the rules have that right? Am I really going to be kicked out of the tribe for this? The shame is coming only from me.
“We say we want a world living in harmony. We say we want equality and prosperity for everyone. We say we want to live united in a democracy. But do we really? We often forget that the macro is simply the micro magnified, that what we see in the outer world is a pure reflection of the inner. We want to have love and peace, but the question is, “Are we willing to be love and peace?”
That is both a profound and a provocative question. Before reading that, I thought of peace as a quality without an actual doer. Like when I use passive voice sentence construction. Therein is the provocation: who is the doer? Who is the subject of the sentence?
Reverend Johnson goes on to say, “In the physical realm we all breathe the same air and share the same atmosphere. We forget that this is also true in the spiritual realm. Our thoughts, words, deeds, and emotions set something into motion that seeks agreement. The larger the number of people who resonate with a given idea, the greater is its outer manifestation. Whatever we harbor in our hearts—what we think, say, feel, do, and the like—has energy patterns that vibrate into the ethers, the shared collective field in which we all live. In a sense, we are all breathing in each other’s internal musings, as well as external actions. Just as no one has private air, our “private” lives are not so private. Our lives, moreover, are not merely the reflection of what has happened; at every moment we are making things happen. In this world of cause and effect, we tend to perceive ourselves as effect, forgetting that we are also cause.” http://www.soundstrue.com/weeklywisdom/?source=podcast&p=8465&category=WW&version=full
During a recent Oprah interview, Diana Nyad said, “Am I living the life that I can admire? It’s not what can I do, but who I want to be.” This philosophy requires an “I am— ” and a commitment to achieve the “I am.” She can say, ‘I swam from Cuba to Key West.” No one would say, “There was swimming today near Florida.” Or “Marathon swimming broke out today at the Southeastern coast of the U.S.” Ridiculous, yes.
Both of these women have inspired me today, and Ms. Nyad reminds me it is a commitment. “I am Love. I am Peace.”