What is it with signs? It must be a low-level, human mind feature, since it’s been well documented since — well, since we’ve been documenting ourselves.
Saturday, driving to Chicago and whelmed by my pirates, this sun halo rode along with me. along I90. Sure, it’s light refracted through the ice crystals of the cirrus clouds that morning. Is it also a sign of a benevolent universe? Is it a message from a higher power?
How about something I noticed on my body just recently? A couple weeks ago I was reading Ruby (by Cynthia Bond – superb book BTW). A wise-woman character grabs Ruby’s hand, points to her palm, and says she has the Star of the Mystic mark, that she can’t avoid her fate. I glanced over at my own right hand holding the book. I see a star shape in the lines on my own palm.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
Of course, I’ve looked at my hands all of my life and not seen that. Does it matter? Does it mean anything? Or is it only valuable because I see it and I think it does?
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.