Ahhhh. That is how I feel right now. Accepting what is. The ups and downs. The flowing, changing world inside and outside of my being. My heart is stretching and finding a new shape. A softer path before me, a home inside the world.
The storm of the weeks after the Summit has subsided. In its wake, I found something I’ve sought for a long, long time: peace. Ironically, the peace I’m experiencing is not a state I have attained. It is not a state at all…it is a surrender. A letting go.
There is no longer a sense that I have to be some way, or some one, that I have to show up in a good-looking outfit with my hair just so, in order to be liked. I finally understand something crucial: the more authentic I am in any interaction, in any moment—the more people respond to me, appreciate me, know me and are moved by me. It is one of my roles in this life: to speak of the struggle and to bring it into the light. Everyone struggles. Everyone.
Welcome to the struggle of life. The peace we seek is within us, yes, but not like we generally have thought of it. It cannot be earned, like a good grade; it cannot be controlled. Peace is the boat on the ocean. It goes where the ocean goes.
Hafiz, great sufi poet, said: “Where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.”
Trust the living map of life as it unfolds before you. Know that the life you are living IS the “spiritual path.” Whether you recognize it or not, whether it matches your pictures or not. There is no where to go, no clothes to wear, no practices to adopt that will make you enlightened. Getting enlightened is not the goal, which is a good thing, because it, like peace, is also not attainable.
Surrender. Breathe. Come home to the heart, and live there. Let the heart listen to the soul, the connection to the god of your understanding. Let the heart be the instrument of seeing, and let the body-mind be ever in service to the heart.
This may not make sense, you may not have read this far. But if you have, thank you. I hope these words reach somewhere in you, that they bring you some amount of rest and peace. For me, the journey continues. I’m in search of a new home, and will be house sitting for the next 3 weeks or so in some lovely places. I am blessed; truly blessed.
I have followed my heart to Austin and here I am. I don’t know what the future holds; I have no plans beyond December. The only promise in following my heart is that I will then dwell in my heart. Which is plenty enough reward for this one.
The Global Youth Peace Summit was amazing and also incredibly challenging on many levels. I can’t even quite explain it, to tell the truth. But in the two weeks since it ended, I’ve spent a lot of time alone (nothing new there) and I’ve been pretty depressed. I have been weaving all kinds of stories about what people think of me and what a fucked up person I am. And although I know that these are not true, that in fact these same people like and even love me very much, and in fact I’m not fucked up at all, I’ve found it really hard to get out of the story.
In addition, I’ve hardly had any work lately, because my company just doesn’t have any work to give me, and since I’m paid a very good hourly wage but not salary, if I don’t have work, I don’t get paid. It also gives me WAY too much time alone. And when I’m alone, I get depressed. The one just sort of follows the other.
The time after the Summit is generally tough for everyone involved. The village that we create there is a powerful space of love, acceptance and healing for everyone, no matter what role they play or how they show up. It just happens. And leaving it is generally hard and can often be a letdown. It’s kind of like what happens for many people after Christmas. This year I had hoped that since I live in Austin now, it would not be as hard. In fact, I think it’s been the hardest post-summit experience yet.
I find that I’m embarrassed about what’s been going on for me and resistant to blogging about it. However, at the same time, I feel incredibly pulled to do so. In fact, I even started a new blog the other day, just so I could shout out without reservation how I feel and what I’m going through.
But, since I made a commitment a while ago on this blog to not hold back anymore, and to reveal the “deep, dark shit,” and also because something in me tells me that this is part of my service and what I have to offer the world, I’m going to write about it here. Basically, when things get bad, I hate myself. I honestly truly HATE myself. I think that I am a terrible person and that I really don’t deserve to be here. I think that other people don’t care about me. I think that I should not have come here to Austin, that the people at Amala Foundation don’t want me here, that they wish I would leave.
I think of past arguments with random people and past situations that were hard and I get stuck obsessing on those situations also.
I think about being single and that there is something innately ugly about me and that is why I’m single. I think about how hard it has been for me to do work in general, and how much I procrastinate, and how I don’t stay focused on creating photographs and writings, and it spirals into a truly ugly internal put-down session. It is just insane. Truly. Insane.
The thing is, I know this stuff isn’t true. I KNOW IT’S NOT. But I can’t believe that when I’m in it. I just get sucked down, like it’s a huge deep-ocean whirlpool from some 50s horror movie.
Let me say this, also, the good news: It’s shifting. I’m climbing out. I went to a volunteer appreciation thing at Amala last night. It was sweet. We did a sacred pipe ceremony (native american style) and then had a talking circle where we passed the talking stick. One of my friends and I went together and we both have been feeling very depressed and horrible and we both spoke up during talking circle. It was great to just say out loud in that community: “I am doing terribly, I hate myself, I think you all hate me, I don’t know who I am or why I’m here,” and then just pass the stick! It was awesome to do that, actually.
I truly didn’t want people to come up and get all huggy with me after, and people were very sensitive and kind in that way, but I felt a lot of love sent to me without direct contact. I did get a bit of very solid loving feedback from some people I feel very comfortable with, and then someone else who I respect and care about immensely, and was one of the people I had really convinced myself did not like me anymore, sat and talked with me for a while. He’s so real and so sweet and was very solidly rooted in knowing that everything that was happening is FOR me and not TO me, and that it’s all serving my evolution. As soon as he said that, I knew it was true. And I also realized that he indeed still cares about me and likes me, and that nothing at all was wrong.
Then I spent some more time today with someone else I care about a lot but who I have stories about that cause me pain. We had a sweet conversation as well, and we just kind of roundabout got into some of these stories I have made up. As we talked, I again realized that all my stories were missing big huge chunks of information and that when those were filled in, then the whole story shifted and my confusion was evident. Which felt fantastically freeing.
So, now, I feel like things are on a more even keel. I pulled a tarot card from the Osho Zen Tarot deck (online) and it was “Trust.”
“Trust life. If you trust, only then can you drop your knowledge, only then can you put your mind aside. And with trust, something immense opens up. Then this life is no longer ordinary life, it becomes full of God, overflowing.”
That resonated so fully and completely.
Oh and the reason I named my post “shaking my fist at god” is because I’ve been fully doing that lately. If you know me, you know that the god of my understanding is simply the universe, all that is, the pattern and love that underlies, permeates, creates, sustains and destroys all that is. Generally, I cultivate trust that the life unfolding is the exact right life for me. But this past week in the deepest muck of this darkness, I have denied and resisted, shouted and sworn, “why have you forsaken me?” And it felt like an important part of whatever this process is. To just say, NO, God! WHY ME, God? Fuck you, God!
and now…the other side of the mountain…the downhill side. for a while. [like the old Donovan song: “first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is”]
So these epiphanies have been raining down on me like the big droplets of water in the thunderstorm the other day. I was running around in the rain, doing cartwheels, waiting til they let us back into Barton Springs Pool. (They had made us all get out when the lightening came.) That was fun, but anyway, these epiphanies about me, and my life, are starting to fall out of the sky, and sometimes they are like lightening and have thunder accompaniment as well. Ideas crashing down on me.
What I’m seeing is, 1) some of what I thought I wanted to do, I don’t know if I do want to do (dja get that one?), and 2) most of what I do want to do I haven’t let myself dream that I could do.
1) I don’t know if I do want to run an organization, or be involved in the running of one.
2) I want to let the artist in me out already. The creative, writing, photographing, blogging, memoir-ing, weaving, beading, spinning, sewing, poeting, screenwriting, movie making, who-knows-whating person that is in me waiting to get out–YEAH her! I want to let her out. I want to get to know her.
The idea of service as a way of life, as work, and as a spiritual practice has attracted me for a long time. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and one thing that has become clear to me is that service is what I want my life to look like. I want to spend my time being of service.
Okay, that said…what is service, exactly? We can take for granted that we know what service is, that we know what it means – but I’m not so sure that there is a clear-cut and universally agreed-upon definition. You may think of service as volunteering. Or maybe it brings to mind the “service sector” – jobs in hospitality (restaurants, hotels, tourism) or housekeeping, dogwalking, carwashing, and so on. Service might mean running a marathon to raise money for a charity – or donating to a charity.
All these are aspects of service – or manifestations of it. But service as a way of being – this is what I’m thinking about these days. Service as what I do – as working and living and playing and breathing. In January, I quit my job. (Note: this is not such a surprising thing, as those of you who know me well will recognize. I am forever quitting jobs, moving to new homes and cycling throughout the cities of the Bay Area and, occasionally, beyond.) I thought I was going to start a dog food business. But then I decided to just stop for a minute. To really stop doing and be. Just be for a moment And one moment led to another, which led me to here…
So, what is service? Or, what is it for me, now – and what is it that is calling me? The answer is a work in progress. This post is a compilation of musings on the topic, and is also about the 3-month program I’m starting next week that has service as its centerpiece.
Okay, so…first off, for me, the very word “service” brings to mind people like Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. I googled Mother Teresa and found this quote:
Love cannot remain by itself — it has no meaning.
Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.
That starts to get at it. That starts to convey what is inspiring me, and driving me. I don’t mean to sound like I’m accessing some great well of love or something mystical or esoteric. It’s more feet-on-the-ground than that. The love that I am able to experience – it wants to be expressed. Recently a teacher I know (Ngak’chang Rinpoche) used “compassion” as a verb. That it’s what we DO. Not an emotion. That stuck with me.
And the Dalai Lama:
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.
He has such a great sense of humor. I love that about him.
On April 6, I start a 3 month program at Mt. Madonna Center (MMC) called Yoga, Service and Community (YSC1 – the 1 denotes the first 3 month session – it’s possible to continue in YSC2 and YSC Leadership, additional 3 month stints). MMC is a retreat center in the Santa Cruz Mountains about 45 minutes from where I live. Which is convenient. (Some people are coming from far off lands like PENNSYLVANIA.) MMC was founded in the late 70s. It is a beautiful place up on the summit of the mountains, overlooking the Pajaro Valley and Monterey Bay. The views are CRAZILY stunning (some not-so-stunning pictures here – I promise I’ll take more and post them here eventually).
The place is inspired by the teachings of Baba Hari Dass. I’m not particularly drawn directly to his teachings, from the little I know of them. (Neither am I repelled by them.) But I am very drawn to the fact that the center is based on service. At MMC, “service” is understood as a very specific spiritual practice known as “karma yoga.” Yoga is usually misunderstood in the western world as the physical practice of putting your leg behind your head. However, that is only one branch of yoga (“hatha yoga”).
Yoga is actually a highly developed system of spiritual practices that address all aspects of the human being. Of being human. “Karma” roughly translates as “work” or “action.” (Most of us know the word karma as related to ideas like “what goes around comes around” or good deeds beget good ends, or heaven and hell, etc. – but maybe that can be a topic for another post someday – it’s a bit different than most of us think.)
A quote from the MMC website:
Karma Yoga translates literally as “yoga of action”, which aims to reduce our self interest to the minimum by working as a self-dedicated duty without attachment to the fruits of our labor. It is often translated as selfless service.
Here, you can see the way that most yoga traditions (e.g., “hinduism”) from India perceive karma yoga – as a way to eradicate the self. However – my path is not one of self-eradication. (More on that in another post, probably.) So, for me – we shall see what comes up while I’m there.
Practical details: The program has 9 participants. We live in one large building called Forest View House, each with a private bedroom, and we share a bathroom with one other person. We work at the Center 24 hours a week, and participate in at least 2 yoga classes and a couple of meetings each week. We are fed amazing vegetarian food from their fantastic kitchen. We learn about the Center’s activities, which include among other things a K-12 college prep day school on the property as well as an orphanage in India. I’m looking forward to finding out about these, as teaching and kids are high on my interest list. MMC is very modern: well-made woodframe buildings, paved roads, internet, etc. We will go into town at least weekly to do laundry (in this arid Mediterranean climate, the land is supporting 100 residents, the retreat center and school on well water) and get into whatever other mischief we desire.
I hope that during this time, the path of my life will become clear – or begin to become clear. Even if only the faint outline of a life emerges in these three months, that will be enough for me. I am living on a shoestring of money saved and small bits of money earned at odd jobs. I know that I don’t want to be a botanist again.
When I left New York so many years ago, and came to Hawaii, and then California, I was on a path. There was a life I was going to live. It was exciting and world-wide and fun, and also inspirational. It turned out that I had other things to tend to. A broken heart to break some more and then to mend. Deceptions of mind that caused me to think I was bad, unworthy, unable to accomplish. I had to dive in deep, and work below the surface, in murky depths of my own being, which is also the being of us all. And recently I burst to the surface. Whole beyond imagining. More aware of that wholeness all the time. And knowing that we are one leads me naturally to service.
What that’s gonna look like…this is what the next bit of time is going to let me know. I’ll keep you all posted. Signing off from the west coast, under an almost full moon. Happy and safe travels to you all.
I like this title of my first post, provided by WordPress…Hello World!
Welcome to my first blog. What will I say here? – well, probably so many things. I plan to share about the life I’m embarking on, the adventures to come and the decisions that will be made. So, it’s going to be a good way to keep up with what is happening with me.
Also, I may write about things I find interesting, from movies and books to food, technology, environmental issues, and more. I will probably write about spiritual growth from perspectives both personal and theoretical. I may share poems and even longer writings – and this site may serve as a place to develop writings.
I welcome you here, and welcome your feedback. Conversations make things so much more interesting.
Well, that’s all for now. But stay tuned, because there’s lots more to come soon.
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground. Into the blue again, in the silent water.