Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’

Changing Direction

April 7, 2018

With a frequency perhaps greater than experienced by some of my peers, I come to a point in whatever I am doing professionally that is not burnout, but close to boredom. When the challenge of mastering a line of work wears off, I find myself looking around for what to do next or differently. Over the years, that point has come in conjunction with other changes in my life circumstances, enabling me to shift from education research to paralegal, program manager in state government to college psychology teacher, home health manager to trainer to care coordinator with an MCO. Along the way i’ve had a private practice as a licensed mental health counselor, become a CPR instructor, written (but not published) three books, published 4 years of weekly columns in local newspapers and sold my jewelry designs at craft fairs. I’ve also plastered houses, laid flagstone floors, raised various animals for food, and at one point was making 40 loaves of bread a week by hand, for sale to an established list of customers.

The position I’ve held longest was as regional manager of a home health agency. I was simultaneously a case manager for one of the Medicaid programs the agency served. It still amazes me that I kept at it for more than 12 years, the second time around (I built the branch for 5 years, left for three, then accepted the urgent request to rejoin the agency.) That second twelve year period was a lesson in endurance, and set me a challenge of finding new ways to engage in order to keep my interest intact. It also exhausted my willingness to be “in charge” of anyone else’s performance.

My present employment meets virtually all my recognized requirements, enabling me to continue with full time work at an age where most of my peers have retired. I work from home, I am engaged one on one with clients, I am not subject to onerous supervision so long as I complete my work by the required deadlines, and I can set my own schedule within the broad guidelines of being “at work” the common Monday to Friday week. I’ve been able to participate in pilot studies of new technology and had my recommendations welcomed, for the new database support system being developed. I’ve been satisfied with the work for more than 4 years, and expect to continue with it for several more  – but I also recognize I’ve come to another of those “it’s getting to be same old same old” points.

I have read the many studies that stress the importance of pursuing a passion into one’s older years to support the retention of health and to encourage enjoyment of later life. From my early childhood, I have carried within me an awareness that I am fated to be long lived.  My relatively recent assumption of new family responsibilities gives added importance to being productive and engaged through those years.

Most of my choices of employment so far have been limited by my decision to respect requirements imposed by others in my life. When I would, for example, have sought work outside the U.S., I did not feel free to pick up and go. There are similar constraints now on my choices, though not anyone telling me I cannot do whatever it is I decide I want to pursue.

Instead, my challenge is to identify what might catch and keep my interest for a long enough period to see me through my remaining years. Several friends from whom I’ve solicited input have posed questions to help me.

a. “Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but the time wasn’t right?”

b. “What does your spiritual path tell you about how to move onward?”

c. “What floats your boat?”

I’ve also been gifted with observations from those who know me well.

d. “You come alive in the classroom, or any teaching setting.”

e. “For you I sense that the answer lies in one on one relationships.”

f. “You are uniquely skilled at channeling your spiritual awareness in ways that benefit others.”

My spiritual Teacher instructs that, to implement a new direction, I should not get too specific. Better to create a framework and then be patient and let the Master fill in the details. That is essentially how I landed in my present employment, after 18 months of searching and applying for whatever became available. So I am now seeking to identify the elements of the new framework. I already know they include at least the following:

  1. Something I can prepare for while still employed in my present job
  2. Something that in one way or another involves teaching
  3. Something that gives me the opportunity to travel, though not necessarily requiring that I live for an extended time elsewhere – I really do like living in northern New Mexico!
  4. Something that stretches my mind, requires me to learn a new skill, or significantly deepen my understanding of a topic I’ve studied
  5. Something that lies within my current physical capacities and can be continued if/as these slowly diminish with age

More than a hobby, but not such a new career as to require years of study to make the switch.

I’m mostly pleased that the question “what have you always wanted to do but not been able to?” doesn’t seem to have an answer. Pleased because I recognize that I have in fact done most of the things I really wanted to, slightly dismayed because I am not helped now with any nudges towards my next steps.

Whatever emerges as my eventual new passion, the process of seeking it has already brought benefits. Where I had been thinking that most of my choices have been constrained and limited by others, I now recognize that at the important points I have pushed through obstacles and gone for what I wanted. Just a few examples include: finding a way to continue horseback riding while living in the heart of Paris, making my way to New Mexico despite strong parental opposition, committing to relationships that have enabled my growth despite societal pressure to avoid them, and not letting lack of formal training in an area keep me from taking on work in that discipline.

Asked in a survey of alumni from my college what was the greatest benefit of my Swarthmore education, I answered immediately that it taught me how to learn anything I wished to. It taught me to think. It gave me the opportunity to experience accomplishment and to know that I have a good mind I can use to master any subject I wish to learn.

That mind will have its role implementing the details of whatever new direction my life takes. Mind will have to wait, however, until my heart, spirit, Soul perceives the direction the Master will prepare for me. And the ego-I must wait patiently for the frame outlined above to have its details filled in by a Soul much wiser than the most highly trained mind.

In the meantime, today was a sunny spring day and perfect for a trip to Santa Fe to do errands and to take a walk up Canyon Road. To everything its appointed time.

Baraka Bashad, may the Blessings Be.

Practicing Patience

January 13, 2018

The winter storms keep missing us. We get the wind and the cold but not the moisture that is being dumped so plentifully to our north and across the midwest. I remember reading a projection that north would be exceptionally cold and we in the southwest would be noticeably warm across this winter. So far it’s been an accurate forecast.

In some previous similar years, the consequence of this weather pattern has been particularly heavy spring snows, the kind that leave us without power and snowed in for several days, but which then also melt off quickly so that once we can get out, we can drive without the hassles of icy roads. For now, it’s wait and see.

I wouldn’t be concerned at all one way or the other, but my job has me on the road for 50-90 mile one way trips with sufficient frequency that I have to be aware of weather risks – especially in February when the combination of an exceptionally short work month and a markedly heavy workload intersect and make scheduling my travel a critical component of meeting all the deadlines. A day or two unable to get out to my appointments may well mean I don’t get the month’s work completed. Reminding myself I’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, it’s cold enough (or the daylight hours are reduced enough, I’m not sure which is the determinant) that the hens have stopped laying, but not so cold that I have to wear my heavy winter coat. Concerns about renewed drought do not prevent me from enjoying the mild and sunny afternoons that entice me to go walking. For how much longer? Yes, you know the refrain now – we’ll have to wait and see.

Weather Metaphor

August 10, 2016

We’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave…
Higher temperatures than I remember since the early 1990s, harder to handle for being unexpected in our high mountain area where few people have air conditioning. My house is situated to benefit from any breeze, and we are grateful for clear skies that allow the nights to cool to a level where sleeping is comfortable. Early morning brings closed shades, and closing windows to keep the night’s coolness inside, only opening windows and shades again after the sun has moved in its course. The system works moderately well, with the most difficult period being from 3 until 8 when the afternoon heat builds and there is no corner of shade to provide relief.
I am reminded, in these heated hours, of my early years first in D.C. summers, then in Vietnam, where the heat was unremitting and – more daunting than my present circumstances – also humid. What amazes me in retrospect is that I played tennis in that weather. And rode horseback in that weather. My parents’ bedroom had an air conditioner unit, but I refused one for my own room, knowing that going out into the heat of my school room Quonset hut would be intolerable by contrast with the comfort of the cooled air. My reasoning was that I needed to adapt to the heat, and could best do so by being consistently in it. I was successful at the time – but seem to have burned out my ability to adjust to heat in the years since.
Are we given only a limited physical tolerance for extremes, and should be careful how we use that quality, if it must last a lifetime? Or am I just discovering another aspect of getting older – decline in physical adaptability? I’ve been told that older people are more sensitive to changes in temperature, but the intolerance is usually expressed as related to cold rather than heat. All the U.S. retirement communities are in the southern, warm weather states.
Living near one of the main migration routes between Arizona and the mid-west, I’m aware of the numbers of people – usually retired and referred to as snow birds – who transit between the two regions each spring and autumn, spending winter months in the moderate temperatures of the Arizona desert, and summer months in cooler northern communities. I could see myself as one of them, but don’t need to join the migration so long as the winters at my home remain as they have been. At their extremes, only every 4-5 years, we have a couple weeks of 30F below cold on starlit January nights. The clarity of the air allows daytime temperatures to rise, even in those coldest periods, to a tolerable 15-25F degrees. Yes, that’s a 50 degree difference, a common occurrence here in any season. Only on the rare occasions that we have cloud cover for several days at a time, do we have a lesser contrast between day and night temperatures.
Did you want to know all this about the weather? What am I doing prattling on about it?
Seeing the extremes of temperature as a metaphor for the political extremes we’re also facing now. And as a metaphor for much of what we encounter daily, just living our lives – overly burdensome workload for months on end, then suddenly not enough to keep from being bored, while still unable to be out of phone and email contact. No communication from friends until the day that the phone seems to ring non-stop and the invitations pour in. So many story or post ideas there’s no way to get them all written – followed by a dearth of ideas that suggests my brain has up and died.
In other words, the weather extremes are just one more example of the constant ebb and flow of every aspect of life experienced here in the mundane world. Enter the benefits of a contemplative spiritual practice, which teaches me how to stay focused on inner Truth, finding balance and constancy amid the yin/yang of the outer reality. Don’t like the weather? Or the politics? Escape to your inner realms for stability, cooling breezes and total freedom.

Photo Courtesy of Leaf and Twig

Photo Courtesy of Leaf and Twig

 

Time to Look Back

May 15, 2016

“Work should not be given priority over relationships.”

Quite a challenge for perfectionist, Type A workaholics but a very pertinent statement made by Pastor Katie at Las Vegas’ First Presbyterian Church in the course of her first sermon as the new leader of this congregation. She spoke movingly about the spiritual lessons that come through mundane daily events, such as those surrounding her recent transplant from Colorado to New Mexico.

One of these lessons was about the need we all have, to have persons to whom we can vent our toxic thoughts, persons who will listen and help us clear our spirits without judgement. I recognize this to be my primary role with some of my clients at work. Not as part of my formal job description, which only talks about assisting them to access the services and supports necessary for them to achieve and maintain the maximum of health and quality of life. We include mental health in the range of services we Care Coordinators support, and many of my clients do have counseling or psychotropic medications included in their service plans. They manage the scheduling of their services and their overall health maintenance with little input from me beyond completion of the mandatory assessments which enable them to become eligible for those services.

Some clients, however, cannot accomplish this self-management without an outsider to their daily lives to whom they can express their frustrations, fears, angers or constraints – and they have elected me to be the receptor of these toxic thoughts and feelings. I’m glad when I can provide this service, sometimes also having a suggestion or insight to offer that helps the client move past the blockage. In rare instances, I’ve been used as the means for two people, each with a need, to connect and jointly resolve their separate concerns. I know, when that happens, that I’ve been what I aspire always to be, a “clear channel” for the Divine to work through.

Why is it so much harder to be a similarly clear channel when the issues are not someone else’s but my own?

Why can I “speak truth to power” on behalf of a client but find it so difficult to speak up for myself appropriately in my own relationships and my daily interactions with the various manifestations of power, such as erroneous charges on a bill, or petty tyrants who take pleasure in making me wait unnecessarily before fulfilling their job duties providing service to me?

Is it because I’m female, of “a certain age” and therefore raised before feminism brought out the extent to which women have historically been taught to accept the denial of their right to dignity and respect?
Or is it just my own personality, resultant from an upbringing in a less-than-positive or supportive family?

Does the reason even matter?

I would like to be able to maintain a clarity and simplicity of day-to-day existence such that I can be aware of the spirit flowing through me in service of my own needs, in the same way that I’m able to let it flow through me to serve others. Instead, it seems that ego, or the rough edges of my personality, or both or neither but something else altogether, create blockages and I end up feeling drained and exhausted.

“Too much outflow without enough inflow” my MasterPath teacher would say. Or, as Pastor Katie also shared, not enough quiet time taken to process what is being left behind before new experiences are presented to be taken in. She recognized the need to grieve leaving behind a home where she’d raised her family, and planted iris given her by her mother-in-law.

We have in common that we have both worked in Hospice care, and understand the need to grieve losses, including ones less dire than loss of a loved one to death. A training program I attended for grief counselors emphasized that seemingly small losses can become the triggering event for previously unexpressed pain over the loss of a family member – the man who seems to handle the death of his wife but collapses a year later when the family pet dies, for example. One of the exercises in the workshop required that we attempt to catalogue all the losses we have experienced in our lifetime, to help us recognize things we should give ourselves permission to grieve. Also to help us hear what is implied but not clearly stated when a family member of a deceased client expresses extreme anger at a factually minor loss of respect or status on their job, six months after the death.

Moving from one community to another is a clear transition that will bring up for any sensitive soul – as it did for the pastor – the need to grieve what is being left behind. Other life changes should also be accompanied by time to grieve, but are less likely to be recognized as such. My own fairly extreme change in life pattern is one such, that I did not see as needing to include time for grief, until the pastor’s sermon brought it to my attention. I do appreciate that I am able to hear the suggestion and receive the input just when I need it. I think I’m not being unduly self-congratulatory when I accept that I must be in a fairly “clear” state to be gifted with just the right input at just the right time, even though I felt anything but clear. Indeed, before hearing the sermon, I was angry, feeling disrespected and as though there was no longer room for “me” in my daily life.

All because, as Pastor Katie instructed in her list of lessons learned during her move, work should not be given undue priority over relationships. Including one’s relationship with oneself. I have been so busy trying to meet, to a perfectionist’s standard, the many demands of my job, my clients, my marriage and my daily existence, that I’ve neglected my relationship with me and, more importantly, my relationship with the Divine.

I have been so engaged with my exciting, rewarding but very busy new life that I’ve also not left myself space to process the loss of the old (semi-retired, leisurely and thoughtful) life left behind two years ago. Nor have I been able to properly grieve the termination or the transformation of some relationships from that old life. Pastor Katie will always have the memory of her yard full of blooming iris, but she is no longer able to walk out of her house into that yard. I will always have my memories of frequent and satisfying visits with distant friends, but I can now see those friends only rarely and under different circumstances. The pastor and I each carry an aspect of the past with us into our new lives, but we each also know a sense of loss that deserves attention and time to be grieved.

So much emphasis is placed on the window that opens when a door closes, that people seem to feel guilty paying attention to what’s behind that closed door. We are urged to move on, look forward, appreciate what is being offered and let go of what is being left behind. Good advice, overall, but sometimes too hastily offered.

Moving forward without reviewing and properly saying goodbye to what is past can have the feeling of devaluing that past, and the consequence of leaving us feeling devalued ourselves.

Taking time to dig up a few flowers and bring them along to a new home helps assure that we give ourselves time to say good bye to the life behind that closing door. It is thus that we increase our ability to be clear, and present, with the new experiences coming in through the window, and – for me – it seems that taking time to properly grieve what has been lost is essential to clearing out the toxins that prevent me from achieving a level of clarity of spirit for myself that at least approaches the level which I try to offer to others.

Added benefits – improved health and easier maintenance of desired weight. But that’s a topic for another day.

Autumn Color

Autumn Color

Bipolar World

April 30, 2016

For more than two years I have been working at my day job (and weekend and night job) at a demanding pace more suited to a much younger person who is still trying to build a career. Partly because my employer was not adequately staffed for the number of clients who chose our organization, partly because I’m enough of a perfectionist about work that I am not easily able to leave things half done.

Since November, the workload has begun to come down, and I realize that I have mastered enough of the quirks of our horribly user-hostile data base to be moderately efficient in how I enter my case documentation. My client load, as of today, is only modestly above the target set by the State agency that contracts with my employer – a state of affairs I find curiously unsettling. Used as I am to a pressured work week, I’m not sure what to do with myself when I encounter a few days at a time with relatively little scheduled.

Today was such a day – the visits I thought I would be making were postponed by the clients, leaving me with a few calls, some extended “verbal hand-holding” of highly anxious individuals, the organization of my visits and calls due to be made in May – and quite a lot of “down” time.

The change has been recent enough that I haven’t identified the “next less urgent” level of work to which I can actually now turn. Whatever those projects prove to be, they must be of the sort that can be initiated and then set aside, to be picked up again as and when I find myself without client contacts to be made. It’s the nature of my work that new tasks can be assigned at any time, and also that clients may call at any time with new needs.

Being always available is one of the job descriptors. As is being flexibly ready to rearrange one’s planned day at a moment’s notice. Also patience with people who don’t return calls, don’t keep scheduled appointments, don’t notify of changes in contact numbers, and the myriad other small annoyances that come with working on behalf of somewhat irresponsible individuals, or those with mental/emotional problems that interfere with focus and communication.

Like the client who described our recent weather as “even more bipolar than I am”. Which indeed it has been, warm into the high 70s one day, below freezing, snowy and windy by the following night.

I begin to sense in myself an analogy to bipolar behavior, in that I feel as though I’ve been dropped flat in a trough of non-doing after the high of constant pressure to meet deadlines and to get to all the clients on my (formerly excessive) caseload as often as mandated. I’ve functioned without spinning out of control in the manic phase, but I feel less sure of my ability to maintain an appropriate energy and pace now, fearing that I may lose myself in a lightening of the load that feels too much like depression.

There would be no risk, if I could divert the “free” work time to other uses. There are more than enough activities and projects I’d love to resume, that I’ve set aside for lack of time, during these past two years of intense work. But I can’t become unavailable for those empty periods; I have to be reachable by both phone and email, if I’m not out of my office at a client visit.

Not doing, because one is waiting for the phone to ring, is a guaranteed means to bring oneself down. It is strongly discouraged in dating and other social environments, and I know it is not healthy for me during my work day either. Determining what one can accomplish, beyond housework, while being simultaneously “on call” is an interesting challenge. Suggestions, anyone?

++++++++

I needn’t have become concerned. A recent hire, completing the roster of my coworkers, has already given notice, there’s an uncovered caseload to be parceled out once more, and I’ve had a new member assigned to me as well. That State mandated target caseload is once more fading into an unreachable goal, and my risk of falling into the depressive side of this bipolar world is gone.

Theme and Variations

November 22, 2015

After several days of wood-stove heated cold weather, the temperature has soared to cotton shirtsleeve comfort, and an afternoon originally intended for housekeeping has turned into one spent on whatever could be completed outside in the sunlight. For my husband, that has meant washing cars. I, meanwhile, cooked some of his habanero pepper sauce on the outdoor grill (its bite sets everyone sneezing and crying if prepared inside) and re-potted houseplants. Or rather, transferred cuttings that had taken root in water into new pots, and repositioned one jade plant that, for reasons of its own, has chosen to grow so lopsidedly that its pot is highly prone to tip over. Reoriented, the main stem now angles sharply to one side, but seen from a distance the whole plant looks much more balanced.

straighter now beneath the window

straighter now
beneath the window

Why do some natures veer off crookedly? How do several children raised in the same supportive environment take such different attitudes forward into their adult life? Why are some people seemingly constitutionally unable to appreciate what is offered and available to them, while others build wondrous achievements out of little more than scraps and string?

My household greenery includes five different Christmas cactus plants, one of which has begun to bloom in anticipation of Advent. If previous years are any indicator, one or two more will flower before the holiday for which they are named, and one – the largest and oldest – will only flower around Easter time. Each is a different color, one white, one pink, and three distinct shades of red. They all get similar light, water and food, and are exposed to the same temperature variations, yet each takes its own turn to blossom.

If it’s true that no two snowflakes are alike (is it so?) then my examples of variation, where similarity might be expected, become rather insignificant and small. But more people seem to be affected by personality differences among siblings than are concerned with verifying the uniqueness of snowflakes or the reasons for oddities in the flowering cycle of plants.

Discussing one of my husband’s English writing assignments brought me up against the debate about how to treat addiction – as a disease that was not chosen any more than one chooses to have cancer, or as an intentional act with moral consequences. The former position is supported by medical evidence showing that when alcohol or drugs cause the release of endorphins in stressed individuals, their brains process this chemical change as life-saving. Future use/misuse of substances becomes, at a purely neurological level, a matter of survival. There is no longer any choice involved, just as a cancer patient does not have a choice about whether his untreated, abnormal cells replicate. Addicts need to seek treatment to recover from their addictions just as cancer patients need to seek treatment to (hopefully) recover from their malignancies.

Choice – and judgement – enter this scenario when the alcoholic refuses to admit he has a problem, or fails to seek treatment. Choice – and judgement – also enter the scenario when a person chooses not to undergo chemotherapy and/or radiation to treat cancer. The same variability that leads us to ask why two siblings should turn out so differently from one another can then lead us to wonder why two similarly situated alcoholics (married, with children, good jobs and reasonably effective support systems) should follow very different paths. Where one recognizes the harm being caused to family, and seeks treatment, the other dives into denial and eventually loses spouse, family and job without ever accepting the many offers of help being extended.

Is it that we need to believe we have free choice, no matter what? Is that why we insist there is a moral standard that is appropriately applied in all life situations? Two children have the benefit of the same loving parenting. One thrives and succeeds and gains our respect. The other struggles and turns to drink and becomes an object of scorn.

We do not scorn the cactus that fails to flower at Christmas. We are happy to welcome its flowering whenever it chooses to show its colors. I do not blame my goat Storm for persistently worming her way between the bars of the pasture gate; it is just her nature to want to get to that greener grass on the other side of the fence. I can’t imagine anyone blaming a snowflake for not looking identical to its neighbors on the patio. Why, then, are we so hard on ourselves and our fellow humans? Why can’t we simply accept that there is a wide range of individual variation in how people grow and respond and live, that our natures are as different, one from another, as are the many snowflakes that covered my yard four days ago? Then it was icy, snowy and cold while today it’s balmy and delightful outdoors. I don’t hear anyone saying “that’s wrong, that’s bad, Nature shouldn’t be so variable and inconsistent.”

Am I asking too much to wish that people could be as accepting of one another’s variability as we are of flowers, snowflakes, weather and stubbornly determined animals? To do so doesn’t mean abandoning standards of conduct, or being obliged to accept anything and everything as “cool, man” or “whatever.” If I meet someone who doesn’t seem to share my values, I am free to choose not to pursue the relationship. I don’t need to judge them, try to change them, or moralize about how and why they are as they are. And I can hope that they would, reciprocally, let me pass on without being subjected to attempts to change my vibrant red colors to muted pink ones.

Aspiration Accomplished

Sleeping Beauty

September 5, 2015

Renovating my home of 25 years has brought out/up a host of subjects for reflection. How have I managed to accumulate so much stuff, when owning things, showing off things is of little importance to me?

Oh, I see… the items have mostly been given to me and the people who gave them are important so I keep the knickknacks, the pictures, the artwork, the books, the music – whether or not I still have use for or interest in them.
“Can’t donate that to the fire department fund raising yard sale – X gave it to me.”
“Can’t pass that book on, though I’ve read it twice and won’t read it again – Y gave it to me for my 50th birthday.”
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera in Yul Brenner’s inimical voice as the King of Siam.

Well, most of those can’ts have become dones.

The memories of events with the people involved remain fresh, the items by and large past their use-by dates and no longer necessary as reminders. Does that mean I’ve entered the stage of life where more distant memories are much fresher and more real than what I had for lunch yesterday?

What did I have for lunch yesterday?

Oh, that’s right, I didn’t eat lunch yesterday. Phew…

The renewal project included sanding, staining and sealing all the floors, painting almost all the walls, moving some furniture out and several new pieces in, rearranging the use of space, and – still in process – rehanging in new and different arrangements much of the art work that has decorated the walls. The entire house – all 900 square feet of it – feels different. Appropriately so, for the new stage of my life being lived within its walls.

Much of the time since about 2000 I spent in a sort of trance, a marching in place, waiting for I knew not what. I wanted to make changes but every step I took toward a different life hit a wall. It finally became apparent that what was being asked of me, spiritually, was to be patient, to make the most of where I was and what I was doing while waiting for whatever karmic debt was keeping me seemingly stagnant to finally exhaust itself.

In retrospect, I had pricked my finger on the poisoned thorn, and like Sleeping Beauty, was locked into immobility while time passed. Only one prince – or power – knew the secret of what would waken me to the new, active, challenging, loving and amazing life I’m living now. While my Prince Charming came in outer form as an answer to my quest for someone with whom to speak French, the true charm lies in the perfection with which the Inner Spiritual Power knows exactly how and when to wake us up.

Sometimes the wake up is a kiss, at other times it is nothing short of the providential hit upside the head. However we are awakened, there is no going back to sleep. Or rather no going back to sleep without consequences sufficiently negative to preclude all but the most stubbornly self-destructive from ignoring what they are being freshly called toward.

Much easier to accept that the next stage of personal growth is here and now, so just get on with it. In a remarkably short time, one may discover that – while seemingly asleep – an inner cleansing has been done and now what has been accomplished in Soul can vividly reflect itself outwardly. Unnecessary stuff is cleared out, closets are emptied, walls and floors refinished, weight lost and life has a whole new shape.

Beauty’s story ends with that wakening kiss – oh, except for the living happily ever after bit.

Too bad, really – because if my own experience is anything to go by, the best, most vivid and interesting aspects of the tale lie in how the journey unfolds after one’s inner awakening in Soul. Awareness, illumination, enlightenment, realization… all the experiences and adventures to enjoy while traveling the True Path to Being, wherein one achieves the fairy tale ending of “happily ever after.”

May it be so for you, also.

 

In Ones and Twos

May 25, 2015

I’m taking my time reading In the Shadow of the Banyon, by Vaddey Ratner. Each section of a chapter is a meditation, a vividly imaged reflection on an aspect of relationships, whether between father and daughter, human and landscape, chaos and sanity, or physical and spiritual realities. Set in the time of the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia, it is a marvelously sensitive and mature child’s view of life. The landscapes are familiar to me – Cambodia as described is much like the Vietnam of my childhood. The recounting of emotions stirred up by violence and turmoil, by loving relationships and by subtle but profound parental education of children is flawless, presenting – again – a familiar landscape. How can a story set in what I know to have been a devastating massacre of more than a third of the country’s population seem so quietly normal?

Maybe I’ll find an answer to that question by the time I finish the novel. Maybe I won’t, and the question will join others that I ponder about humans and our treatment of one another.

A discussion at the supper table recently explored a different aspect of the human condition, this one looking into interpersonal dynamics. The participants were, with the sole exception of me, young and not so young men from Cameroon studying here and trying to improve their lives and those of their families. Each of us has had a similar experience of a few people who are supportive of our efforts to advance, to learn, to become contributing partners in business or family – and each of us has been dismayed at some point by the negative response of a sibling, or cousin, or coworker.

What, we were asking, makes an older brother, working and well established in a good profession, refuse to help pay a school fee to enable his younger sibling to continue studies (and to remain in status vis a vis the US Immigration Service)? What makes an older sister complain to parents that the student struggling to survive in an unfamiliar culture has neglected to call her and inquire how she is doing? Why doesn’t she initiate the call? She is the elder, and yes one owes respect to one’s older siblings, but they in turn owe care and support to those coming behind them (at least in traditional Cameroonian village culture).

I have no siblings, so I can’t comment on how/whether there is a similar implicit set of obligations in western families. I can note that we acknowledge certain rights and corresponding obligations that go with seniority at work – and that there are usually one or more coworkers who object to this tradition. The Cameroonians commented that too often in their society, people fail to see the hard work, perseverance and sacrifice that goes into family advancement. They only look at the outcome and attribute the family’s change in status to graft, or black magic, or some similarly negatively acquired advantage which isn’t earned by merit.

Our discussion included the image of crabs in a barrel, reflecting the way some members of a group will not try to join the one climbing up and out but instead collect together and do their best to pull the leader back down to their failing level. I encountered the latter attitude locally, when I first started my role as director of a home health agency regional office. One of the nurses I hired for “as needed” visits had been employed as a clinic LPN for a number of years, attending school part-time to get her RN. When she did achieve it, the doctor heading her clinic gave her roses and I gave her a happy hug and a pay raise. Her several nurse co-workers scorned her achievement and excluded her from their circle.

At the dinner table, we didn’t talk about competition versus cooperation as a societal dynamic – but we could have done. Instead we stayed on a more individual level and came to the conclusion that people seem to fall into two main categories when it comes to achievement. The first group is of people who are motivated to achieve for the group of which they are members (family, clan, work team). They are generally open minded and flexible, enabling them to see and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. They grab their chances, work hard and try to make the best of the gifts that come their way, gifts for which they easily express gratitude and thanks.

The second group is made up of those who single-mindedly think of and for themselves and their own advancement. They often seem to believe that the way forward is by finding an edge, an advantage, perhaps the softhearted person who can be persuaded or manipulated into giving them what they want. They work hard also – but their energy is devoted to manipulating others into giving them the preferment, the promotion, the degree or the job. And they disdain those who don’t cater to their sense of entitlement.

One thing we did all agree on, is that parenting and education play a role in which route a growing child decides to take – but neither parenting nor education explains why in a family of five or six siblings, there will always be at least one who falls into each of the two groups. In other words, nature plays a role, not just nurture. We did not digress into beliefs as to what makes for those inherent, nature-based differences. That is a topic for another dinner, or week of dinners, and another post.

Our conversation instead moved on to how we each (believing and being perceived by the rest as members of the first group) have chosen to deal with our relations who are part of the second group. Here, we parted ways. Some continue to try to engage the disdaining other by placating, by continuing to reach out despite the lack of reciprocity, and by “not sinking to their level”. Others have resolutely drawn a line, stating that “he has my number, when he chooses to call me I will talk to him but otherwise I’m functioning as if I don’t have a brother at all.” Neither route is satisfactory – nor were any of the several balancing acts falling between these two end points. However any of us decided to manage the situation, however comforted we felt that we are not alone in our quandary, however clearly we understood the nature of the differences between ourselves and those others, none of us was satisfied, not having a final answer to the question of “why” our opposites were the way they are. The closest we came was “C’est entre les mains de Dieu.” It’s in God’s hands.

As I write now, I’m aware that once again, as so often of late, I feel I have come up against a limit of rationality, a limit to mind’s ability to understand. Trying to reason my way to a course of action regarding the Group Twos in my life is futile. I need instead to let mind go still, and hear the inner voice of spirit directing me on what to do in this moment of this particular relationship. I need to remember that what is appropriate in this moment may be quite different in another moment of the same relationship.

Mind thinks in abstracts and wants answers that will be good for a period of time. Reality only exists in the moment, so there really are no answers to mind’s questions. It is enjoyable – and creates new and positive bonds – to talk things out with others, but the process does not, cannot lead to answers because the questions are by their nature unanswerable in the mental realm.

Which is undoubtedly why I am finding In the Shadow of the Banyon such a rewarding read – it invokes life as a constantly flowing series of moments of now, wherein questions are asked and answers have at least a possibility of arising. It speaks to the spirit within, more than to the mind. It covers births, and deaths, separations and new bonding. It beautifully reflects life. As does the newest member of our household, born just a week ago, on May 18th. Welcome to our world, Storm.

 

One Week Lively

One Week Lively

Breadth or Depth?

January 17, 2015

Saturday mornings are the only day in the week that I can be a bit lazy, get up an hour or more later, and not have to rush into preparation for activities. I’ve begun to guard this quiet A.M. time carefully, assuring myself of a few hours with no “have to” obligations. I’m learning that without at least some part of each week available as unscheduled “down time” I get out of balance.

My week used to include two hour Interstate drives and that time served me well for mental rest, but now my 250 or so miles per week of driving is over mountain roads and between client visits, with a cell phone that often rings with work demands. It definitely does not support a meditative state.

I do see lovely scenery. Just Wednesday, coming back from Taos, I came around a bend and was presented with three small frozen waterfalls glimmering in the darkness of early evening. The moon was up and reflecting off the rippling ice curtains, reminding me vividly of stalactite formations I first saw in Lurray Caverns when I was eight years old. Trekking through Carlsbad Caverns many years later, knowing that what was on public display is only a tiny part of the glories existing there, I reflected on how much that is wondrous we live in ignorance of.

(Yes, I hear the editor in my head reminding me not to end a sentence with a preposition. That is a dictum up with which I will not put.)

“You’ve only scratched the surface” is a phrase one of my teachers used often, in a survey course of world literature. He meant us to be challenged to read more widely than even the syllabus demanded. Archeologists genuinely do get to dig ever deeper, quite literally, into their subject matter. My acres, when I lived in Galisteo NM, were littered with pot shards and arrow head flakes. Digging out a pit for a septic tank, I came across layers of ancient litter, several different styles of painting on pottery and even one hand coiled pot, still intact. What might I have found if I’d been able to go down twenty feet, instead of only ten?

Layers of History

Layers of History

I’ve been complimented on the breadth of my knowledge – “Is there anything you don’t know something about?” I feel like a dilettante, knowing a little about many subjects, but without much depth in most of them. I greatly admire people whose careers enable them to master much, if not most, of a field – for example, musicians who know the work of centuries of obscure as well as famous composers, or the full range of indigenous songs in multiple cultures.

A mystery series I’m reading now (the Dr. Ruth Galloway novels by Elly Griffiths) feature a forensic anthropologist who knows everything there is to know about the dating of bones. Ruth admits to being narrowly focused, and to finding it a drawback not to have depth of knowledge outside her field. She admires people who are at ease at parties, able to make small talk because they know, as I seemingly do, a little about many different topics.

So why, then, am I just like Ruth and not at all comfortable at parties? I’ve always preferred conversation in small groups, like over dinner with a few friends. When I get to a larger gathering, I become tongue-tied, stand on the side lines and mostly just watch, quickly becoming bored. I want to connect meaningfully with other attendees, but seem unable to find the way to do so.

Oh, you’re telling me the problem is that I want some meaning from connections at an event where people are focused on the superficial. They come to cocktail parties to see and be seen, not to talk philosophy. I should lighten up, learn to relax and just float along at these events. Maybe that’s what’s needed, but no can do.

I’ve had friends who readily find solitude living in crowded cities. “It’s easy to be anonymous” in the heart of Boston, they tell me. I, on the other hand, feel invaded, overwhelmed and lost in busy and noisy environments.

To find solitude, I need silence. That has translated to needing a great deal more income to sustain me, living in a city. I can be poorer living where I do now, in rural northern New Mexico. Money can buy thick walls and enough surrounding land to provide me some sense of peace in an urban space. In sparsely populated areas, I am at ease in a small space, even a thinly-walled one.

On a Recent Misty Morning

On a Recent Misty Morning

Looking up from my writing just now, I see nine deer crossing my pasture, evergreen trees waving in a strong breeze, the sun reflecting brightly off a few remaining patches of snow. A scene of energetic tranquility, perfectly suited to my cherished morning of contemplation and reflection. I suspect that, over a lifetime, I’ve given up hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, by living “in the boonies.” But as was said to me just this morning, life isn’t about money. It’s about what you learn, and what you are inside.

From My Window

From My Window

I’ve learned many things. Perhaps the most important is that what I am inside is Soul. All the rest is just accreted layers obscuring my core. My most important skill is that of an archeologist, carefully scooping away mental and emotional grit, to reveal the core gifted to me by my Divine Master. If my breadth of experience and smattering of wide knowledge serves any purpose, it may be that I have thereby acquired a means to connect with diverse people and perhaps assist them with their own excavations. To the extent this is so, I am extremely blessed.

Unmixed Blessings

October 11, 2014

We talk easily about mixed blessings – recognition that desired events are not necessarily without their down sides. But if you are one of those who believes that what happens, happens for a reason, then everything that happens is perfect, and an unmixed blessing.

Thistles bloom in my pasture – lovely purple flowers that turn to face the sun in the mornings. Cows eat the prickly leaves and stems with impunity. Two of my horses dined on these maligned plants with evident pleasure. Blessings clearly are a matter of perspective.

Some people who know me only slightly are now having to deal with their own reactions to my recent marriage to a man of a different race and religious background from my own, from a culture quite alien to theirs, and who is enough younger than I am that I’m told I can now call myself a cougar. I don’t choose to do so, as I suspect that – like almost all terms for women when compared to similarly situated men – there is a negative implication to the word. The mere fact that we do not have a term for older men with younger women tells me cougar is not offered with respect or admiration.

Others may label me as they wish. I choose not to identify with their terms. There is nothing of the negative in my present circumstances. They are, rather, an absolutely pure blessing, offering me new opportunities to learn tangible things like a different cooking style, the pleasure of manifesting what I’ve been taught regarding living in the moment, and the experience of the simple joys that come from doing so.

Intellectually I’ve known that Being in the here and now is a possibility not in conflict with making long term plans. Recently I’ve had the joy of experiencing this lack of conflict in an intimate way, as each day fills itself with a blend of work and relaxation within the framework of slowly forming long term goals.

As is evidenced by the scarcity of my posts in the past several months, I’m not as easily able to blend Being with mental reflection on the meaning or form of that Being. More simply stated, I’m too busy Being to think about it. I’m also realizing that I’ve been so busy Being that I’ve not made time to read. A lifetime of reading at least one, often two books a week and here I am not having completed one I started two months ago!

My work requires a sufficient mental acuity that I know my mind is still fully active (no senility here, yet), despite my not using it for accustomed habits. It is a profound change, however, to live so much more immediately and not – as of old – through my mind. Interestingly, the less my mind is “in control’ of my days, the more smoothly they flow. Which, blessedly, demonstrates what my spiritual teacher has been attempting to instill for the many years I’ve been his student – that mind/ego is the enemy of spiritual understanding and true happiness.

Mind is subtle. It diverted me for a time into the illusion that my present happiness was somehow a “reward” for my attention to acting as purely as possible (in the words of my dear grandfather, doing right solely because it is the right thing to do). Fortunately, my spiritual teacher recently reminded me (and others of his long-time students) that happy consequences are just as ensnaring as negative ones.

We are more ready to recognize and try to release ourselves from iron shackles (addictions, self-defeating thoughts and behaviors) than from golden chains (involvement with loved ones, social causes, “doing good”). Indeed, the golden chains are presented as so positive that it is very hard to recognize the way they entrap one. Hard, that is, until one sees that it is one’s mind and ego that take pride in behaving in positive ways, and one’s mind and ego that feel rewarded by positive outcomes.

My present happy situation is… my present happy situation. I did not earn it, I did not create it, any more than I earned or created hardships I lived through in earlier years. Both the negative and the positive are opportunities to detach, to choose not to identify (as I choose not to be a cougar), to simply Be. And to not over-think that being!

When it is time for me to resume reading, I will do so. If it is now time for me to post more often, I will do so. If, instead, both of these activities are to continue to be rare, so be it. The only imperative I recognize now is to be focused in the moment, so that my days unfold as the divine within (or flowing through) me directs.

Such is the new me. Or, more accurately, such is the me I’ve always been, but did not know how to manifest.


Health News

tips , tricks , reviews , advice's

Life with an Illness

Sharing my chronic illness journey, while helping others. I spread awareness, love, and positivity along the way!♡

MICHAEL GRAY

Original work with a spiritual connection.

Megha Bose

A peek into Megha's mind

Neurodivergent Rebel

Rebelling against a culture that values assimilation over individuality.

The Beauty Along the Road

Discovering Beauty in the small details of our lives

KURT★BRINDLEY

   novelist ★ poet ★ screenwriter ★ blogger

Flowerwatch Journal

Notes on Traveling with Flowers

1eclecticwriter

Wide-Ranging Commentary

Spirituality Exploration Today

Delving into the cross roads of rationality and intuition

O' Canada

Reflections on Canadian Culture From Below the Border

smilecalm

Life through Mindful Media

San'in Monogatari

Legends, folktales, and anecdotes from Japan's San'in region

Immaculate Bites

African and Caribbean Recipes Made Easy

Matt Travels

your weekly nature and travel blog

Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas

** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **

aka The Versatile

Food | Fashion | Lifestyle | Beauty | Finance | Fitness | Education | Product Reviews | Movies | Doodling | Poetess

Aging Abundantly | Women Over Fifty | Empty Nesters | Caregivers | Aging Gracefully

Finding Joy at Every Age with writer/philosopher Dorothy Sander