Thursday, 28 May 2015

Strength in Numbers (Even the number One)

"Little pink houses for you and me" sang John Mellencamp. Whether or not his intention, I am interpreting that for the purpose of this piece, as a reference to the societal homogenization that's foisted upon us on so many levels from classrooms to "globalization." This erroneous premise, that if we all lived cookie cutter lives in cookie cutter houses - spread our brand identification all over the planet like some sort of sci-fi movie strain of biological warfare, somehow it would be a safer, more familiar place for everyone. The problem is, who gets to decide what defines this "standard."

As a child I'd have to say, through the 20/20 vision of hindsight, I pretty much succumbed to "peer pressure" and was constantly searching for some sort of external "clue" as to how, "to do life."I don't know how different that makes me (if at all) but as it's not an admission that is widely made and discussed in social circles,  no way to really quantify it's prevalence. Oh sure I made choices and did what I wanted in various scenarios - but as for any sense of "inner guidance" or life strategy that was true to myself, I more made decisions that were reactionary and heavily weighted with resignation. So important was the drive to "fit in" and for love and acceptance, authenticity went quickly by the wayside. It would be quite some considerable time before I had any insight into my "looking for love in all the wrong places (which I have come to understand now as being anywhere, outside of myself).

This external versus internal love, validation and inner guidance presents an alternative framework from which to live, beginning with the dissolving of the indoctrination to be externally and intellectually (mind) oriented. I am finding myself in an ongoing inquiry as to how this works for me with respect to connection within groups of people. I am rather content in my own company (which in itself is a gift of my personal journey) I acknowledge that though some of my most valued time is solitude, I am not necessarily aspiring to isolate entirely. (though it has a certain allure at times).

I rather naively thought that in circles, those that at least, part of the focus is people doing their respective personal growth work, there would be an atmosphere of openness and respect to the views and path of the individual. Not necessarily true I'm discovering. Even in circles/community where it is touted that there is no particular dogma - many in fact renounce any path that "they" consider to have such tenets. Closer examination and personal experience informs me that there can still exist within these  "communities,"intolerance to unique expression and inquiry is not necessarily embraced, in fact in some cases it is vehemently discouraged. I suppose if the process to greater authenticity and connection to self were likened to strengthening a muscle, then the continued practice of checking in to see what resonates would greater develop a reliance and trust of ones ability to decide for themselves. I do wonder though, at what point does finding oneself in conflict with the widely held suppositions of a given group is there something else going on with regard to continued attendance. Do I unconsciously suppose I'm going to change the group conscience? Attempt to validate myself by making them "wrong." Am I upholding previously unconscious unworthiness, lack of belonging and self-rejection by staying in an environment where the energy of rejection is continually reflected to me. If this were the case then the self-loving acknowledgement and acceptance of me, could look more like moving on. Not with a "screw you all" attitude, but rather one of honouring my path and the path of others.

The pain of rejection is very real - I would say the recognition of that rejection which has resided within me, toward me, was a significantly painful acknowledgment. Prior to that, as with so many other "problems" I was convinced they were sourced outside of me. But, at the same time this new awareness began the expansion of empowerment, as I began to heal this long standing relationship with rejection. The mistaken belief that love and approval need come from sources outside me, took me out of the victim seat and directs me back toward the need to establish, maintain and nurture connection with myself.

The irony of this idea that all people within a particular group are or need to be "like-minded" is, that the original "recipe" (if you will) for personal transformation offered in many of the world's holy scriptures was not intended to homogenize it's followers and certainly not to pit them against those that held a different perspective. I would say, offered within them, is the means to transcend the base survival instincts, which on the one hand are useful for continued life, that makes ongoing evolution possible. Over reliance on these survival mechanisms becomes a deterrent to this evolution when difference is seen as a direct threat to this survival and a source of continual conflict.

What if there were too much complexity to this human condition to afford any one group the complete picture. So different sub-groups of humanity were given a particular piece of the puzzle to embrace and evolve with. However for there to be harmony overall -  representatives from all the paths would need to come together offering the best of their path and instead of arguing over who had the right answer, time and energy would be focused upon how the best of the best would be woven together to create something that worked for everyone. The point then would be not to perpetuate conflict, but to hold a vision of collaboration and universal benefit. No more concern for power over, no longer do singular groups devote their lives to self interest but to the co-creation, the correct use of the power given to everyone. Power to create rather than power to destroy. How can it possibly be continually held, that the point is for everyone to destroy all that are not like them. I don't see that any one group could possibly hold the key to how people all over the planet are supposed to live their lives. It seems to me to make more sense that a solution that works best for all, would be created by a collective process that values everyone equally and leaves no one behind.

There can be a cost to ones self through the over-reliance on "belonging" to these various manifestations of group-mind. It seems to me a tricky "row to hoe" some groups for example place emphasis on their providing its participants a "community" or a "family" The terms conjure imagery of a warm, caring, supportive, welcoming environment while it is just as possible that various forms of dysfunction exist within, some you might discover mirror the same dysfunction you thought only existed in your family of origin. To be fair all that goes on in various forms of collectives is not negative, having said that, many don't look to the strengths and innate wisdom of the individuals, instead they rely on the "strength in numbers" rationalization and continually call those coming through the door to conform.

If I were someone that is feeling alone in the world, without community or sense of family then the allure of these illusory pseudo-facsimiles might just scratch me right where I itch. The problem lies, in that the group doesn't want me for me, they are continually looking to bolster the collective, as new comers are groomed to walk in step. So to "get along - one goes along" in some cases all the way to the rejection of other groups that are not "going along."

In my humble opinion, the world does not need anymore divisiveness. We as humanity are already divided by gender, sexuality, socio-economic status -(employed/unemployed), science/spirituality (further rifts created within different branches of science and religion) ageism, ethnicity, cyclists/ motorists/ pedestrians, politics, environmentalists/developers, war & peace.

There is a fine line between my so blindly pursuing my beliefs and opinions that I exclude entirely those of others. Once I have vilified someone that I am presenting as "opposing" me, it's a slippery slope toward the lengths I can go, to ensure they know they are "wrong." My experience with self-exploration is that upon digging deep enough, I recognize that within self is the whole - so that where there previous seemed to exist a "hole" I discover I am part of everything and everything is part of me. Seen from this perspective one can no longer so readily jump on bandwagons that are about the exclusion of others. Genocide - racial cleansing and such forms of pathological self-righteousness have (I believe) at their roots, this inability to find within, the sense of self-love and belonging, it is therefore looked for from the group and then the fear of reprisal from not acquiescing within the group, becomes the motivating energy for compliance.

Nothing it would seem, can replace that inner compass and what it connects to - which I'm suggesting is, themselves, and humanity as a whole  I also believe at depth we are spiritual beings and are connected to far more than meets the eye. It is this interconnectedness that doesn't preclude individual expression however it does start to give rise to choices if one considers themselves as part of the whole and the whole part of themselves. Then it is no longer just, "their problem." If "we" continue to operate from "right/wrong" and "win/lose" points of view, how can the whole ever benefit?

I'm not about to insult the intelligence of the reader by suggesting that the idea, because a great many do, think and behave a particular way, that makes it the truth is a revelatory statement that I'm now introducing you to. I will ask knowing this is true - how often and in what ways, do you participate in the status quo in different areas of your life? Why?

Our very own parents (or for sure mine) asked us, tongue in cheek - if "so and so" climbed up on their roof and jumped off are you going to go and do that too? Then in another breath they're preaching the virtues of "common sense." (like what everyone says and does is how it is) Though dripping in sarcasm and a mixed messages at best, when considered against the backdrop of their own incongruent behaviour, is it possible, that they were acting as a voice for an elevated transcendent consciousness? Was it a direct challenge to me to find my authenticity even in the fog of familial programming and agreements? Had they by then, given up on their own realization of a better way of being and now were goading me to take a stand, rather than find myself mired in a quagmire of compromise and following the herd." They knew the pain of this for sure, could have chosen differently but they didn't. Still all these years later I'm clear that whether I agree with the delivery, there is no denying that the content of some of their message has been shaping me all along. For all I know they are now the source of these very ideas - feeding them to me from beyond the veil, now that they have passed over. If time in some respects is meaningless then it doesn't matter that some of these teachings were lost on me during my youth, yet even still the seeds were planted - who's to say when the correct time would be for germination and fruition. As I completed that thought just now, it is 9:24 p.m. Wednesday May 27, 2015 - must be the right and perfect time on my schedule.

I have shared time on my path with many great people not one of them can walk it for me, nor know which is my fork in the road. The same could be said about my knowing of their path. I know that I come to know more of who I am in relation to and mirrored through, people around me. I also know I have gone through some major life transitions over the last year or so and there has been few and in some cases, virtually no one, who walked with me. Perhaps it could have been different, but I came to a place of realizing that there was about to be a cosmic smack down, a spiritual cage match, where I would come face to face and wrestle myself, the angels, God or what ever the hell was behind this gong show and if I came out of that cage alive, maybe just maybe, I might have some idea of where I might "find peace." Community/family no matter how well intentioned, cannot step into that cage - they will not be there. If they were, how is it that one could possibly identify, deepen and strengthen a belief in themselves unless they are willing to go it alone. (or at least believe that to be the case). Through the hours after midnight and before sunrise there is no one to quiet the angst while personal world views and long held paradigms crumble before your eyes and though it is said "nature abhors a vacuum nothing rushes in to replace these long standing structures. There is seemingly a blank canvas remaining - a profound silence that is just waiting for a declaration of who I am, a sacred birth right that no group bestows or can take away.

This declaration is etched upon our DNA - it is encoded in the intelligence of the trillions of cells that make up our bodies. And yet despite having access to the power that creates universes at our beckoning, I can choose instead to stifle my voice, repress the truth flowing through my veins allowing my standing among my "peers," to supersede who I am. I reclaim the freedom to be me (I hold dear to my heart this freedom for all, but don't claim to be able to facilitate it for anyone but myself). I don't consider myself to be special, I dare to believe this is everyone's birth right, the catch is it is also the responsibility of each, to activate and live into these beliefs for themselves. Otherwise, believe what you have always believed and you will invariably get what you have always got. That doesn't for a minute mean nothing else is possible, it means what is possible is being limited by freely chosen habitual beliefs.  A unique network of individuals would be required to be truly supportive of the growth and expansion of it's members. What I'm talking about is those that would continue to call to greatness, to expect it, from each other. They would let go of personal agendas of what that might look like for another and they certainly would curb their own fears and insecurities, which when directed at others, carries the intention to keep them small, not disrupt the familiar dynamic within the group and uphold the collective mediocrity.

As with most everything I write I don't present this as the final word on the subject, it is an ongoing exploration. I don't wish to diminish the strength and benefit that many collectives offer, at the same time for me, I recognize that invariably at times being aligned with myself will mean I am not aligned with the group conscience and we will then need to agree to disagree.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Tomorrow Has Nothing on Today!

Among borrowed idioms we are given "MaƱana"& Frank Sinatra crooned "Let's forget about domani" of course the lyrics go on to suggest that "tomorrow never comes." What if beyond the "fact" that tomorrow never doesn't come because once it "arrives" it's "today" what if there were to be, no tomorrow. Naturally if one is well ensconced in what is said to be the illusion of time - then there would be a tomorrow for some, even if for you personally there was not.

It seems to me the idea of living in the moment and the "power of now" has been well and plenty written about, so I don't think there is much more I could add. What has me pondering this idea of being denied the opportunity to seize the tomorrow? It has to do with an encounter I had with a pickup truck while cycling to work a few days ago.

I was sitting first in line at the intersection (while the light was red). Right beside me was a fellow in a pickup truck. I was positioned so that I could see the driver straight through his side window (I presumed - perhaps erroneously, he had the same unobstructed view of me). He had no turn signal on, so again I presumed, when the light turned green we were both going straight through. The only thing was, the light turned green I entered straight into the intersection and he (and his truck) proceeded to turn right - directly into my path. In order to not be hit by the truck I needed to now turn right along with him. As it was, I had very little room between the truck and the curb. I was pretty much parallel to the curb so I would have been forced into the curb which would likely have resulted in me going down and as well,  as this unfolded the side of the truck grazed my hip and elbow (twice). I managed to continue to negotiate the turn even given the narrow strip of asphalt I was given and insult to my being by this full sized pickup truck. I suppose he must have heard either the contact or perhaps my waxing aloud - WTF? and he pulled over, up the block.

By the time he got to me I had dismounted and pulled my bike up onto the sidewalk. His first words were apologetic and a failed attempt to reassure me "he is usually very respectful of "cyclists"" Then he asked if I was ok and was there anything he could do for me? Before I could answer he exclaimed, oh my god, this scared the shit out of me!"

I replied - "you know, I can't say it's done me a world of good either, not exactly how I had in mind to start my day."
Overall I would say - he was more upset about the whole thing than I was, only he knows for sure what thoughts were running through his mind! I was totally ok and actually felt something akin to compassion for him, being so obviously upset. I simply said - "I'm fine, thank you, but there's nothing you need to do for me - except, come to think of it, wake up, be aware, pay attention." I said this calmly and without intent to make him "wrong" - it just flowed and it was over. I wished him well and turned around to wait at the cross walk to continue on my way to work. A young women was there (she must has seen the whole thing) and said, oh my god, are you all right?" I assured her I was and thanked her for her concern and carried on my way.

Certainly this encounter could have been a great deal more serious, had I not been able to negotiate the turn and went down, I could have wound up under his wheels or the vehicle following him. Even to have forced against the curb could have resulted in being uncomfortably banged up or led to untold injury.

I have seen plenty of near misses involving motor vehicles and either pedestrians or cyclists many of which involved some rather heated verbal assaults. Hell, I have been the one that if I wasn't harbouring thoughts of violence and retribution, I was hailing the one that had "commited the foul" with a volley of venomous diatribe. This situation was a significantly different experience for me. Not only did I refrain from admonishing this guy - but the energy (or combinations there of) simply weren't there. As is obvious, had I "lost" this encounter with the truck, between myself and the driver at the very least, I would have been worse off physically. But even if he were one hundred percent responsible (& I can't claim this to be true with absolute certainty) I was fine. It would have meant he made a mistake. How would that make it okay for me to assault his character? Have I ever misjudged a situation or had moment of lapse in consciousness? The answer to both these questions is yes. To be chastised at those moments of vulnerability at the point where a mistake has been made and there is potential for expansion, a "teachable moment" has never been helpful. If anything it gives rise to defensiveness which in the blink of an eye becomes offensive and attacking.

There are things I could have done that may have played a part in averting this near miss. I could have made sure the driver saw me. If I thought it possible he didn't see me, I could wait those few extra seconds to see if his intention was to go straight or turn.

For my part there were some presumptions going on, not the least of which might well have been that somehow I could count on this guy (who is in his own world) to be acting in my best interest. As is always the case in self-examination what is the broader implication of this abdication of personal responsibility? (i.e. how and where does this operate in my life?)

I know what it feels like to fear angry reprisals - particularly when I have made a mistake. I believe he already felt bad enough, there was nothing to gain by making him feel worse. I've made mistakes as a motorist and a cyclist, certainly none was ever committed with intent to cause harm, so then, no justification to get on my high horse!

In truth I suppose these altercations, mishaps and incidents on the road have for me, triggered fear (concern for my well-being) but seldom has it been my default response to openly express the fear. No instead somehow the conditioned response to "threat of physical harm" has often been anger (which unfortunately just brings about more harm).

I was grateful to be alright - to have chosen a peaceful response and it certainly did bring immediately to my consciousness appreciation for my excellent health and recognition of how quickly ones life can be significantly altered by unforeseen events. Upon arriving at "work" which is currently at one the the local acute care hospitals, I realized the place was full of people that were dealing with just those sorts of events in their life - no matter what my day at work threw at me, there as no doubt in my mind, how much I had to be grateful for!