Saturday, November 2, 2013

Earliest Memories, Deepest Beliefs

My family:  a tad off center, though I know my parent's did their best

I grew up in a family with two parents who both came from incredibly dysfunctional families, and while I understand that at any given moment while they were raising my bother, sister, and me, they were doing the best they could do, and better than their parents had done, we still lived in quite a hostile environment, rife with verbal and physical abuse, unswerving incriminations, passive-aggressive manipulations, and a general environment of anger, frustration, and feelings of injustice and unfairness.

Typical of children growing up in such an environment, each of us three kids took on roles—my brother the trouble-seeking scapegoat, my sister the favored and sycophantic mascot, and me, the lost child.

The Lost Child:  learns to survive by keeping a low profile.

I have the unusual ability to remember quite a lot from my early years. My earliest memory is of my third birthday. I stood next to one of our armchairs, one with exceptionally wide arms, and I was pushing a Tonka truck back and forth on this wide space. A parent, likely my mother, was in the chair. I speculate it was Mom because I was afraid of Dad, had by this age understood that he was a hostile, angry, and explosive man who didn’t much care for sharing his space with his kids.

The house was full of people, some that I recognized and others that I didn’t. I didn’t like any of them, felt they were too noisy and demanding. Indeed, I was afraid of them and didn’t want much to do with them, thus the strategy of focusing on my toy truck and hanging close to mom. Most striking to me is the feeling I had of feeling conspicuous and vulnerable. This was far too much attention for me.

The house was full of people, some that I recognized and others that I didn’t. I didn’t like any of them...

We form our core beliefs about the universe early, before most of us can remember. At the age of three, I had already come to understand that Dad was not someone I wanted to be near, that I wanted to remain hidden, out of sight, out of the way, and unnoticed. This suggests that by this early age, I had already formed a view of the world as a hostile dangerous place where you it is safer to be ignored.

Even at this early stage, I don’t remember making choices to view the world the way I did. I only remember feeling the transgressions of my formalized strategies by these people who’d assembled for my birthday. No wonder by the time we are adults we have so internalized these strategies that we don’t even notice we are employing them.

We tend to blame the world for the struggles we face.

Once we’ve acknowledged the possibility that it is a choice to view the world a certain way and to employ strategies to cope with this view of the world, it requires a great deal of purposeful attention and sustained effort to begin to truly see that this is what we do. 

And even then, I often stand by and watch my emotions run haywire, seemingly out of control, as events trigger these strategies and I once again inhabit the space I did as a small child in such a harsh, unloving, hateful, and hostile environment. It is not an easy mechanism to undo and reorder. It isn’t surprising that people tend to blame the world for the struggles we face.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Believing isn't Easy

Faith is never accepting someone else’s claim to truth... Faith is believing that what we have observed as the promptings and leading of our Authentic Self are just that.

All spiritual traditions, whether the formalized religious institutions of the West or the more philosophical spiritualities of the East, speak of the importance of “faith.” A Sunday School teacher once asked her group of elementary-aged students what the definition of faith was. A young girl perked up and answered, “Believing something that isn’t true.” From my own experience in Christianity, I have to say I can understand why a child would say such a wise thing. 

I was taught from an early age that the stories in the Bible were to be taken as literal, historical stories. I don’t imagine any child fully buys this. My daughter made the observation at the age of six that she couldn’t imagine that Samson had superpowers because of his long hair. I had such questions myself as a kid but learned early on that asking such questions created more trouble than I was willing to deal with. By the time I was an adult, I had convinced myself of things I otherwise would not believe because they were contained in the Bible. 

Samson and Delilah:  great story; probably not a true story.

But that isn’t faith, at least not in the way I understand faith. That’s allowing yourself to be brainwashed and indoctrinated. That’s taking someone else’s word for it that something supposedly spiritual is true, even when a six year old child knows better. That’s akin to telling a naked emperor that his clothes are simply stunning. I agree with the girl in the story who said that this is believing something that isn’t true.

Faith is never accepting someone else’s claim to truth, whether that the information is from an institution, a text, or a person. Faith is believing that what we have observed as the promptings and leading of our Authentic Self are just that. Faith is trusting ourselves enough to observe these events and accept them as guidance from a higher self, from the Soul who has incarnated into this existence. 

And I can tell you that this is not easy for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we find it difficult within ourselves to believe what we are sometimes led to understand from our Authentic Self. Learning to trust and have faith in the Authentic Self is a process, not a singular event, not a momentary transformation that lasts the rest of our lives.

Self knowledge is a valuable gift.

A part of the purpose of this blog is to present you with information and strategies to help you navigate this incredibly important but likewise incredibly challenging path of following the Authentic Self. The challenge begins with our general inability to tune consistently into the promptings and leadings of the Authentic Self. 

The path to discovery often puts us in direct conflict with the values, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior of people who mean a great deal to us.

Once we begin down this path of discovery, we face doubt within ourselves, often for what appear to be very good reasons; often because we crave the validation and encouragement from people who are less convinced than we are that what the Authentic Self has revealed is a valid consideration; often because the path we are destined to follow puts us in direct conflict with the values, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior of people who mean a great deal to us; often because our destiny may lead us down a path that results in rejection, alienation, and persecution from others; often because the path to our destiny is not easy and demands more of us than we could ever have imagined in ways that we never conceived.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Quiet Voice of the Soul

The Authentic Self...a very quiet, though often persistent voice that works outside the conventional modes of mind and senses...
When you, as a soul, were on the other side, making plans for this life, making decisions about the relationships you would form with other souls, where you would live, on which day you would be born, what forces would be present to help contribute to the personality you deemed most helpful for this life, your soul’s purpose was clear. 

Coming into this incarnation and walking around in this material world, working with the significant interference that comes from the body moving and experiencing within this material world, the soul, the Authentic Self becomes a very quiet, though often persistent voice that works in ways outside the conventional modes of mind and senses that the ego prefers. Further interference comes in the form of the pressure the ego feels to exist in this world, its belief that it needs other people to survive, to get what it needs, and thus formulating strategies for surviving. It holds tenaciously to these often contradictory strategies that become formalized as “voices” in the most important aspect of the body to the ego, the mind.

The mind never shuts off. Anyone who has tried to meditate knows what I'm talking about. 

The soul that incarnated into the body is ever present, ever aware, and ever cognizant of it’s purpose and destiny in this life, the destiny she mapped out before incarnating. The supreme challenge in this particular incarnation that we find here on earth is that the ego and all of its various formalized strategies make a damn lot of noise, are pushy, insistent, and unrelenting. 

Indeed, the mind never shuts off. Try to sit for just one minute without thinking a single thought, without making at least one internal commentary. Anyone who has attempted to meditate knows exactly what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter what you do; you will never shut of this incessant stream of blather that will go on and on and on with its reactions, observations, mindless blather, or gut-clenching worries. And whether its commentary or images or impressions or observations, the source of this steady stream of blather knows nothing but the body and its experiences in this incarnation. 

The mind, a great machine that, unfortunately, cannot know beyond its bodily experience in this life, in time.
These may be formalized into strategies, or formalized into memories and narratives the brain has grouped into experiences and invested with significance, or formalized into an entire framework of a philosophy of life. This steady stream may also include relatively harmless observations, such as “itch on bottom of thigh,” or “thirst.” The range of possibilities is wide, but no less tied and bound to this body and its experiences in time.

Under this steady flow of babble, quiet, patient, waiting, is the Authentic Self, that part of us that knows, that understands that existence is more than the physical body and its experience in the material world, that remembers its purpose and its destiny. And if we make way for this Authentic Self, make space, make time, make opportunity, we will hear it, feel it, understand it, and tune into it.

Under the torrent of the mind and ego, our soul ever waits, speaking softly if we are willing to take time to listen. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Making Interesting Stories

Sometime in my twenties, I had a realization that has helped me cope with challenging situations, even as they are unfolding in the present moment. That realization was that difficulties give us more interesting stories to tell. What we call a “normal” day is about as boring a story as you could tell. Indeed, if someone has had what she considers a normal day, she might well say something like, “Got up, got ready, went to work, came home, ate dinner, watched TV.” Ten hours of life are reduced to a series of macro events communicated in less than 30 seconds. 

A "normal" day is about as interesting as watching toast in a toaster.

But when challenges come in, such as a flat tire, an accident, an illness, or any other difficulty that interrupts this routine, suddenly, we have more to say. And the more challenging a situation, the longer of a story we have to tell because it is these experiences that help make a good narrative. I’ve often been in very trying and challenging situations in my life, both in this country and abroad, and these have afforded me the oft repeated reaction to renditions of my life-story, “You’ve lived quite an interesting life.” Indeed, there have been many occasions along this route that I have said to myself or others with me, “This is going to make an interesting story later.”

I lived and worked in Ethiopia a few years ago and a colleague of mine at that time used to say as I’d be leaving for a trip somewhere in the country, “May you have a boring trip.” And what he meant was a wish that nothing would happen that would later make an interesting story. It was a funny way of wishing a “normal” experience upon me as I traveled the country.

All blocks and challenges ultimately have their source within ourselves.

All challenges ultimately have their source within ourselves. This is provable in the very fact that what some people consider complete drudgery, such as hauling one’s carcass up the side of a mountain, someone else finds invigorating, inspiring, and fun. Whatever challenges we face, it isn’t so much the event and circumstances as our reaction to them that creates the difficulty. This is a tough pill to swallow. It suggests that we create our own misery and likewise that we have far more control in our disposition and attitudes than we believe and have been led to believe.

What for one person is absolute drudgery, for another person is invigorating and fun.