Spring is my favorite season. The promise of new life. Little green things popping up their heads after a long rest, to greet the world. This year spring seems particularly poignant and somewhat fragile to me. It’s been an eventful year. I have fully embraced sheltering in place, it was not difficult for me to do so. Perhaps because for the first part of it I was staying at home to care for my dying husband. And for the last part of it I was staying at home and doing my inner grief work and learning what it means to be a widow. And much of what that involves is re-creation in my life. Who do I wish to be? The truth is I have been single for much longer than I have been in relationship, but there is something different about widowhood. Other widows I have spoken with talk about the difficulties, and the gifts, of living alone after cohabitating with another person for 20, 30 and 40 years. I do not have that experience. My husband and I were only married for a little less than two years. Together in romantic relationship for a little more than 3 years. Even though we had known each other for 40 years. So learning how to live alone was simply a return to what passes for normal for me. And shelter in place simply provided an opportunity to fully sink into a grief process, which I believe is necessary in order to successfully rejoin life. I strive for balance in all my affairs. Having been a black and white, all or nothing sort of person for so much of my life, I’ve learned that such extremes rarely serve me well. So during shelter in place, I did go out to perform weddings. Most of these were outdoors, and all of them involved following the guidelines for COVID: masking up, staying six feet away and frequent use of sanitizer. And now, here we are. Opening up. In so many ways! I am beginning to contemplate travel and doing more things in person. I’ve had one vaccine, the second will happen later this month. I am also contemplating re-creation. After 8 years of losses and moves and changes, I have experienced no small amount of Post Traumatic Stress. Now that I am settled in to what emerged from all that upheaval. And beginning to see signs of lessening of the anxiety, the need for more resting time, the need to just be and stop doing. I am revisiting some things I began before the full stop of dealing with a sick and dying husband. I am feeling excitement. It is cautious excitement at this point, but it is still excitement. And collectively, this nation has been opening up. As more and more people get vaccinated, shelter in place restrictions begin to ease. As we have a new government once again fully functioning with an emotionally healthy leader, the country is beginning to get back on track. I still experience deep sadness and dismay at the racism and misogyny that came out of the shadows to gloat during the previous administration. While at the same time I am grateful that they have come out of those shadows. Because only light can heal the darkness of generations of racism and misogyny. So I am feeling the consciousness of renewed hope that is spreading. It has occurred to me that we had a virus take over during one of the darkest times in our country. That is some strong metaphorical significance right there. Now we have new hope and new light taking over both the darkness and the virus. New life. And so I fully and completely embrace spring and all that it brings. I appreciate the metaphor of new life in all areas of my life and in the life of this country.
I believe life was meant to be enjoyed. You know that phrase in the Bible, where it says to be as a child? I take that to heart. No, I am not speaking of hanging on to immaturity. I am speaking of enjoying life as children do. They move through their days in awe and wonder and joy. Sometimes I look at my life and the awe almost brings me to my knees. I move through the day and appreciate the beauty of whatever is surrounding me. I feel joy that I can do the things I like to do. A friend told me I could have fun inside a paper bag, and I can. That is joy. I have the ability to find the joy in anything because I have cultivated that joy. But sometimes finding the joy becomes a bit difficult, and that’s what this post is about. It’s about the reasons why you might also be finding it difficult to find the joy, and what to do about it.
I know why it is difficult for me right now to feel the joy. Let me see if I can explain it to you. It has to do with a phenomenon called group consciousness. This phenomenon states that since we are all connected, part of a great whole, the trend of our thinking will affect others, and their thinking will affect us. I learned about this phenomenon while studying a spiritual and philosophical way of life called New Thought, which developed by this very phenomenon of group consciousness back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. All of a sudden people in separate parts of the world were all speaking and writing about the same concepts without ever connecting with each other. One of the concepts those early New Thought pioneers were speaking and writing about is Oneness. They were convinced that we are all connected on very deep levels, part of a great One. Ernest Holmes was one of those pioneers and created a New Thought teaching called Science of Mind. It is one of several, and it just happens to be the one I follow and teach. Ernest Holmes is the one who came up with the term group consciousness, but he isn’t the only one who has studied, and strived to prove, the concept. Science has proved it. I will never forget the excitement I felt when I took my first quantum physics class in grad school and discovered that what Holmes had been saying had been proven true by science.
Quantum physics is one of those sciences and they have proven it in repeated experiments. If you don’t believe me, look up the observer effect.
Another item of proof: you may have heard of the hundredth monkey effect. Way back in the 1950s some scientists did a study and discovered that if a certain learned behavior reached 100 monkeys, all of a sudden that behavior jumped across the water and monkeys on nearby islands, who never had physical contact with the first group of monkeys, began doing the same behavior.
One more, this one from an author named Terry Patten, in his book called a New Republic of the Heart: “The popularity of ideas like the “tipping point” or the hundredth-monkey stories are not simply tall tales. As already mentioned, Ken Wilber has pointed to the claim, rooted in the historical evidence of the late 1700s and the American Revolution, that when 10 percent of the population grows into a genuinely higher structure of consciousness, the nature of public agreements and power exchanges can be restructured according to a higher set of (postmonarchical, constitutional, democratic, meritocratic, free-enterprise) rules.”
Unfortunately, that phenomenon works both ways, higher consciousness and lower consciousness. If 10% of the population is living a lower state of consciousness, guess what? We are going to experience evidence of that. Such evidence looks like anger, judgement, close mindedness, rigidity, polarity.
I believe we in America are in a lower state of consciousness right now, and those of us who are aware of such things and believe in group consciousness feel it.
It may feel like grief. I’m sure you’ve felt grief before. All those things you feel when you experience a loss. Things that Elizabeth Kubler Ross identified as stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I know I’ve felt all of these in the last couple of years. I bounce around these feelings like one of those giant beach balls being tossed about by people who don’t seem to care where the ball lands or what, or who, it bounces off of.
Now, you may be thinking that this all sounds sort of victimy. To be subject to the consciousness of the populace? Yep, victim. Fortunately, we are at choice as to how to respond to this. We can choose not to buy into the polarity, the judgement, the rigidity, the anger and the close mindedness.
If you are anything like me, you might wake up some mornings just feeling wrong. No apparent reason for it. Just wrong. There is a reason, it’s the group consciousness. Here’s where we can, and should, choose differently.
I believe we have a responsibility to choose differently. Because to give in to the group consciousness means to accept the shit that is going on, and that I will not do. And neither should you. If you believe that life is meant to be lived in joy, then you will also take responsibility for being one of the hundred monkeys. Or one of the 10%. Do not buy into the group consciousness. Refuse to live from a base of fear. Instead contemplate what it could be like, feel like, to live a life based in love. Refuse to wrap yourself in a cocoon of suspicion. Instead, realize that all that suspicion simply shuts out any possibility of joyful living, and strive to be vulnerable. Yes, I said vulnerable. There is a way to be vulnerable without opening ourselves up to harm. The vulnerability I’m speaking of is a sort of open mindedness. A willingness to explore a different way to be, so as to experience a better life. Refuse to judge, condemn, belittle. Instead cultivate compassion for yourself and others. Deny the sadness that you feel and replace it with happiness. Refuse to judge anyone, for anything. Refuse to shame other people. Refuse to claim a side. Refuse to be angry. Refuse to be close minded. Instead, cultivate compassion. Nurture open mindedness. Actively pursue an attitude of gratitude. Explore different ways of communicating so that you can have healthy conversations with people who think differently than you do.
If enough of us do these things, we can and will change the world.
It would help if I meditated. Yes it would. But writing helps too, and so I write.
What is it I need help with on this fine Saturday morning? Nothing really. I’m just a bit scattered. Trying to land on something so I can concentrate enough to do what needs doing. I’m working on a few things. A new workshop. A talk. Two books. Trying to figure out technically how to create an online self guided class (if anyone is moved to help me with this one I sure would appreciate it).
I discovered a few daffodil plants in my yard last week, and today they are blooming! I love the spring bulbs and will plant more of those in the fall, so that next spring I will have even more. I could create a new version of Daffodil Hill, since weather eliminated my annual spring trip this year.
I believe I will make a batch of chili today. Monthly pot luck is tonight and it is good chili weather.
My photo today is a screen shot of my Kindle. Yes, I read a lot. Most books I read all the way through, then return to them again and again for research. Some are for pure entertainment purposes. Those are the ones with the semi naked men on the covers.
Today I turned to Joseph Campbell for a bit of inspiration. He always seems to just dial it in for me.
“The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.” I often tell my clients that they cannot do anything about what anyone else is doing. They usually do not want to hear that. I don’t want to hear it. But it is true.
“The Hoarder, the one in us that wants to keep, to hold on, must be killed. If we are hanging onto the form now, we’re not going to have the form next. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. Destruction before creation.” Yes, we must let go of what is in order to move into our next greatest level of expression. I’ve been using that phrase for quite some time, and just recently discovered that Joseph Campbell said something similar. Unfortunately, it is my experience that most people would rather live with the devil they know about than move into something new. The unknown is much scarier than the known, even if the known is shitty and the new is likely to be better. So they stay stuck, they hoard, and fight any destruction that may be happening. I’ve seen people do this to their death. Literally. Sigh.
“Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something up. The earth must be broken to bring forth life. If the seed does not die, there is no plant. Bread results from the death of wheat.” People come to me when they are in pain, and without exception, I discover that the pain is just a symptom of a lifelong pattern. The solution to the pain is in recognizing the pattern and then changing the pattern, from the inside out. But most folks don’t want to do this. They want instant gratification, a quick fix. The idea of taking a look at the pain and the messages it has for them is not something they are even willing to consider.
“When seeking your partner, if your intuition is a virtuous one, you will find him or her. If not, you’ll keep finding the wrong person.” I’ve often put it like this: water seeks it’s own level, and we humans are made primarily of water. Another thing people do not want to hear. They would rather blame the other.
I’m reading a new book, it’s called A New Republic of the Heart. I’m only 7% into it, and still reading about the problem. They haven’t gotten into the solution yet. Perhaps that is part of the reason why I’m feeling a bit pessimistic this morning and why my writing seems a bit cynical. But I will persevere in reading this one, because I trust the folks who recommended this particular book.
And isn’t that what ultimately provides the willingness to hang out in the pain for a while, to examine it and discover the lessons it has for us? Trust. Or faith. Call it what you will. We need to trust that it will be better, or else why would we subject ourselves to this shit? Trust or faith is one of those things I find difficult to describe. I have ultimate faith in a Power that I like to call The Force. It is within me, a part of me. This means I also trust my instincts, inclinations, and ideas. It took a while to get to that point, and today, when I work with folks who simply cannot believe in a religious God, that male entity that is so separate from them as to be unreachable, and I present the idea that perhaps God is hiding in a place they would never think to look, within them, well, let’s just say the rebellion reminds me of a teenager, plotting to run away in the middle of the night because no one can tell them what to do! They refuse to consider anything different, and they refuse to consider anything known. They create their own stuckness. And yet, when I speak with people about this, they remain stuck. They refuse to consider that their stuckness is not a barrier but a cleverly concealed path to joy and freedom. They go away, and call themselves seekers, and never find anything. The truth is there is nothing to seek, and nothing to find, there is only our own incredible power to create. But sometimes we misuse that power.
So it seems as if today I am inspired to be cynical. To be pessimistic. To be real here, I know the reason for this and it has nothing to do with the latest book I am reading. But I can’t reveal the reason because to do so would violate the privacy of another human being. But I have clarity now, and that helps. On days like today, sometimes it is all we can do to acknowledge the feelings and be gentle with oneself and move on as best we can. And when the sadness and grief give way to anger, I will do my best to not react and do something that will get me into trouble. And when the anger gives way to acceptance and I breathe a bit easier, I will then be able to explore what lessons are in this experience, for me.
So that is what I will do today: notice my feelings, notice the new life in the form of the daffodils in my yard, create something new in the form of the chili, share my creation with others tonight at the potluck. And revel in the joy that is humanity, even in the midst of strife. And that, my friends, is what faith looks like.
"Our stories are the stairs that lead us to the stars." Donovan Livingston, said during his 2016 Harvard Graduate School commencement speech
This young man moved me with his commencement speech. Such wisdom at such a young age!
I do not advocate living in the past, nor do I think it wise or helpful to base current beliefs, thoughts or actions on things that happened in the past. I do, however, think it is a good idea to take a look at our past to glean the nuggets that would allow us to live in freedom, joy and happiness.
We've all got stories. All of us. We are at choice as to how much we wish to allow those stories to affect us. We can limit ourselves by saying, "Well, THAT didn't work so I will NEVER do that again!" Or, "I tried that, it didn't work." Or, "I had a bad experience with...(fill in the blank with your favorite whipping post) so I won't associate with those type of people."
Our stories can be pathways to hell.....
They can be stairways to the stars.
We can be like that brilliant young man, who somehow learned that without his stories he wouldn't be giving the commencement speech at Harvard. I have no idea what his stories are, but I know what mine are. And Livingston is right, without my stories I would not be where I am now, which is pretty close to the stars.
What are your stories? Have you gleaned the nuggets and moved on? Or have you decided never to do THAT again because it didn't work so well the first time around? Have you explored the stories, done the inner work, forgiven and now live a life free of victimhood? Or does life seem to be a series of one mishap after another, where you feel continuously victimized by the whims of the weather, other people, or whatever governmental institution you are currently dealing with?
We create our lives by our consciousness, what we focus on expands and what we resist persists. If what is happening in your life is not pleasing to you, it may be time to examine your stories and stop believing them.
Personally, I feel a call to slow down a bit when the weather cools and the storms begin to roll in. It is a time when I want to meditate more, contemplate more, just BE...more. It is a time when I wish to stop doing so much.
And yet, with the approach of the holidays, sometimes it seems an impossible task to stop doing so much. So many parties....so little time! Along with shopping, planning menus and meals and potlucks and what to get your 87 year old father for Christmas who has everything.
And more than ever, I want to slow down and BE. I want to snuggle in with my kitties in my sunroom and enjoy watching the weather move across my field of vision in the skylights above me. I want to settle in and read. ...continue reading "BE rather than DO"
I was having a chat yesterday with someone who asked me if I had any regrets in life. Actually, what she asked me was if I planned to go public with my regrets.
The question stopped me and I had to think a bit before I responded, because I wanted to respond truthfully.
The truth is, I have no regrets. She probed a bit: wasn't there anything that made me cringe when I looked back on it? ...continue reading "Got regrets?"