Perception, Intuition


“Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”
 – A Course in Miracles 

Within this open context, time is doing funny things, not arranging itself in the ways I think it should, in order to convey the stories I want to tell. So, although I would like to write about the intuition webinar attended last night, and the categories of intuitive types given, I’m about to describe a moment wandering down a grocery market aisle instead. : )

As practice ground, you can’t do much better than the grocery store. On one occasion, it is a land of possibilities… angelic beings and sparkling, edible jewels. On another, it is a swampy place, full of dead things and hungry ghosts. Either way, it is fascinating to walk one’s mind there, see what is involved in choice-making, degrees of planning vs. spontaneity, envy, embarrassment, guilt, pride, expectation.

After many years taking care of others and a home, I reached a point where the grocery was a place I mostly resented. It was symbolic of my time taken for granted, and an arrangement most convenient for corporations, more and more full of boxed items that represented a lazy and boring culture easily preyed upon.

Rather than seeing either a shiny sparkling world or a dark cave of challenges, all that I began to experience there was lifeless droning on. “How many hours had the people I was seeing spent gathering potato chips into their baskets? Did they satisfy? What about me? Is this actual sushi? Look at our bodies, everyone hobbling in one form or another, hunched, tired, stomach’s protruding, working so hard to keep from asking where we might be, what we might be doing…” And this, and that.

One day though, stuck in a particularly long moment of observation, trying to find enlightened choices to make in the meat aisle, I heard wordlessly but so clearly,

“However terrible anything is, it is worse (for you) to add poison with (your) aversion.”   

Ouch. I felt seen, and exactly when and where I didn’t want to be seen. I stood corrected, and confused. Wasn’t I doing what was needed and what I should be doing, seeing through the systems of the world? Wasn’t I discerning the way attachment remains to patterns serving another time? Would anything change if we don’t all admit that what we are collectively doing is insane?

Isn’t being willing to see things the way they are, as bad as they are, part of my part in waking?

It is hard to describe the discomfort of this course correction. My first response was to argue with it, as in the dialog above. I live for bright and striking, ‘positive’ and empowering insights, and this did not fit. Also, my reactions were not technically wrong.

The answer is, this discomfiting line has worked on me deeply for a long while now, subtly, genuinely, naturally changing ways of being…  in the grocery and out, when encountering some I might at first find crass or offensive, even eventually, myself. It walked right past all my arguments and planted itself in the open place I’d reserved for “Not my will but Thine.”

It is about dropping judgement, genuinely acknowledging other as self without getting hung up on projections. A Course in Miracles would say, it is about atonement. Judgment is a second arrow not constructive for miracles… miracles being shifts of perception, toward openness, back to love. Aversion is a closed door.

A Course in Miracles, day one

I’ve gotten a little off-track from the intention for this blog, which is to share concisely, positively, and outwardly. ‘Outwardly’ is the hardest part, since I’m a walking contradiction in terms: a highly social introvert. ^.^

That is why I began this practice of Smile Lines… something like a tweet, or a flash of a smile at a stranger, but leaving myself a bit more wiggle room.

So, I won’t share from A Course in Miracles every day, but occasionally will say something, since I’m making it a practice for 2017. Please note: not a belief system, a practice. I’m try-and-see-ing; I simply feel pulled toward this now. 🙂

Although i find some of the lines and exercises in A Course in Miracles irritating at first, many resonate strongly and immediately.

Like:

  1. There is no order of difficulty in miracles. One is not “harder” or “bigger” than another. They are all the same. All expressions of love are maximal.
  2. Miracles as such do not matter. The only thing that matters is their Source, Which is far beyond evaluation.
  3. Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.(snip)
  1. Miracles are a kind of exchange. Like all expressions of love, which are always miraculous in the true sense, the exchange reverses the physical laws. They bring more love both to the giver and the receiver.
    [this is actually #9. Full list is on Wikipedia]
  2. The miracle is a learning device that lessens the need for time. It establishes an out-of-pattern time interval not under the usual laws of time. In this sense it is timeless.

To this list I will add one from my own experience:

Miracles are like dreams.
They have no origin as such. They unpack forward and backward, open on all sides. That may be why The Course describes them as pointing toward timelessness.

I’m going to find out. ^.^

Holy Triangle

I’ve decided to study The Course in Miracles in 2017. Actually, I’ve been studying it for a few months already, on the heels of reading The Universe Has Your Back. The perky, all-positive, Secret/Law of Attraction ‘motivational coach voice’ of some materials leading up to ACIM has been a slight stumbling block for me, but ACIM itself does not add that.

Don’t get me wrong, the ‘coach voice’ can help at times, however it can also feel too packaged for the masses, too distant, to be especially intimate toward. I guess we come back to the ‘teacher vs. coach’ theme again.

So far, ACIM reminds me of Abhidharma, which is mind-training, in Buddhism.. a methodical system for questioning the world as it appears to us. ACIM is highly individual in application because the daily exercises are especially unusual and koan-like, but far more bothersome than koans, which often have an nice aesthetic or story characters to project into. Most of the 16 ACIM exercises I’ve done so far, are uncomfortable in a very different way.

Actually, let’s face it. I’m seriously resistant to many of them. There is also a way of Christian language I shed a long time ago, which I am now working at incorporating in with a new openness. After all, it wasn’t Jesus I bracketed, but what churches seemed to have become.

Obviously I’m not only bothered, but  fascinated by all of this as well, and with tools I’ve been picking up that feel fun, comforting, highly playful — the most recent being a symbol of the Brazilian John of the Cross community. I haven’t learned how to work with it yet, but did enjoy making mine this weekend, decorating with embellishments that are meaningful to me, like pearls. Most of those I saw in a quick scan of images online were very plain, but invested childlike wonder in the process.

“Take the work seriously, and your self not seriously at all.”
– Judy Dench as quoted by Alan Rickman

holy-triangle

Perhaps my favorite line of The Universe Has Your Back (which may have come from ACIM) is, “When you think you’ve surrendered, surrender more.” This comes down to the heart longing of “Not my way but Yours”, with that ‘Yours’ in the language of ACIM being God, or in Gabby’s book Universe (or God interchangeably). For others it could be Higher Self, or Flying Spaghetti MonsterI like simply, Life, but more and more, the Holy Spirit is also coming forward in a personal way, restoring and including the faith of my youth, whose naivete’ I’d mostly abandoned, but missed.

What I think humanity’s been moving toward for some time is non-duality, which sort of means negated dualitistic thinking (each side negated by the other), leaving a third way open, a middle way. However, the phrase middle way could be taken to mean some compromise or tolerance between the dualities, which is farther away from the mark than the transcendent notion of a play dynamic. In ACIM, it is a dynamic of Three.

You also see this three-fold vision in major traditions (Buddha Dharma Sangha [could be elaborated on in several directions]; Father Son Holy Spirit; Time Space Knowledge; Body Speech Mind); I think it is like the Super Self vs. No Self teachings — whatever resonates.

Both. Neither.

Peaceful Revolution

Finished a book today, titled Peaceful Revolution.

This is a book I’ve had on my Kindle for well over a year, purchased in a thrill of finding Paul K. Chappell on social media after years of lightly asking around, something like, “Well, he’s a soldier with an interesting multiracial background, had a talk on Book TV after the Iraq War, focusing on peace, but not in a hippy dippy way?” I’d done a few searches and couldn’t remember his full name, instead coming up with someone else. So I’d, once in a while, remember to send out a searchlight again. I’ve been surprised that more in my circle aren’t familiar with him, when his voice on matters of peace, in the world and in ourselves, seems so unique and needed.

It was a YouTube shared on Facebook, from a friend from Hungary, living in South Africa, who I met in a virtual world, that finally gave me the missing piece. All I had needed was the K!

😉 Okay, so none of that says anything about the book, but I have come away with the impression that any of his, I think 5, books, will put forth the same core feeling and ideas, so it may be better to simply remember his name, Paul K. Chappell. He is someone whose writing casts a wide net, referencing rather well-known figures and quoting liberally, so he’s accessible, and his one-liners memorable, yet I wouldn’t call him a ‘coach’ using the distinction I made in my Permission post recently. I would call him a visionary teacher, because there is a new sort of, dimensional idea, beneath the deceptively simple lessons and charts that work well for a presentation at a high school or within a peace group.

Although making the case that the strong and gentle-hearted warrior ideal has been personified throughout time, I think that when you introduce a figure interpreted so differently, or lost to the current narrative for too long, the word ‘new’ can be correct.

Studying Buddhism, one of the teachers I fell in love with quickly was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. His insights immediately resonated deeply, especially his truly daring playfulness, and questioning of given limits. However when I learned about warrior-minded practices he led the Shambhala community through, it was a puzzle. “How can we embody nonviolence in the images of violence?” It seemed so clear then, that what was needed was to unlearn the military way of thinking entirely.

Yet, I knew I had my own baggage, and that there was more than what I was seeing, so I left the question open.

Around this time, the Book TV talk with Paul I encountered helped me see some bridges, making a good case for folding discipline back into my thinking, including military style discipline where appropriate in organizing service to others, as a part of the message of greater awareness and awakening. Although this book helped to lodge this understanding more deeply, there remain some hesitations.

I need to say that what moved my heart about Peaceful Revolution were the portions of the book about Paul’s childhood… the backstory of his life that made it extremely unlikely he would live his life as an activist to end war/ nuclear nonproliferation. I was struck several times by the way he wrote about his tendencies toward rage and bouts with despair, in present tense. I’m used to authors describing how they overcame their struggles (because why else do people write books these days, but to sell solutions?), but tears came to my eyes whenever he expressed his deeply real and ongoing sense of uncertainty. I wanted to reach back to him and share stories from my own background in kind, but I realized, this is what the book was meant to tap into. I’m sure he included such hard personal struggles with that kind of generosity, knowing what might be evoked in readers.

There are things I miss about spiritual community life, like when people entrust their deepest fears and the stories of their darkest times to the Larger Context (Sangha, Body of Christ), as prayer. So I’ll work on articulating mine better along the way.

I come away from Peaceful Revolution with practical tools and insights, and a more full sense of what is possible for peace in a practical sense,but to be honest, the real gift is to feel to have connected with a true and still aspiring Human.

Healing Happens

There are matters one whittles away at for such long periods of time that the process moves into the background, taking new shape as a sort of ongoing half trance. It is a natural process of giving over complexities to a deeper than calculated way, I think, but can sap energy if continuing too long, missing a next or deeper step within that natural process … an even deeper surrender. Without that, there can be stagnation, paralysis.

This was the case for me since separating from my husband of over 20 years… reliving the whys and wherefores, the what-ifs and where-we-went-wrongs, answering for the relationship’s seeming failure, especially the financial and emotional challenges that have resulted, to crowds of imaginary people in my mind. I’ve found it hard to give the two of us as characters, much tenderness, categorizing our mistakes as careless, stupid, short-sighted, preventable, always with an underlying sub-text that blame leaned slightly more his way than mine.

We all want to do better going forward, and help others avoid situations we’ve come to see the paths to so nakedly.

My son asked me a question this week, about finances and investments. I’ve been apologetic toward he and his sisters, imagining what I would have liked to be able to do for and with them at these stages of their lives… embarrassed to have a sense of how close we were at one time. Even if I also have conviction that the changes were for the rightest reasons that could be apprehended at the time, and even if there is little question we are happier, more settled, and in the long term, healthier than then, there is also little question that meeting day to day needs is more of a challenge than if we had given more time, held on longer.

Upon my son’s question, I began to describe the thinking when we first began… the plans, the larger visions behind them. Nothing happens on one level. There were reasonings and calculations, but also values at the core of what we now know was our expanding too fast. From the tiny apartment, to the larger townhouse, to the leap we made in buying a ‘money pit’ of an improvement project in the best neighborhood we could management. From the low interest rates and 15-not-30 year mortgage, to the 5 year plan that would allow us to move closer to the dream situation… how thoughtful and careful we were, banking on the energy of our desire and ambition.

To be honest, I was impressed with us. Even as I listened to myself describe where we went wrong, like purchasing hurricane shutters and a much too large dining set on credit, and even knowing that we were never too far gone to have recovered, but that our miserable communication skills eventually prevented progression. As I went on, a huge, joyful feeling bubbled up as I described the condition of the house when we first bought it… how we’d put every spare cent and second into improvements…  learning by doing, including installing a much complimented new kitchen for nearly nothing, taking down the horrendous mirrored wall and dated mural from the 1980’s. I found myself smiling, speaking of us with great affection and compassion, laughing a little.

So here is what I realized: I had forgiven us, but had no idea that was the case. Somewhere along the way, there had been a softening. The truth was, is, that I love those two people, with their stubbornness and energetic dreams. I love their ideals… their hearts… so deeply. Even amidst the display of all that catastrophe, all that began to fill my being was was, “Thank You.” “Thank You, Thank You… Thank You, Thank You, Thank You” as we continued to drive along.

Permission

On the way to school, bored by the current list of updated podcasts on my i-Pad, my son opened Kindle to read aloud from whatever happened to appear. In this case, it was Gabrielle Bernstein’s book The Universe Has Your Back. Gabrielle is pretty new to me and at first struck me as overly perky — as though she was me 15 or so years ago, before big challenges to positive manifestation/faith teachings — but, that reflected some underlying cynicism way more my issue to work with than hers. Gabby is indeed energetic and fast-talking in a way that I am when off-kilter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she is off-kilter too. 🙂

My son began to read a portion of the book that describes Gabby’s friend Lance’s story of coming to terms with feelings of intellectual inadequacy, but it was hard for him to take seriously. The writing is simple, in a kind of “On my summer vacation we went to the beach…” type of formula that has frustrated him in school for eighteen years. I laughed; his take was funny and not exactly untrue.

Then I heard myself say what I myself needed to hear.

In general there are differences between teachers and coaches. With a teacher, the idea is often to be taught something you don’t know, to be shown something you don’t see, gain a new way of doing something. With a coach, you already know what they are telling you, but they stir you and bring what is known and needed to the forefront of your mind, so that you can enact it yourself.

“Lance” seems generic and vague because he is meant to be. He is a template of sorts, not meant to take you out of yourself the way literature does. Like, Gabby described a copy-editor that continually neglected to send her invoice in one of the chapters before, and I laughed with relief because that copy-editor was figuratively, me. Too many specifics about this copy-editor and I may not have been able to project myself into her story.

There is permission here.

I’m someone often reading a few books at a time, one almost always being a spiritual motivational book of some sort, which might sit right next to a Stalin biography, and an obscure Tibetan text. Each has its place and benefit.

10 Day Actors Challenge

This turned out to be a productive and therapeutic process, although it took me about 17 days instead of 10 or 11, and although I’m not an Actor by profession. Indeed, I’m always hard pressed to answer when asked what my profession is, since career has always appeared for me embedded within ever-changing contexts of opportunities and interests that arise, often in contrast to whatever it is I am seeking. In the last decade, career has centered around research and writing, but even then, not in a straight forwardly easily-marketable way.

So I took this as an ‘artistic activity’ challenge and found the format of the program – which includes a central question (this time about ‘power’) every day, meditation, timed and un-timed writings, creative expression, physical activity, and giving – deeply satisfying. I’ve participated in and facilitated online retreat type programs before, and this measured against those very well in terms of inspiring long term habit formation.

Plus, it came at just the right time.

More than half way through the program, already hooked into the practice, the US election arrived; most of my feelings displaced themselves for safe keeping while my intellect worked to catch up. I didn’t do the work on the Wednesday following the election, but maybe I picked it up again Thursday, going through motions while waiting for emotions to fully return.

I’m not sure I’ve been ‘that’ thrown since the morning of 9.11.2001.

When I finally let myself turn inward, handing over the reigns to these wonderful facilitators, the tears came. And kept coming. Guidance began to stir ever so slightly within deep vulnerability, freeing up another part of me to more directly desire the struggle, to find my bounce and form words, nourishing what I needed to begin, to rise.