#357 Stalk! Pounce!

A  reader called my attention to this Signal Fire, published 10 years ago. I like it, so I’m sending it again. And I’m pretty sure I’ll have a followup before very long.

I stalk beliefs. I lurk around the corners of my mind, listening to what I think and to what I say, ready to pounce when a belief appears. When I catch one, I investigate it. Becoming as open and undefended as I can, I try the belief on. What is its purpose? How does it feel in/on my body?

By and large, their purpose, it seems to me, is to make me feel safe, to make me feel less bewildered about the situations of life. But when I feel my way into beliefs, they almost always feel something like being encased in cotton batting, sticky cotton batting. They inhibit my breath, they cling to my skin, they make me feel energetically murky.

Safety takes up space that could be occupied by glory, by wonder, by awe, by curiosity. Glory, wonder, awe, joy, endless possibility — they feel spacious, airy, bright. There is no contest — they feel way better than sticky cotton batting.

So I stalk beliefs. I lurk and I pounce. And when I catch one, I celebrate. Because then I have a choice to either keep it or release it.

#356 Deserving Joy

This is a follow-up to the most recent Signal Fire, which engendered some interesting conversations.

First, joy. People often ask me what the purpose of life is, and what the purpose of their life is. I will posit that, simply put, the purpose of life is to experience joy.

Second is the idea of deserving. Specifically, deserving joy. How does one become the kind of person who deserves joy? One doesn’t become that person, one is that person. You are born deserving joy. You are born with all the deserving you’ll ever need. You are and always have been 100% deserving of joy.

Joy is your birthright, deserving is in your very nature.

But it’s a journey, isn’t it? You’re born fully deserving to experience joy. But you’re born into a family, into a culture, into belief systems, into a time and a place—some or all of which may hinder you in fulfilling your life’s purpose to experience joy.

Remember the question from the last issue? “Is this life-giving to me?” You could just as well ask, “Does this enhance my experience of joy?” Does this belief, expectation, thought, experience, action, self-talk, perspective, interaction, emotion, idea, etc. enhance my ability to experience joy, or does it hinder?

Two guides on this journey recently died. Desmond Tutu and bell hooks. But they left behind important bodies of work to support you as you travel this path of fulfillment. Enjoy hanging out with them.

Joyful new year to you!

#355 Ask the question

So many holidays! I hope some of yours have been happy.

I have, however, been aware that people are experiencing emotions other than happiness—anxiety, fear, and even angst. Maybe having nothing to do with all the holidays.

There’s a question I’ve been keeping close, and I invite you to use it, too: “Is this life-giving to me?” Ask the question and receive the answer.

Try it. Ask it about what you eat, what you drink. Is this life-giving to me? Receive the answer, and honor the answer. If the answer is yes, great. Enjoy. If the answer is no, then you get to make a decision. What can you do that will turn this into something  life-giving? Maybe the answer is to not eat or drink the thing. But maybe it’s something else. Ask. Receive the answer. Maybe the food needs your blessing first. Maybe the time of day is wrong. Maybe the preparation needs to be different. You don’t know until you ask.

Ask the question and there will be an answer. Maybe the answer will come as word in your mind—yes! no! Maybe it’ll be a sense of rightness or wrongness. Maybe it’ll be a smell, a sound, some kind of sensation in your body. If you ask the question, the answer will come.

Is this life-giving to me? Ask it about what you think, what you believe, what you want. Ask it when you’re grocery shopping. Ask it about the news program you’re watching, the magazine you’re reading, the conversation you’re having. Is this life-giving to me? Ask it about ideas you have. Ask it about your attitude towards yourself. Is this life-giving to me?

Ask it about everything. Ask it all the time. Make it a habit. The results may surprise you.

As an added bonus, you’ll strengthen your ability to receive information; you’ll strengthen your intuition. I’ll give you an example. Many years ago I wanted a new whistling tea kettle. I happened to spot a particularly delightful one in a store, but it cost $100. Way, way too much. I was disappointed, but there was no way I could justify spending that kind of money on a tea kettle. Pretty soon I forgot about wanting a tea kettle. The one I had was really just fine. But some months later, I was driving around town, running errands. Suddenly, a voice in my mind demanded, “Go to the PPL thrift store!”  I said, “Heck no. That’s way across town. Why in the world would I go there? Besides, I’m tired. No.”  But the voice was insistent. “Go to that store!” Well, after a bit more arguing, I gave in and went to the store. Maybe you can guess what I found there. Yup, that very tea kettle, that $100 tea kettle. How much? $5.00.

I heard the message because I was accustomed to hearing messages. I was accustomed to hearing messages because I was accustomed to asking, “Is this life-giving to me?”

Try it, you’ll like it! And happy new year.

#354 Old Women With Scabs

I’ve said it before, but I keep smacking into this truth, so I’m saying it again. Everything I have ever judged another for, I eventually end up doing.

Little things, big things, seemingly inconsequential things. But truly, reaching out to another in judgment is never inconsequential. And judging another always reaches out. It is the nature of judgment to be an attack—little, big, or seemingly inconsequential. But is an attack ever inconsequential?

So this morning as I was reading, I was picking at a tiny rough spot on my arm, just a piece of dry skin, and it came off and bled a little, and I was gobsmacked by memory—judging old women with scabs on their arms!

Once again I learn a truth—everything I have ever judged another for, I end up doing (or had already done). And the list of people/behaviors I have judged is so long as to be nearly endless!

What do I do when I find myself behaving in a way I had judged in the past? I acknowledge it. I love myself as I am now. I love myself as I was then. And I love all old women with scabs!

#353 Your Soul

Assume that you have a Soul.
Then assume that your Soul has a purpose.
Then you can rightly assume that your Soul desires to fulfill its purpose. That desire is an intention that all of creation aligns with. That alignment allows opportunities to arise that will allow your Soul to fulfill its purpose.
Those opportunities may well take a form that is disturbing. Disruptive. Unpleasant. Challenging. Irritating. Frustrating. You get the picture.
So when you find yourself with a challenging situation in your life, assume that all of creation has aligned with the desire of your Soul and provided an opportunity for your Soul to fulfill its purpose. It’s a perspective that will be helpful to you.
You don’t even have to know what your Soul’s purpose is. When you find yourself challenged by life, just ask—if this is an opportunity for my Soul to fulfill its purpose, what do I do? How do I interact with this challenge from the perspective of Soul? I think you’ll find that the perspective of your Soul opens up possibilities you had not considered.

#352 Warrior Training

Pay attention to what you like. Notice what pleases you.
There are an awful lot of disturbing things in our lives. There are things that irritate or confuse or frighten us—people, situations, our own internal landscape—and they all call for our attention. But paying too much attention to these will cause us to become unbalanced and ungrounded.

Rather, every day pay attention to what pleases you. You’ll be happier. You’ll be smarter. You’ll regain your balance. You’ll be grounded in present time. You’ll be truer to yourself, and you’ll be better able to deal with the other. The irritating things won’t necessarily go away, but you will have returned to yourself, and that will change everything.

This isn’t about sticking your head in the sand and pretending that disturbing things aren’t there. This is warrior training. This is you building strength—strength to live your life as well as you want to; strength to engage with the challenges of the world; strength to heal your past traumas; strength to be courageous.
A challenge: keep track of the amount of time you spend focused on what doesn’t please you, whether in the world around you or in your internal world. Then spend DOUBLE that amount of time focusing on what you like, on what pleases you.
Perhaps you’ll become aware that you’ve been ruminating about your disruptive neighbor, or worrying about your ill spouse. For how long? Don’t judge yourself! Just spend double the amount of time focusing on things that please you.
Perhaps you’ll become aware that while on the phone with a friend, you spent a lot of time complaining about the government. How much time? Spend double that amount of time focusing on things that you like.
Or perhaps you’ll take an inventory at the end of the day and come up with the number of minutes that day you spent focused on things that don’t please you. Then spend double that amount of time focusing on things that do please you. You get the picture.
You’ll probably find that this isn’t as easy as you might imagine. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge! Accept this challenge, and do it every day for two weeks. Write to me, tell me how it goes.

#350 Forgiveness?

Here’s one more thing about forgiveness — I don’t really believe in it.
 
If you’ve been reading these notes for a very long time, you may remember a previous discussion of forgiveness in which I said that forgiveness is a religious concept, one that I’m not particularly interested in. Let me see if I can explain.
 
Imagine a web to which every living being — past, present, and future, this universe and others — is connected. Maybe call it the Web of Life, or the Web of Being, or the Web of Becoming. Maybe it’s the Web of Enlightenment. Maybe even it’s the Web of Unconditional Love. It’s an interconnected and active Web. And it’s a sensitive Web — a disturbance on the Web in one place can ripple out and cause jostling in seemingly entirely disparate parts of the Web.
 
Let’s say I’m jostled by someone. Someone, either intentionally or unintentionally, disturbs me. Given the nature of the Web of Being, there’s really no way to know the origins of the jostling. There’s no way for me to know the antecedents of the jostling I experience. But I can know this — the chances of the disturbance originating with the person/thing who jostled me are so slim as to be impossible. And if there is no way to know the origin of the jostling, how can I possibly take it personally? How can I possibly blame the jostler? What, then, is there to forgive?
 
I am a resident of the Great Web — the Web of constant movement, of expanding and contracting energy. The Web of wild fluctuations, from smooth and calm to hugely eruptive. All of my experiences on the Great Web offer instruction for the fulfillment of my becoming. What, then, is the role of forgiveness? If I look to assign blame, I only remove my awareness from my own becoming. If I take another’s actions personally, I turn my back on all the possibilities available on Great Web of Change and Becoming.
 
So arises a question — if movement on the Great Web has origins in the deep past or even in the distant future, what about holding people accountable? More to the point, does the nature of the Web absolve me of responsibility for my actions?
 
No. Holding myself accountable for my own actions (thoughts, intentions, beliefs, desires, expectations, etc.) is a way I can strengthen my equilibrium on the ever moving Web of Creation. Accountability is paramount. With accountability, and the awareness it requires and the equilibrium it results in, it is conceivable that I can learn to navigate my way around the web. Imagine where I might go! Imagine what I might learn! What I might do! Who I might become!
 
To me, forgiveness personalizes experiences that are essentially mysterious. Rather than forgive, I choose to accept all jostling, no matter how egregious, as new lessons in my learning to dance along the Great Web.
 
It is also clear to me that this idea of the Great Web requires unconditional acceptance, which might be kin to unconditional love, the discussion of which started this peroration.
 
But what if I’m way off base? What if forgiveness is everything religions say it is? What if it is more? Well, I have surrendered to Willingness. As I learn to dance along the Web, I will no doubt discover many things.
 
I want to thank my friend Jeff Nygaard for his correspondence about forgiveness. He nudged me to find language that has long eluded me.

#350 Forgiveness?

Here’s one more thing about forgiveness — I don’t really believe in it.
 
If you’ve been reading these notes for a very long time, you may remember a previous discussion of forgiveness in which I said that forgiveness is a religious concept, one that I’m not particularly interested in. Let me see if I can explain.
 
Imagine a web to which every living being — past, present, and future, this universe and others — is connected. Maybe call it the Web of Life, or the Web of Being, or the Web of Becoming. Maybe it’s the Web of Enlightenment. Maybe even it’s the Web of Unconditional Love. It’s an interconnected and active Web. And it’s a sensitive Web — a disturbance on the Web in one place can ripple out and cause jostling in seemingly entirely disparate parts of the Web.
 
Let’s say I’m jostled by someone. Someone, either intentionally or unintentionally, disturbs me. Given the nature of the Web of Being, there’s really no way to know the origins of the jostling. There’s no way for me to know the antecedents of the jostling I experience. But I can know this — the chances of the disturbance originating with the person/thing who jostled me are so slim as to be impossible. And if there is no way to know the origin of the jostling, how can I possibly take it personally? How can I possibly blame the jostler? What, then, is there to forgive?
 
I am a resident of the Great Web — the Web of constant movement, of expanding and contracting energy. The Web of wild fluctuations, from smooth and calm to hugely eruptive. All of my experiences on the Great Web offer instruction for the fulfillment of my becoming. What, then, is the role of forgiveness? If I look to assign blame, I only remove my awareness from my own becoming. If I take another’s actions personally, I turn my back on all the possibilities available on Great Web of Change and Becoming.
 
So arises a question — if movement on the Great Web has origins in the deep past or even in the distant future, what about holding people accountable? More to the point, does the nature of the Web absolve me of responsibility for my actions?
 
No. Holding myself accountable for my own actions (thoughts, intentions, beliefs, desires, expectations, etc.) is a way I can strengthen my equilibrium on the ever moving Web of Creation. Accountability is paramount. With accountability, and the awareness it requires and the equilibrium it results in, it is conceivable that I can learn to navigate my way around the web. Imagine where I might go! Imagine what I might learn! What I might do! Who I might become!
 
To me, forgiveness personalizes experiences that are essentially mysterious. Rather than forgive, I choose to accept all jostling, no matter how egregious, as new lessons in my learning to dance along the Great Web.
 
It is also clear to me that this idea of the Great Web requires unconditional acceptance, which might be kin to unconditional love, the discussion of which started this peroration.
 
But what if I’m way off base? What if forgiveness is everything religions say it is? What if it is more? Well, I have surrendered to Willingness. As I learn to dance along the Web, I will no doubt discover many things.
 
I want to thank my friend Jeff Nygaard for his correspondence about forgiveness. He nudged me to find language that has long eluded me.

#349 Forgiveness

You may remember that recently I said, “I’d like to master unconditional love. What will my practice look like? Gratitude will play a big role, of that I’m sure.
I thought, “I’ve got this! Gratitude’s groovy, easy. fun. No Problem!”
Then unconditional love looked me in the eye and told me it wasn’t going to be quite that easy, that there is more to mastering unconditional love than the groovy practice of gratitude. There is forgiveness. 
 
I’ve long described forgiveness like this: acknowledge the transgression; accept that it happened; release it. But unconditional love taught me that there’s a step I’d neglected to include in my formula for forgiveness: love the transgressor. 
What? Love the transgressor? Love the perpetrator? Now wait just a minute! Not only that, but sometimes the transgressor is me! Love me? Even though I was the transgressor? Oh dear.
It’s a tall order, but I’ve been working on it. And while I may not yet be able to actually love the transgressor, be it me or another, I have come to the point where I can honestly say that I am willing to love the transgressor. I have surrendered to willingness, and I’m curious to see where it will take me. I’ll let you know!

#346 Happiness

Happiness never ever leaves us; it does not abandons us; it never withdraws. It is we who leave it. And it is we who can can return to it.
Happiness remains, even when we’re not aware of it. There certainly are times when happiness is not really appropriate—when we’re deep in grief, or fear, or sadness, or anger. Yet happiness is always there, leaning against our backs, always keeping in close contact. It’s there when we need it, when we’re able to turn towards it, able to take it up and dance with it again.
The knowledge that happiness remains with us through it all can bring a touch of sweetness, an awareness of love, to our grief or anger or even fear.
And there are times when we truly forsake happiness—when we’re tangled up with too much useless thinking; when we’re caught up in being judgmental; when we’re stuck in self-loathing; when we’re mired in addiction. I’m sure you can add to that list! Nonetheless, happiness remains in close contact, always there should we decide to choose it.
Can you feel it? It’s there, at your shoulder. Always.