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Archive for July, 2013

 

I am finishing out the month on the topic of sadness.  This is one that I’ve written taking a lighthearted approach into the paradox of sadness … enjoy!

Sadness is present.  It was one of my former mentors who instructed us to state it just like that, in lieu of: I am sad. The ‘I am’ statement being one that married or joined you to sadness.

It’s just that ‘sadness is present’ has a sound akin to taking roll in class where Sadness sheepishly answers from the back row, “present”.  I wish that all my Sadnesses were in the back row, sheepish and barely audible.  Yet this one feels as if it’s in the front row and it’s cleared out the entire row for itself.

Actually, I am hoping that Sadness takes a bathroom break because Mischief has plans.  The plan is to stick a big thick wad of gum on Sadness’ seat.  That way when the bell rings, Sadness will be stuck there.  Ah, well now, Mischief has just been nudged by Wisdom and Kindness.  They say,  “All our emotions have a place here.”  “But why does Sadness have to take up an entire front row?” I argue.

“It wants to be noticed and embraced like Humor is.  It wants to see you welcome it the way you do when Joy bounces in the room.  It wants to see your face light up the way it does when Surprise and Delight saunter in.  It wants to be acknowledged just for who it is, not shunned.  It wants to be first-picked to play in the game, not last.  It takes up an entire row just to tell you, it has a right to be here.  And while you have a right to ignore Sadness, in doing so, you lose out on the full technicolor experience of living.”

Mischief never did put that wad of gum on Sadness’ seat.  Eventually Sadness sat in the center of the room, surrounded, embraced even, by all emotion.  There was one day in particular when the whole class voted on the Emotion of the Quarter.  Everyone picked Sadness.  Sadness, flanked by all its Friends, beamed with pride as it accepted the award.  It never sat alone in the back again nor cleared out an entire front row.  It was content to simply Be.

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“It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living.  Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing. 

That is why the sadness passes: the new presence inside us, the presence that has been added, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there, – is already in our bloodstream.  And we don’t know what it was.  We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes.  We can’t say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens.

And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the seemingly uneventful and motionless moment when our future steps into us is so much closer to life than that other loud and accidental point of time when it happens to us as if from outside.  The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadnesses, the more deeply and serenely the new presence can enter us, and the more we can make it our own, the more it becomes our fate.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Rarely am I ever speechless, but this is as close it gets.  I wept when I read this.  It is expressed so perfectly and eloquently, as if no one has ever had anything meaningful to say on the topic of our sadnesses until now.

If you liked this piece, go give some love to the Facebook page of “Rainer Maria Rilke”, because this is where I transcribed it from.  I have many books by Rilke, but I have never come across this piece before … beyond, beyond exquisite!

I’ve experienced a great sadness recently and I’ve really reached out to no one.  At times I wanted to pick up that phone, but I didn’t, I just knew it wasn’t what I needed.  My husband is out of town, too, so not even him to turn to.  And now I know, this has all been orchestrated for me to spend moments like I just did in the solitude of my back porch, reading Rilke, framed by the overhanging of our steadfast red mountain cedar.  Sure I could have commiserated with others, but I knew I had been touched in ways I could not yet understand, nor make sense of, nor find a solution for. 

I also knew there was a light, there was the “sunny hill” that my eyes had already touched, as Rilke writes in The Walk.   And I would be guided, even as I set out seemingly alone, I called upon all my guides and angels to be with me.  I was, as always, answered, in so many ways and continue to be.

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A bug climbs on a stalk of grain near Kumanovo

There is not a flower that opens,

not a seed that falls into the ground,

and not an ear of wheat

that nods on the end of its stalk in the wind

that does not preach and proclaim

the greatness and the mercy of God to the whole world.

~Thomas Merton~

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What if you just arrived home to find a box sitting at your doorstep?  It has your name on it, but you don’t remember ordering anything.  You open it and inside is another box with a letter affixed to the front.  You open the letter, and it reads:

Dear One,

I have saved every one of your kindnesses that you have ever bestowed.  These are my sacred memories of you; they are my only memories of you.  It is what remains, when all else falls away.  This is the life and breath from which you were wrought. 

Oh my, how you have blossomed with the tenderness of every kindness.   Each kindness dropping like tiny bread crumbs from your hands, leaving a luminescent trail for all to walk in.

Open the box, sit, read and feast on the bounty of kindnesses you have committed.  These are the detailed notes I’ve been keeping all these years, every single, small, long forgotten kindness you have ever offered is here. 

You, my messenger of kindness, when I call you to your everlasting home, we’ll sit and read these together — with stars gathering at our feet, for their illumination has always been spun from the vestiges of human kindness.

“How can you who are so holy suffer?
All your past except its beauty is gone,
and nothing is left but a blessing.
I have saved all your kindnesses
and every loving thought you ever had…
They are beyond destruction and beyond guilt.
They came from the Holy Spirit within you,
and we know what God creates is eternal.
You can indeed depart in peace
because I have loved you as I loved myself.
You go with my blessing and for my blessing.
Hold it and share it, that it may always be ours.
I place the peace of God in your heart
and in your hands, to hold and share.
The heart is pure to hold it,
and the hands are strong to give it.”

excerpted from A Course in Miracles

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I went to see the movie After Earth – not my typical movie fare, but it appeared it may have a metaphysical slant, so it was worth a try.  The main character, portrayed by Jaden Smith, has a life and death mission to carry out, but in order to fulfill that mission he must put himself in danger with predators who will hunt and kill him.  However, these predators can’t actually see him, the only means they have of finding him is by smelling the pheromone he secretes whenever fear is present.

As it happens this flick is actually quite metaphysical in its approach!  Below I have appended some quotes interspersed with my comments.

“Fear is not real.

The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future.

It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist.

That is near insanity.

Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.

We are all telling ourselves a story and that day mine changed.”

This feels so true to me.  Few of us are in a position where we have to hunt and kill food for our survival any longer.  Few of us reading this blog, live in life or death circumstances on a regular basis.  Yet fear is a visitor in the lives of many of us, and if we pause in the moment that fear, worry, anxiety strikes — we might often find that it is a future based mental process, and has nothing to do with the present moment.

In Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inaugural address he is quoted as having said: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Sorry to disagree with you Mr. President, but no!  That’s just more fear.  You don’t eradicate fear by fearing it.  In fact, eradicating anything from our spiritual development is a useless practice.  Push against it and you’ll potentially get more circumstances to fear and push against.  “What you resist, persists.”

Now, here’s where I love the turn the film takes:  Jaden Smith’s Dad, portrayed by his real-life father Will Smith, tells his son when fear is present: “root yourself in this present moment now to sight, sound, smell”.  Fear, worry, anxiety is a very ungrounded future based place to hang out, so grounding yourself in the present moment and in the body, mindful of all the senses is perfect!

There’s one more oft repeated instruction Will Smith gives Jaden, and that is: “take a knee”.  This literally means drop to one knee.  In that moment that we “take a knee” we are closer to the earth and we have surrendered the control we thought we had, but never did.  The only function most of our day-to-day fears have is the illusion that it somehow will afford protection.   It makes our sphere a little smaller each time we indulge in it.

At the end of the movie, Jaden slays the predator who has stalked him, in true I-too-can-slay-the-Jabberwocky fashion.  He “conquers” his fear.   Yet there is nothing actually to be conquered, most of our Jabberwockies are not real after all.  Fear is not to be feared or conquered.  It’s only to be noticed for what it is — a future based thought process.  As we observe the fear talk, we can turn our attention back to the present moment, mindfully witnessing the sights, the sounds, the smells.  What does this present moment feel like when we drop the story, and drop into this moment now?

For more tips on grounding yourself to the present moment, read The Care & Feeding of YourSelf.  

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