Thursday, 14 December 2017

Becoming Familiar with the Unknown..

In this high place
it is as simple as this,
leave everything you know behind.
Step toward the cold surface,
say the old prayer of rough love
and open both arms.
Those who come with empty hands
will stare into the lake astonished,
there, in the cold light
reflecting pure snow
the true shape of your own face.
—David Whyte

In general terms, I don't live and die by the words of David Whyte. I have been to an event of his, own some of his audio and written works. Certainly I would consider his perspective thought provoking. I do spend some time allowing myself to immerse in the works of others. In particular ideas that have the potential for consciousness expansion. 
For me there is a need to balance the time I invest in the works of others and doing my own work. Absolutely, I can learn from the journeys of others and in some contexts, there is value in not trying to reinvent the wheel. I am more interested now, in deepening and expanding my own voice. One gained through my own experience, connection to the divine, questions that are on my heart and the journey seeking their answers (even if an answer is immediately apparent).

Of course I've been influenced by the work of innumerable others.  I don't continue to associate my journey to them. It doesn't matter how many poems of David Whyte one has read, or listened to, or how many times you've seen him, you are not, David Whyte; nor is your path given any more credibility or legitimacy by tossing his name around.

I include this particular poem, as largely one line of it, once long ago, got my attention, & I continue to dance with it. I considered the one line alone quoted here, would lack the context in which he made the statement.

The one line I refer to is: "Leave everything you know behind.." (it's the only thing he's said that I remember...) it doesn't mean I don't get something from reading something of his on other occasions.. it doesn't mean something else he expresses doesn't become significantly more compelling to me at some other place in time.. It's also possible, that for me, this is the only message/teaching I'm meant to get through him. It doesn't take away from his accomplishments, the value of his works for others. Let's face it, he doesn't know I even exist. I happen to believe that beyond occasional inspiration, new ideas, a shared experience that offers direction; I see very little value in spending an inordinate amount of time, hoisting others onto pedestals. It's time and energy, that are directly taken away from  one's own development and voice.

Returning to that one line: "Leave everything you know behind.."
I wonder, when people quote various sources.. so & so said this, or that; how much have they considered the implications of it for themselves, endeavoured to walk in the embodiment of it. There is no value or power in tossing around what anybody said; if the discussion doesn't include a further assessment/sharing, of what the idea, teaching means to you, in your day to day life.

Have you ever (in this case) left, everything you know behind? The words alone, are not worth spit!  It's nothing more than empty sound bytes; if all one is doing is romanticizing about such things, intellectualizing, name-dropping  etc.

What might that mean? EVERYTHING...... BEHIND!!!!!  As I consider it, & it's quite possible I've been doing so for seven years now. I don't remember exactly when I first heard it... but I do know in what environment it occurred, and that was first, seven years ago. Does that mean I'm "slow" on the uptake... well, not specifically; even though in some cases it's absolutely true.. More to the point, I'm inclined to chew on something of this sort, for a very long time.... Not all day everyday. But ongoing... I didn't choose it (i.e. I didn't consult a collection of pithy quotations and decide ... okay this one) ... it chose me. Am I powerless? No. I say it chose me, because I don't "obsess" about the idea, and ritualistically bring it into my daily waking consciousness. It just waltzes back in, anytime it pleases. 

Trust me when I tell you, I read thousands and thousands of words; from which any number of them could become "stuck in my craw..." yet it is these ones that are on some sort of boomeranging relationship.. It's not that long ago - that I wasn't thinking of them at all and someone else revisited them upon me. I don't begrudge this .... I'm merely illustrating, the veracity and repeating frequency, of this phrase made up of those words.... for me. Maybe you have some other idea as your companion. So the fact that they come to me from various sources, indicates to me, that my attention is being sought.  Again who could begin to know how many words were spoken in a 6 (very full days) workshop & yet these are the ones I remember..

It could mean... relationships, home, hometown, job, all your material trappings etc. or; your could pack all of that, in a shipping container (well maybe not they that you are in relationship with) and in some fashion begin newly elsewhere... Of course the "geographical" relocation; doesn't necessarily mean you've left "everything you know behind.." neither, if you shift relationships or jobs or addresses, hobbies within the same city you currently live in ... if nothing within you; attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, wounds, in short your lens on the world changes.

So "leaving everything you know behind" - could be any of this, or all of this, or any combination there of. It could be a once in a lifetime major transition or it could be a series of ongoing shifts and changes.. one could be thrown into various processes of transformation.... triggering, loss, or grief/sadness, insecurity.

Even the idea ... "a change is as good as a rest.." doesn't automatically ensure that every process of change will go smoothly with grace & ease. I suppose how any given individual processes change, would have some bearing on the experience. There is also whether the changes were premeditated or thrust upon you.

Even a planned change will visit no end of unforeseen consequences and realities that are required to negotiate, as part of the adaptation. It's impossible to foresee all the outcomes; no matter how much "due diligence" is employed, so, somewhere beyond the initial excitement of embarking on this new adventure, the various outcomes will present. It does necessarily spell the end of excitement or the adventure. It is also true that just as there is a great deal of "the unknown" to face when embracing this act of leaving behind, even if you "don't want to" there is a great deal of what you might believe you have no desire to let go of that you will find is on it's way out anyway. When the inevitability of that plays out, resistance to the truth of it, just creates extended suffering..

A rather seemingly inane example during my recent extended travel in Ireland comes to mind. It involved the use of a public (not "restroom," not "washroom" but "bathroom") I looked on baffled at what was generally a familiar fixture except having used it, I could see nowhere to "flush it.." I looked high & low - I was determined I wasn't going to go out and ask someone (I'll ask for directions .. any day of the week and sometimes more than once within the same journey) but I wasn't going to be defeated by a toilet.... suddenly I looked up and realized there was a chain dangling from the ceiling, I pulled it and voila .. mystery solved...

Add to this sort of experience, driving on the opposite side of the street, the occasional phrase and more than occasional accent, that renders conversation challenging, no idea of the location of various destinations, time change of some 8 hrs..  routines and virtually any semblance of familiarity gone and what I would describe as destabilization sets in... it's not constant, it not always distressing - but sometimes in some moments, it comes near to eliciting a primal scream!!! Oh sure, you come to know yourself in various contexts and discover a myriad of insights etc. But it is not always in all ways ... peaches and cream..

Fast forward to another situation where I find myself in a public facility... of course this time I'm brimming with new found confidence.. I've seen the "chain" before hand, for the love of God ... I've got this!! The deed is done, I grab the chain with great gusto and give it a yank - instead of the tell-tale roar of a toilet flushing; an alarm goes off... OH SHIT! now where's the feck'n reset switch - of course there's no saving face even finding the switch ... as I come out the door the staff are running to my rescue. I assure them I'm quite okay ... account for my errant initiation of the alarm ... they reassure me, which has no appreciable reduction on the fire burning in my  cheeks. It's in these moments the title "Lonely Planet" becomes abundantly pertinent to me...  Travel.... see the world - there's nothing like the experiencing of other cultures (all of which I really enjoy most of the time) sometimes ... though contrary to the testimonials in that travel book about majestic views, fascinating history, epic sunsets on the river....  The authors omitted the chapter that might have been entitle, "What the Fuck....??"

I wouldn't trade my experiences traveling for anything. They are some of the most enriching, heart-opening, soul-expanding events of my life. And I fully intend to include more of it.

The proliferation of "spiritual gurus/teachers" in this day and age seems to be sharply rising - or maybe it's just that with the internet their visibility is more readily apparent. Endless ways to reach "enlightenment..." 

Ironic for me to recognize that some of my most powerful lessons in humility during my life, have involved a toilet.. 

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