Saturday, April 25, 2015

What scares you the most?

Great Snowy Egret

 “Let your home be your mast – not your anchor.”  - Khalil Gibran

“To be content with little is difficult – to be content with much – impossible.”  -  Marie Von-Ebner

     A while back I was sitting at a picnic table listening to a fellow bemoan his circumstance.  He was going through a divorce and probably losing his job.  “I do everything for everyone else and I am going to end up homeless” he whined.  He finally realized that I was not all that sympathetic to his fear of this prospect, and after a moment’s pause it came to him.  He knew that I have been “homeless” for a year and a half now, and he knows I am more peaceful than I have ever been.  “Oh . .” was all he could manage to utter.

     I had a terrible time letting go of having a “place called home” when I started on this journey.  In fact, it took God numerous nudges and a final shove or two to get me to let go of the notion that I was somehow “inferior” or “inadequate” if I did not have an abode.  Where would I go – what would I do – how would I accomplish anything – on and on the negative thoughts came.

     But, as with most everything else on the spiritual path, I have found that the truth is usually the exact opposite of my fear-driven convictions.  Yes, at the material level there is some convenience as I no longer have the “pull” of a place that requires ongoing maintenance and attention, and there is some inconvenience as I have limited space for “stuff.” It is always difficult to find a shower, and my conditions are such that if I want or need some new item, I have to get rid of something of similar size. 

     But it seems the aspects I was most uncomfortable with to start with have become the very things I now cherish the most.  I no longer have someplace to “run and hide” when I don’t like the way things are going.  Even though I didn’t think I did that, I realize now I did.  When I don’t like something now, there is nowhere to “go.”  I am forced to be present where I am – even if I change locations I have to be “present” there, so I might as well just "be" here.  After all, where else is there for me to be?  I am "here" experiencing this fully because I am supposed to be where I am, and no matter where I "go" I will still be "here."  So, why not immerse myself in the current "here and now?"  The discomfort of the adjustment to this didn’t take that long, and the benefit has been that I am much more “present” wherever I am.  And the more capable I am of being immersed in life without distraction, the more meaningful each moment - and thus each day - and thus my life becomes.  I have found many other advantages too - I am much more free to spontaneously follow God's will, I have been to many beautiful and fascinating places I would not have otherwise visited, I have developed deep and lasting relationships with many folks I would not have met - the list goes on.  Perhaps the one I enjoy the most is that now rather than identifying myself as the resident of such-and-such a place, the entire world itself is now my "home."  
     A few months back  I was talking with some fellows from India who were opening a new hotel.  After an hour or so of my asking questions and taking photos, one of them looked intently at me and asked me "who are you?"  I knew that he was asking me to define myself, and so I used a term I had been called by a friend who spent many years in an eastern monastery.  I told him I am an “American Sadhu.”

     These fellows looked shocked for a minute, and then started falling over themselves to accommodate me.  They insisted I came to their house to eat and spend the night there.  They wanted to give me money and food for the road.  I found the sudden lavishing of attention confusing and uncomfortable, but I did my best to graciously accept the kindnesses they offered.

     I later related the story to my friend the monk, who laughed heartily.  It turns out that in the Hindu tradition, a Sadhu is one who has given up all things material in their search for spirituality.  Many Hindu’s believe that to be in the presence of a Sadhu is the closest they will be to God in this life.  That all is way over the top as it relates to my situation, but it just goes to show that the things we fear the most can in reality be our greatest blessings ever.

Today, may I fully be where I am.

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Make today a great one !!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Leaving claw marks?

A bird dropping a twig at Kure Beach, NC

“To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee.”  -  William Walton

“To become aware of a single shortcoming in one’s self is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in someone else.”  -  Dalai Lama

    I recently encountered a situation that showed me that letting go is hard – no matter how much we have practiced it in the past.  Years back, someone went out of their way to wrong me in a most spiteful way, broadcasting a false story and dismantling my much of my life as they could.  At the time, I engaged counsel who helped me work through the situation.  There were numerous depositions, recorded phone conversations, financial records, various reports, photographs and ultimately court transcripts that not only exonerated me, they showed clearly that the other party had premeditated the situation.  This all added up to a box full of stuff that had been lying about for almost two decades now – all saved because I was sure that at some point in the future I would want to “prove my case” to others.

      In recent years I have worked hard to purify my heart, and not only forgiving this person but looking at my part in the situation has taken much effort over the last ten years.  Then, recently I came back across that box, and was faced with having to make a decision about what to do with it.  I could have given it to other parties who have never had any idea that there was "another side to the story," I could have continued to hang on to it, or I could choose to be rid of it.  Speaking with a couple of folks whose guidance I trust, I came to the conclusion that it needed to be thrown out, despite huge emotional and mental misgivings.  Every logical instinct railed against it – and I prayed for the strength to do it.  

     Circumstances presented themselves where I got to watch another person confront and begin to let go of something painful that happened long ago in their life, and it gave me just enough impetus to pitch all of it.  I thought I had long since forgiven this person, but I realized that I was hanging on to the "right to retaliate" - I had not completely let go.  And this added up to a grudge that I continued to carry, even if it was at a deeply repressed subconscious level.

     Yes, letting go is hard, and even though we trust the counsel of spiritual others and we logically know that holding on to resentments only poisons us, it is still easy to feel that somehow “my case is different.”  And so we cling - for years, decades - a lifetime, never realizing how much we ourselves are being harmed.  I realize I had justified years of lackluster performance and heavy drinking over that incident – and letting go of it means that I don’t have that particular “security blanket” of self-justification anymore.  I know from past experience that "letting go" often doesn't seem to bring relief right away - the feeling is more a gnawing pit in the stomach that makes it real tempting to delve into fear driven anger, self-pity and rationalizations.  But, eventually that pit just becomes a bit more space available for God to work through me.  But, in the meanwhile, it still feels “all wrong.”  In the past, how could I ever have believed that faith was for cowards?  The spiritual path is not for the faint of heart.  

Today, may I stay the course.

Have a great day.

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