Growing Up

I heard once, of raising children, “The first 40 years are the hardest.” That could certainly be said of me for my parents, ha!

Last night, I posted on ye ol’ Facebook the invite to my “Forty Fabulous Forty!” birthday party, and I’m getting so excited. I can’t say what an amazing year this has been, to go through the last of what has been consistently traumatic family interaction to arrive at today. As I’ve said, it sorrows me that the successful solution seems to be estrangement, but I’m so consistently happy and productive since I struck out in this new way – giving up and giving in – that I must also conclude, again, that it was the right thing to do. It has given me precisely what Pema Chödrön promised it would: softening. I feel so much better!

Today, a passage in her book, “When Things Fall Apart/ Heart Advice for Difficult Times,” struck me with such peace and clarity that I have to quote the whole segment. I haven’t picked it up for months, so the timing was incredible, with my much-anticipated 40th merely 10 days away. (Or not incredible at all, really. 🙂 )

“When we feel squeezed, there’s a tendency for the mind to become small. We feel miserable, like a victim, like a pathetic, hopeless case. Believe it or not, at that moment of hassle or bewilderment or embarrassment, our minds could become bigger. Instead of taking what’s occurred as a statement of personal weakness or someone else’s power, instead of feeling we are stupid or someone else is unkind, we could drop all the complaints about ourselves and others. We could be there, feeling off guard, not knowing what to do, just hanging out there with the raw and tender energy of the moment. This is the place where we begin to learn the meaning behind the concepts and the words.

We’re so used to running from discomfort, and we’re so predictable. If we don’t like it, we strike out at someone or beat up on ourselves. We want to have security and certainty of some kind when actually we have no ground to stand on at all.

The next time there’s no ground to stand on, don’t consider it an obstacle. Consider it a remarkable stroke of luck. We have no ground to stand on, and at the same time it could soften and inspire us. Finally, after all these years, we could truly grow up. As Trungpa Rinpoche once said, the best mantra is, ‘OM – grow up – swaha.’

Finally! I am growing up. Phew! I held on to the mantra, “NOT FAIR!” for too long.

I have no ground to stand on but this ground, this beautiful earth, and I’m on it!
I’M FORTY!!!!!

“Having been so dissatisfied with my own and the world’s shortcomings, I would have thought myself a suicide by 30.” -Alice Walker

first 40 years
It was my therapist who said it. 🙂 She was right.

Tonglen

I’ve just been introduced to the concept of Tonglen. In real time, my life is changed.

Tonglen instructs us to take IN suffering, injustice, rape, starvation, violence, filth, misunderstanding and heartache, and to breathe out understanding, connectedness, sameness, wellness, wholeness, a hand, love. I believe this practice can coexist with prior lessons I’ve learned on healing myself, which were to breathe in healing to the place that hurts – on the body, the mind, the spirit – and breathe out the rancor of pain.

It’s human nature to avoid things that sting. (It was a smart evolutionary trick. We’re still here.) We see all the time the disastrous consequences of turning a blind eye, but it’s what we tend to do when faced with discomfort. Tonglen says, instead, NO. Look at the perverse, hideous nature of pain. Take it. Feel it. Breathe it.

Tonglen makes me feel more related to everyone on the planet than I ever have before. We all know the alienation of fear and misunderstanding. In this life and in generations past, we have been the victims AND the perpetrators of crime. I breathe in pain, in solidarity with those who suffer right now. I breathe in pain because I know it. I breathe out relief in solidarity. I breathe out relief because I know it.

I know relief! Mine is yours. I’ll feel differently one day, but right now my peace is yours.
heart advice

Pema Chödrön

Pema Chödrön

Sideways on A Course In Miracles

I’m not a terribly ambitious girl, but when I make up my mind to do something I do it. I’ve had the book, “A Course In Miracles,” for years. It was a gift from a friend in the 90s, for heaven’s sake. I’m a fan of books on inner peace, so I kept “meaning to,” in my fashion, and finally decided to git ‘er done.

42 lessons in, I’m faltering. This morning is the first I’ve asked myself if this is really something I consider important for the entire year. The resistance I felt in the beginning was expected, according to the author, and I tend to be an adversarial person. (“That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” often escapes my lips before I’ve really listened.) So I gave it a pass and kept going.

Every morning as I read, however, I find myself confronting my former struggle against the likelihood of God as some kind of Puppet Master, who grants or withholds assurances and warm fuzzies based on our behavior. Why does any pursuit of peace and kindess toward one another have to involve any “Him”? It no longer sends me into paroxysms of panic… but it annoys me.

I like Jesus. He seems more tangible. I love him, actually. I want to be like him. Jesus wouldn’t accuse someone of stupidity just because he disgreed. I admire that. I don’t need to know or profess or even care if he died for me. Whether he did or didn’t, I expect the same thing when I die (love, the unknown). I believe in Christlike loving-kindness. I believe in acceptance. I’m not threatened by not knowing. But it does make it harder to proceed on a process of self-improvement and tolerance when it’s stated in terms of God the Father.

Now, the authors again preempted this resistance. It was one author’s description of herself (“psychologist, educator, … atheistic in belief”) and the appalling work relationship she shared with her department head that made me excited in the first place to finally begin this study. They were colleagues in a “prestigious and highly academic setting” whose acrimonious regard for one another prompted her boss to insist on a different course. They didn’t necessarily anticipate The Course, but that’s what developed.

Her method of coming by the text further helped sway me. She described it as a kind of automatic writing (though she expressly says it wasn’t automatic, because “it could be interrupted at any time and later picked up again”). I fully believe in automatic writing. I find it to be one of the most effective ways to tap into our psychic unconscious. Just as some excel at Math or sports, others’ psychic gifts are naturally more ready. I think automatic writing can be a universal baseline for all of us to connect to our own personal source (and find, as I did, our individual cheerleading squad). (“My angels”) Her experience was like mine. It took her by surprise. The language that came with it was certainly unexpected. (Although Mormons believe in angels, they’re not commonplace in casual discussion.)

At first I imagined that the scribe who took this “inner dictation” for the Course might be channeling an old spirit guide. Mediums say all the time that persons from different eras speak “thee and thou,” say, (The Course does not) or that they sometimes have to tell the soft-spoken to speak up. They even struggle with the accents of those they “meet.”

I thought, “If an atheist can open her mind to the possibility of paranormal gifts, certainly I can open my mind to the lingo she employs to convey her message. It’s just nomenclature, for god’s sake.” (hehe)

A Course In Miracles excuses the language of the lessons, such as “I am blessed as a Son of God,” saying, “Although Christian in statement, the Course deals with universal spiritual themes.” Sold! That’s me to a T. I’m a western girl. Christianity is a default. Quite by accident, and not even wanting to, I found that I’m intensely spiritual in a very unorthodox, universal way. But I feel like I’m reading the scriptures every day! Why not simply say every blessed morning, “I am blessed”?

I find that just as you are holy, so am I. Life is holy. That belief is contained in The Course as well, but when she says, The Holy Spirit,” I feel sick. In my gut, sick. For me, that one little article, capital “The,” is so alienating and sanctimonious. It actually has the opposite effect. It wholly separates me from this holy thing, and I just don’t think that’s real. I truly believe we are all connected. For me, “The Holy Anything” implies that we’re not.

I continued on, in faith that when she got past the building blocks and into the meat, it would be more “edifying,” as they say. Then I got to today. I had the thought, “I did this already.” Period. My whole childhood was hoping, reading, praying that it would occur to me like it occurred to everyone else. It didn’t. It occurred to me like it occurred to me. I can tell you the day I stepped on the path to my personal peace. (“What I Know”) It was awesome. It was hilarious. God or Whomever is funny!

A Course In Miracles is from the Foundation For Inner Peace. I don’t find it here. Others do. My friend, for example, and one of my favorite authors, Marianne Williamson. I’m willing to read on, accepting that I’ve taken this Course in another form and may drop this version at any time. I’ll keep an open mind. In fact, I want to explore that resistance a bit, in case there’s something to it I’m not seeing yet. But today, rather than simply encountering opposition, I understood that I have, in fact, already done this. And that’s okay.

I’m simultaneously reading a book by Pema Chödrön that gives me so much pleasure, hope and insight. She inspires me and makes me laugh. I didn’t know Buddhists could say “shit.” Even when times are shitty.

I’d rather know that Eber begat Peleg than read these scriptures. The Old Testament at least seems plausible as a historical document that betrays its time and place and the values of that day. A Course In Miracles seems pretentious. And boring as shit!

As for insisting others take my view, lest they be stupid, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

(… I made it 72 days and simply could not continue. Didactic bombast!)