Monday, 29 September 2014

Eyes that I Might See

"I once was blind, but now I see" - John Newton (1725 - 1807) which you might recognize as a line from the poem/hymn "Amazing Grace." I am more interested in the "seeing" reference as a focal point, however, I consider it necessary to also address the orientation of the song's author (no doubt reflective of the consciousness at the time) but which certainly is by no means unheard of all these many years later.

He suggests that the scope of this "grace" is - "Amazing" which I'm not debating. However, he draws that conclusion in relative terms, based on his self assessment as that of a "wretch." What I hold to be true is indeed grace is amazing, in that it is not necessary to "earn it," "deserve it," "do anything" for it, well except maybe, to be open to receiving it and divested in what that might look like. I don't believe in a God/Creator that has a required criteria for people in order to avail themselves to this grace, everyone is eligible equally.  Further to this if I hold a view of myself as a "wretch" (and I have - though I likely wouldn't have used that term specifically) knowingly or more likely unknowingly, I will deny myself the access to an ever-present grace, believing myself to be unworthy or undeserving. Never the truth, but the end result can be the same - free will allows me to hold to mistaken beliefs and consequently live them as though they were true. This as it happens - certainly in my case, reveals quite an complex weave of self-deception that I can blame on "bad luck," "bad karma," "no opportunities," being singled out by a "cruel world," culminating with being "forsaken by God itself." You might notice implicit in all these perspectives, conspicuous by its absence, is any reference to myself having anything to do with the "creation" of this "graceless life" and of course completely ignores the many ways it has continued to be present in my life, even when I've been doing my utmost to deny it.

Having presented that personal perspective I now feel I have created the context within which to elaborate on this business of being "blind" and subsequent "sight or seeing." I suppose it bears mentioning this represents a perspective, "as I see it." - pun intended. Support it, adopt it, dispute it - it matters not - I will not return to a viewpoint that features me as a "wretch." In part I don't think it's possible even if I wanted to and if it were, I can't imagine why on earth (or in heaven's name) I'd want to. That in itself could be said to be an altered vision.

Are we speaking about eyesight here - it's possible, I've recently come to learn of a fellow by the name of Jacques Lusseyran - who lost his eyesight as the result of an accident when he was eight years old - which created for him the "opportunity" to rely more exclusively on faculties of inner knowing, perception (seeing) that he was aware of prior to becoming "blind" but perhaps never would have been developed to the same extent had he remained "sighted."He went on to become a integral part of the French resistance during the occupation of France during the Second World War. His movements and activities were ignored as he was "seen" as "blind" and no particular "threat." This remained the case until the group he was operating within was exposed by an infiltrator and they were arrested and placed in a Nazi death camp where he remained until liberated by allied troops, he being one of the few that survived. I was immediately inspired by this story and can hardly wait to read his autobiography which will soon be in my hands.

Immediately this story points at the reality that there are more ways to see, than meets the eye. Due to the orientation and in effect worship of the mind/intellect in the western world, collectively perhaps we could be deemed seeing "impaired." Granted there is a growing awareness/acceptance of perception beyond the five senses - or at least I seem to think so, but it could reflect an interest/bias of my own.

What other ways then can one be described as being "blind?" Certainly the field of psychology offers the identification of numerous "defense mechanisms" that come into play to help an individual avoid the pain of various truth concerning themselves. Certainly I have come to know through a path of  "personal growth" and spirituality a seemingly endless laundry list about myself. Grace then, can be seen as that power/presence that reveals the previously unseen - an unfolding act of divine love. It has been said both that "truth hurts" and that it will set you free. It seems to me that the truth itself is not at all painful - in fact rather benign. It is my judgment and self-condemnation that are painful! Coming to know that does offer me freedom from the continuous cycle of discovery and self-admonishment. To be able to see further into myself is ultimately a gift - it offers me the opportunity to "see" what I am doing (or not) recognize that it no longer serves and becomes part of the process of releasing and healing those patterns completely.

Attempts to moralize unconsciousness or a lack of seeing, serves nothing or no one. It is judgment and further shame that I try to avoid in the first place - ultimately that from myself. But it is also true that there is an innate desire for love and approval in us as humans, which can become unbalanced. It is this avoidance of further pain that can be behind a profound reluctance to face the truth. You cannot bring about a positive change in behaviour through shame and punishment. Shame begets the pain of more shame. Of course I have to be accountable for my behaviour, but I'm suggesting that if I am able to respond with love (as in be responsible) it will lead to an entirely different outcome than continued punishment.

I am suggesting this business of seeing myself (or another) which might well then be a projection of further unconsciousness as a "wretch," is an extremely limiting "self-fulfilling prophecy." One cannot see beyond the walls of the city of wretchedness! I cannot dream, aspire or hope to attain anything but wretchedness through the eyes of a wretch. So then even if someone is incarcerated as a consequence of their actions it would be wise to do so in an environment that fostered self-love. Otherwise the individual when released will be physically free, but still imprisoned within the walls of their own self-contempt.

As this post is not intended to be exhaustive in nature I certainly don't claim to be able to cover the full scope of expanded seeing, if for no other reason than, I can't present in this moment, beyond the existence of my own continued "blind spots."

I do want to at least touch upon the "eyes of the heart" which I'm sure could be a topic without end. Not by any means a ground-breaking expose I'm embarking on here - though having said that, it is of sorts, when brought home to my own life. It seems to me if I can make sweeping generalizations for the moment, that religious/spiritual paths of the Eastern world have known and maintained the significance of, a heart-centered life. Here in the west much has been said about the heart but it's largely been an intellectual abstraction (which in and of itself is a contradiction). The heart then has been seen at best as the center of sentimentality and emotion and relegated a back seat to the mind/intellect or even seen as a hindrance to clear "rational-thinking" and thereby completely dismissed and devalued.

This is particularly true of men, although certainly by no means exclusive to only one gender. As we are all influenced by the cultural milieu.  If a cross-sectional group of mixed gender were taken and it were presumed the women present, are more advanced (conversant, aware, expressive) emotionally, it is just as possible, that if asked, they might indicate they wish men were more "emotionally available" but due to the a fore mentioned cultural influence, these same individuals might have no idea how to hold space for their partner if he "broke down" and had a good old cry. Suffice to say that a broad spectrum exists for all facets of the human condition - the more this can be "seen" and accepted the more differences could be over-looked in order to realize and deepen connection.

The thing about the heart is it has been seriously undersold! If universal intelligence, love, grace, God etc. is though of as a frequency, then the heart is the satellite dish. A finely individually tuned center with its own "intelligence." To cut myself off from this so very vital part of my being and ignore it's guidance, yearning, and direction throughout life, might be likened to having a series of food allergies with severe reactions and just going ahead and eating these food types anyway.

One need look for evidence no further than their own personal life or those around them if verification is required. Of those that live their lives in accordance to the tyrant "I should" or giving up on dreams and doing what is "realistic," how content are they/you? Of course there are practicalities - following the heart doesn't preclude the need for food, clothing and shelter. But resignation around the need to suffer and be miserable would be the spawn of the same consciousness that would have me or you believe we are "wretched." Of course following your heart alone won't necessarily yield your own "rags to riches" story. My personal story if observed strictly from the surface might be said to be more the reverse, i.e. riches to rags. This first off, a gross misrepresentation of what is true for me within. Through the eyes of my heart I can see far more in far less. I don't place judgement on either as being better or worse. But if less is seen as more, then it might well quell an otherwise insatiable appetite. If I look upon my self as being enough, unconditional love, the love of the divine, to and through my heart and toward me, I can assure you my orientation toward the world changes. These changes are currently and continually unfolding so I don't even know what's in store. It means I don't have to do anything more, buy anything more, go anywhere else, lose weight, gain muscle, grow more hair, get in/out of a relationship or get a "better job" in order to be ok! I could do any or all of that stuff, but it would be a conscious choice to do so, still knowing, none of it makes any difference to who I am.

This begins to illustrate why it is that I won't align myself any longer with systems that continually cast me in a negative light (of course in order to do so I would have to believe it is so) and then all my wounds and neurosis are ripe for the picking. I'm the perfect consumer, not to mention wage slave as I would then continue to look outside myself to ease this pain and needless to say, in our consumer economy there is no end of consumables.

"I was blind and now I (am beginning) see." Not a moment too soon!!!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

MIne is Not To Reason Why - Actually, It Is!

Once again my pedal powered presence placed me in near proximity to overhear a conversation taking place between an adult women, a small group of children (three) and an adult male. I have reason to believe they were a "family" but don't know that to be true. They were waiting on the meridian to cross in the cross-walk I was right there waiting to cross in the same direction - so there was no way to not hear their discussion. They were all weighing in on different activities to do for the remainder of the afternoon. Suffice to say that everyone in the group had a different vision and was making a "case" for their prioritization. The adult male who appeared to be standing in the role of father-figure, was speaking in favour of returning home and relaxing - the young people had visions of going for ice cream, their enthusiasm was not being shared.

Now this conversation didn't escalate to create one of those ethical dilemma's over how much is too much when addressing children (of course I'm talking for myself here) but the gentleman did become rather emphatic about how it was "going down." So far - no particular human rights violations and neither was there anyway for me to mind my own business, nor did they seem to see any need to curtail the interaction with me sitting in their midst. The kids gave what turned out to be one last appeal and their mother directed at the collective: "don't you dare argue with an adult!!" That was it - the group fell into silence.

I don't know about anyone else there, but I'm triggered now! I'm thinking WTF? No I did not then engage in the conversation, well not out loud anyway. But I pedaled away and I was "in it!"
"What the hell kind of logic is that?" This comes in part because I recognize I'm an adult and some of what I say and do warrants questioning - at the very least from myself. But in no way to I consider what I say to be impeccable, based on my adult status. I don't remember when it was that I realized that I didn't have to remain perpetually silent - that I wasn't necessarily in violation of "RESPECT YOUR ELDERS" because I "spoke back" or questioned their position. For sure I was an adult at the time and even then wasn't aware that this indoctrination and associated story and belief I conjured resided on my "hard drive" and was running the show. I worked for years with seniors so invariably though I advanced in age each year - I was still "wet behind the ears" in someones estimation. It was quite some considerable time before I made the distinction that one could respect the time someone had been walking planet earth and their experience - but that didn't mean that all their behaviour merited respect.

Clearly I'm not entirely at peace where this is concerned, given while they were busy pressing the cross-walk button apparently my "button" was being pressed at the same time. More opportunity to observe myself and ascertain what lies below. I can't say I've ever been physically gagged - but without a doubt there were times when the cost of speaking up seemed to out weigh my silence - so while my motivation might have been debatable, nonetheless, I chose to surrender my voice. That is a notable step toward responsibility for me - owning that. I also don't have to wait for permission to speak, nor wait to have what I say be assigned value from others, in order to speak up - nor speak only when I echo the group conscience. I do need to be responsible for how I choose to express myself - which still represents a "growing edge" for me.

The other thing that occurs to me is dogma doesn't just exist within religions. Oh sure even in "secular" society there are many widely held belief and ways of being, that have their roots in some religion. I'm referring to looking at my own ways of being and asking why do I cling so fervently to them? In some cases if I were pressed by someone else for an explanation I might not even have a particularly compelling reason beyond - it's just how I am. My point here is the profound effect that subjecting young people to these dogmatic ideas can have. Say what you want about self-help/spiritual authors but I inclined to acknowledge that Don Miguel Ruiz was onto something when he wrote about "being impeccable with your word" in his book "The Four Agreements" I submit that in the case of "Respect Your Elders," taken to the extreme the child is unwilling to question or confront anyone on the basis that they are an adult. The plain and simple truth is that parents, police, teachers, political leaders are all adults and all fallible. I think children should be encouraged to question everything. Learn to trust their own discernment and develop their intuition.

Self assurance ideally is fostered early on - it's a long road back otherwise!

I'm reminded of the story of the youngest daughter in this particular family deciding she was going to host the family Christmas dinner. She wanted to cook the traditional glazed ham that had been the custom within her family as long back as she could remember. She called her mother - for directions on how to cook the ham as she had never done one before. Her mother instructed her to first cut both ends off the ham then went into the details of preparing the glaze, cooking temperature etc. The daughter listened intently so as not to miss anything and then asked why do we cut the ends off? "I don't know," replies the mother "that's just how it's done." "Your grandmother will be at dinner ask her - it's her recipe." So the evening arrived everyone was around the table for dinner and the daughter presents from the kitchen the glazed ham cooked to perfection. As she sets it on the table she looks to her grandmother and asks, "Grandma could you tell me why it is necessary to cut the ends off the ham before it goes in the oven." "Well grandma answers, I only had one size roasting pan and a ham big enough to feed the whole family wouldn't fit, so I had to cut it down to size."

The problem with following dogmatic thinking regardless of its source - external or internal,  there may have been a valid reason for it at one time or it may well have been handed down person to person and no one had the courage or thought to ask, why is this so?

Slow Down & Listen

I for quite sometime been an enthusiastic walker, yes I own an automobile but I frequently opt to leave it at home in favour of a walk into town. Errands further a field are usually broken up with stops at various oasis' on route, of the java dispensing variety.

Recently I have made a conscious choice to park the car. As well as walking, I have dusted off my bike and have added pedal power to my modes of transit. I have not as yet decided to get rid of the car altogether, though I am definitely considering the merits of the electric scooters that have recently caught my attention - no license, no insurance, no gas, pretty attractive if you ask me! Of course I am entertaining this while we are currently enjoying an extended summer. I already use the bus as a fall back - when I feel like conserving a little energy rather than walk all the way to or back from town, carrying my guitar. Certainly that it a viable option on really foul weather days. At any rate I suppose I will not only increase my own wellness with the addition of all this physical activity, I will lower my personal carbon foot-print while I conducting this experiment.

The upshot of these what I'd call more intimate (more immediate) forms of commuting, is just that I find that so much more comes within the scope of my awareness. Walking or cycling bring you up close and personal with your surroundings. All kinds of things pop out that weren't obvious to me, even when traveling the same route by car. To be sure cycling calls upon one to be aware, does for me anyway! I suppose I'd call my state while cycling relaxed-awareness. In other words I'm not tense and anxious, I don't ride as though my potential demise is around each corner, but nor am I complacent, I don't ride like nothing could happen to me, but I wouldn't ride at all if I couldn't enjoy the experience. So while in areas of heavy traffic, parked cars etc. I am watching those that aren't watching me, looking for car doors to swing open, broken glass or other road conditions that are not conducive to "smooth sailing" at times having to make in the moment decisions with respect to an evasive maneuver while not putting myself into harms way elsewhere. This presence also affords a connection experience that is not typical of my automobile travel.

So collectively, what with walking, cycling and busking in town I'm being afforded the opportunity  to take in and participate more deeply in my "community." I suppose I have had my own version of getting and staying busy in the past that precluded me from this. I have to say though at times I have been experiencing "growing pains" as I embrace the circumstances I find myself in, I also must say that I am also enriched by many aspects of it. I imagine that at times I'm not entirely aware, that the very things that I might be struggling with - in the wake of their absence, are the very openings that are necessary so that I can have a completely different experience. This might have nothing to do with what I might "be doing" six months or a year from now - but I feel it's important to bring everything I have to bare to this present experience.

As some may know I have a book project near completion, that involved a practice that I developed or that developed me, involving walking a labyrinth every morning for forty days. The book reflects my process over these forty days and the various matters I pondered. I look forward to the completion of that project which will involve my becoming acquainted with self-publishing and having that happen. Concurrently I find myself in a new process - busking is for me a journey of discovery.

If I made the whole thing about income generation or comparing myself to other performers (which I have and it is now my intention to let go of that orientation). I have indeed come to see my judgment of myself, to attribute this to busking alone would be erroneous, what I have chosen to do, is now just the vehicle, the judgment pre-exists it. So without intending it as so, I see where wounds of yester-year are standing in my own way. So it wouldn't matter if I were busking or the CEO of XYZ there would be that energy.

There are for me some sublime moments during a "performance"that I wish to focus on as perhaps  my raison d'etre.  Occasionally someone will step out from where ever it was they were and break out into song as they walk past - singing along with whatever I happen to be singing at the time! They may or may not "contribute" financially - and at the moment that is not the point. I just happen to think singing in the streets is a very good thing. I know that long before I have ventured into the being the "performer," my spirits have been lifted in the moment and beyond, by the energy and presence of some of Victoria's array of downtown talent. It actually doesn't enter into this conversation the matter of how good or not, that I might be - the fact remains I got the opportunity to be part of these various moments where, as well as it being a "day in the life" of each that passes by, some took that moment to bring to it, a shared musical moment. I certainly appreciate those moments,  I am focusing on a change of attitude overall, so though I come to bring something of myself I still walk away feeling blessed.

Yesterday while playing in a local library courtyard - was just one of those moments, I happened to be singing "I Can't Help Falling in Love" when a small group of people walked through (an older couple and perhaps son/daughter and partner) the older gentle stopped and joined right in, the others carried on until they realized he had stopped, he then caught up to them and proceeded to serenade his wife, he then came back out of his way to "tip" me. Why is it I wonder that movies etc. are so popular,  it seems to me it's about those heart warming scenes that some have come to think "only happen in the movies" and yet there it was a scene that could have been right off the big screen -  yet it was happening right there live, in real time and I was being given the gift of being able to participate (co-create) - truly beautiful!!

An additional opportunity for connection included a fellow sitting with me at a sidewalk table outside the market I had been singing at earlier in the day. I had brought myself a small lunch from home - I found it amusing that I was "brown-bagging" it to busk. Anyway the gentlemen was reflecting on my song selections and sharing his experience with performing (music and acting) that he had known success and "fame" in writing and various performance arts. He went on to say how important it had been at one time for him to "make it" and then when he did - it wasn't at all what he thought it would be or what he wanted. He then divulged that it had all ended rather abruptly when overshadowed by a "mental illness." He shared with matter-of-fact articulate insight, that he could now see that some of what he might have considered at one time, to be inspired action - was carried out in forms of "mania" that didn't serve him. He spoke of incarceration in various forms of "institutions." Then he asked me - "what gets you up in the morning?" I was dumb-founded - I was humbled and deeply appreciated his candor and after what he had shared with me, I ran up against a sense of inadequacy to speak on the matter at hand. I dismissed the notion to play my fall back card of humour - by saying something like: "well generally it's the call of my bladder that gets me up and once there, I decide I might as well carry on with the day!" I wanted to hold this conversation with due respect. I've since read a quote which in effect said " that it is poisonous to ones soul to compare yourself to another." Without question I was in the midst of doing that - when I recognized, he's not asking me what he should do, he's not asking me to "fix" him in any way, it's simply an invitation to be seen and known. In my mind I'm scrambling to reconcile - "what the hell gets this fellow tagged as having a mental illness and to the best of my knowledge no such labels exist for me (probably can't be over-emphasized "to the best of my knowledge" - who knows what tapestry has been woven over my lifetime, if all that is associated with my "social insurance number (aka "SIN") "were combined in one "dossier" which is likely the case. I mention a morning practice - which has elements of spirituality, maybe it's all spiritual (though there are some physical components, nature-time, contemplation and silent connection) it's certainly what I need to feel good, I know this by giving myself the experience of life with various aspects included and dropping some at times. He listens and then replies "ya right." I didn't get that he was being dismissive - he even said, "ya I could use some structure again." In hindsight, I was coming to grips with the fact, I've really got to get to, what works for me and if asked, let go of any expectation that anyone else adopt any of it. I don't get up in the morning - thinking I'm going out there to fix or solve the riddles of anyone's life, however unconsciously there it is, somehow, the illusion of steering someone else, salves my wounds and uncertainty - read, distracts me from full investment in what I need.  Of course we can learn from one another - but there is a personal guidance system that will let me know if the "suggestions" of someone else - will work for me and vice versa.

It challenging for me to enter into such conversations when I'm currently experiencing so much transition in my life. When processing some of the more difficult feelings and truths I sometimes think I'm hanging by a thread. That perception itself is probably ripe for the picking and releasing - still when someone asks "what are you doing?" I really believe I'm required to be "doing it right." I suspect the bottom line is, that I'm identifying a deepening need to continue to expand upon my ability to listen and formulate questions that direct people back to their own answers! 

At the close he thanked me and expressed appreciation for hearing him and for the conversation. Despite my thinking I had nothing to offer him - he valued being heard above anything else. I am of the mind that I received far more than I gave.

What a gift it is becoming, the simple act of slowing my life enough to begin to hear more deeply and to connect to and know myself, those around me, and my community, more intimately.

Friday, 12 September 2014

What You Believe is What You Will See!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. - Marianne Williamson

If we can lay aside the debate as to the source of the above quotation and just consider the content what do we have here?

Well it certainly goes against the grain of the group mind that creates the dogmatically diminutive and overtly polite Canadian persona that is often used as a measure of just how "not-American" (as in from the U.S.A.) "we" are.

As I journey and consider the quality of humility as it pertains to my way of being in the world, it seems to me to paint a picture of one that stands fully in all that they were created to be - what we have then, is a radically different representation of true humility.

I suppose it's a potentially slippery slope to try and expand upon the quality of humility without crossing the line into ego-aggrandizement, or at least being accused of doing so. That in itself might be the very barrier to ones full expression of themselves- "others will think poorly of me." If this were to be the criteria used to decide when one could stand in authenticity, when exactly would you ever be "free" to do so? I think the short answer is - Never!

Truly there is nothing "enlightened" about playing small for the purpose of care taking the feelings of others. If everyone is wandering around in this group consciousness of competitive self-abasement  i.e. "oh no it was nothing," "no really it wasn't that good - I should have done much better," "I'm nothing compared to...." "I could not even hope to carry his/her baggage" this is not "humility." This is more likely the flip-side of an ego that sees it necessary to over-inflate the self, in order to mask deep wounds, feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, by seeking love and attention from outside the self to compensate for a lack of love from within, by drawing support from others through self-criticism. From this mind-set it can be difficult even to accept love no matter where it is coming from. Attempts to express love to individuals such as this, are met with various forms of deflection leaving the giver perhaps feeling slighted and the receiver continuing to feel empty.

What then would a healthy love and appreciation of self look like? Well to begin with I'm not talking about being boastful. The problem is there is many a paradigm existing that would cast dispersion on the self-loving individual. It is not widely encouraged to be overly "self-concerned" and yet if I'm not concerned for myself - who is going take that on? And while it has been said "pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." There will be no need to concern yourself about falling if you never allow yourself to get up, let alone fly. To one entrenched and well-schooled in selflessness as a virtue and "not blowing ones own horn" someone that is confidently and fully standing in their power and freely self-expressed, might be said to be "arrogant." Scripture such as the previous have been twisted and subject to some of the same treatment as some mainstream theology that suggest that "we" are certainly not worthy of God's praise - so what would make you think you should hold yourself in high esteem? A life of suffering is presented as "our" comeuppance for the presumed sinful nature of humanity. Still from this frame of reference it is suggested if you "give until it hurts"that somehow there is a reward, in so doing.

So then to "devalue" oneself is not at all bestowing that which is rightly due. It's easy to see that if you have a congregation full of people and that at their core, they feel poorly about themselves, they as a group, would be easily controlled and manipulated. This of course has nothing to do with a loving universe or a Creator synonymous with love, which of course many of these "mainstream" theologies aren't preaching. However if you consider a paradigm which insists that you are loved unconditionally, in fact the truth of your being is that you are love - that you are worthy of love, deserving of love, equal to (not less than) any other human being, that creation/the creator itself, loves you then who are you to be running around playing small, limiting yourself in thought and deed. It would be rather lacking in humility to take such a stance.

I'm not going to go into the myriad ways in which one might begin to walk a path which would begin to de-robe them of familial, societal, cultural etc. varieties of limited thinking and erroneous beliefs. I am suggesting that a consciousness built around unconditional love would involve a vision of win/win. There would be no need to play the martyr (not that there is one now) but the martyr archetype is certainly widely embraced. There's not anything particularly loving about it, if one party or group is diminished so drastically in order for the other to benefit. I would hazard to say - one cannot make a "big splash" by making themselves perpetually small. It also might just be, that though again, I'm not talking about being seen for the sake of being seen, just the same, if one is trying to reach and inspire others then you must be seen, heard and putting it out there!