My vanity would like to report that I am always on my best behavior, but I am not. When pressed socially—especially if I am tired or hungry—or I sense that someone is not being completely forthright with me, I become short-tempered. And, as my family knows, when my blood-sugar is low, all bets are off for any kind of smooth or verbally tactful social interaction. “Woe to the sentient being who comes between me and my food.”
After one of my low-blood-sugar scenes caused a tremendous amount of social damage, I went to see an alternative-care practitioner to assist with the process of rebalancing my system. I was in bad shape. My rice body was in a state of pronounced energetic mayhem and my emotions, if played like a chord, were in untuned dissonance.
Working through a series of appointments, I felt my more naturally calm demeanor return to me and my sense of grounded awareness expand. I also made a note to myself about booking these appointments for routine self-care and maintenance on a rolling basis, ideally, to prevent such circumstances in the future.
I write this to say, when any one of us encounters an apparently “imbalanced” stranger, friend or acquaintance only to have an awkward or painful social exchange, there are probably factors at work having nothing to do with “us” personally. Being a consistently responsible occupant of a rice body can be a big job. Be patient.
Our dog of two years, Alfred, has been with us since he was approximately ten weeks old. Alfred sees virtually every long-handled tool–brooms, mops, shovels, rakes, not to mention those mechanized beasts, vacuums–as a threat.
A broom can be resting, immobile in a corner on our deck and, if Alfred takes an interest in it, he will rush the static broom, nipping at its inactive bristles, until the long-handled tool finally comes crashing down.
All alone. By himself. Alfred has created an animated, demonic creature bent on getting him. And, sometimes, when he nips the bristles just right, the broom does smack him as it lands in a crash on the deck.
Before we had Alfred in our home, he spent two interim weeks in the home of a woman and her son, who were fostering him informally. They had collected Alfred from his birth home a few blocks away where, according to his foster mom’s report, Alfred was being abused. The children of that home/neighborhood were taking turns (politely) throwing Alfred (abusively) against an outdoor cement wall which ran along the edge of their yard.
Given Alfred’s singular relationship with long-handled tools, we postulate that this poor dog was most likely abused by an implement such as a broom or mop during his initial weeks on the planet. This is an experience held deep in his memory.
One reading of this narrative renders the mental image of a dog battling his inner demons by taking on an inanimate mop or broom almost comical; although, it is not comical. In reality, this is a profoundly heart-breaking story. As Alfred’s roommate, it is difficult to witness Alfred’s continued struggles with the live ghost of a memory which is over two years old.
Yet, in a larger sense, this is a tale about the manner in which many of us live our daily lives, battling the demons and ghosts of memories long gone by. How we view and interact with the world is not only impacted by our basic disposition, but it is also filtered through our deep and multi-layered life experiences.
As adults, the most important work we can do is to ensure that our old injuries heal over. Then, once healed over, we have an obligation to massage the ropiness out of these deep tissue wounds. It is the only way to emerge from the fire of life intact and be able to release the desire to do damage to someone or something else as a result of the pain we carry inside.
This is what I have learned regarding authentic guidance or leadings.
If we are in alignment with our highest Light and prepared to go the places the Divine hand would lead, not only are we able to unfold, but we are also able to offer a hand of assistance to others who are ready and waiting to unfold.
Everyone has a place at the head table on the dais–because it is God’s party. You are invited.
At some point into the third year of my intermittent guitar practice, I realize I will neither morph into Carlos Santana nor will I ever make the Rolling Stone’s top-fifty guitarists’ list. Regrettably, this realization dampens my inclination to pick up and practice guitar rather than causing me to redouble my efforts.
Soon, the fine dust, which sifts through every room of active living, begins to collect on the curvaceous edges of my old friend’s body and her polished surfaces. The only time my old friend is dusted off is when we have our irregular dates which tend to fall on three-day weekends and during the holiday season, when I still like to muddle through several of my favorite Christmas carols.
Less guitar practice produces more time for devotional meditation. Almost daily, during my devotional practice, I sit in silence waiting for some type of assignment to arise—whether it is an errand of selfless service or something having to do with selfcare. And, as these nudges regarding the directions of my time arise, I attempt to fulfill them.
Devotional work produces a tremendous amount of joy—whether it is handing-off a burrito to a homeless man, opening a door for someone with overly full arms or simply working in my yard to plant flowers. And, life experience has taught me to heed the wisdom of the timing, direction and instructions provide by Grace over my own limited and short-sighted sense.
Then, on one Christmas day while I am taking a quiet, solo walk through our neighborhood—five or six years and three states away from the time and place of my guitar’s acquisition, I happen upon two Latino men who are hard at work, putting the finishing touches on a front porch of intricately laid stone masonry.
The neighbors and neighborhood are tucked in and out of the cold, while enjoying friends and relatives-either here or afar. Thus, it is amazingly silent. My connectivity to the Universal Thread remains undisturbed amid the silence and what feels like an open channel, without a trace of static.
I wonder to myself whether or not I should return home to fetch these men some of the scones I have just baked, when another directive comes through quite clearly, “Go get your guitar.”
In terms of Divine guidance, this is one of those instances where my Adam’s apple does an actual chin up and a large cartoon bubble appears above my head with the word G-U-L-P spelled out in all caps. Stunned by the relative magnitude of the request, I decide to walk home quickly and follow through on my leading, before I can over think it. On the way home, I remember that earlier this morning I asked God to help me become a reliable agent of Christ’s Grace. If handing my guitar off to these men causes me to fulfill my own request, then this is what I must do.
At home, I dust off my guitar and place my old friend in her case. With the guitar and case in hand, I walk briskly back to the house where the men have been working during their off hours, laboriously rehabilitating this once damaged structure over the past several months. Without almost any words, the guitar is handed off. I watch as one of the men places my old friend in the semi-heated shell of the house. Then, walking more slowly, I make my way back home.
After reentering our front door, I peel off my coat so that I may return to my meditation cushion. I need and want to understand what has happened.
Intellectually, I know that the guitar is technically only an object. And, my guitar had certainly become an under-used and much neglected object. Yet, the degree of attachment that I had to the guitar was far more profound than I had anticipated, given the emotions I am dealing with upon its relinquishment. In working through some of my heart’s emotional discomfort, I remind myself about the importance of needing to trust—of practicing Trust.
Then, in a sliver of space between my milling thoughts, the Divine reassurance that I need comes, “The guitar will keep someone from seeking comfort in drugs or alcohol.”
With this reassurance, everything becomes a little brighter and my Spirit finally settles down. Happy Christmas to All!
“You live with that every day?” I ask in disbelief.
“Pretty much,” the man facing me acknowledges quietly.
Having bumped into a peripheral acquaintance, whom I know to be both reticent and kindly, we happen upon the conversational topic of “head noise,” while discussing the practice of formal meditation.
“Head noise” is the background soundtrack running like an accompanying bassline to our lives which many of us experience during mental downtime.
The soundbites for our individual soundtrack are often a jumble of statements or words from pivotal situations we have experienced with parents, extended family, guardians, peers or mentors. If we are fortunate enough to have had supportive people and circumstances around us, during our formative years, a positive internal soundtrack may actually function as part of a healthy support system, while we venture through life and, most especially, when we encounter difficult situations. Positive “head noise,” if you will, can actually function as the internal voice of encouragement which causes us to persevere in the face of adversity, while sustaining us.
Yet, many of us are challenged to proceed with our daily routines with a less-than-optimal soundtrack as a backdrop to our lives. Some of us are even working to swim upstream against a wholly unsupportive or abusive set of sentences and words, which are constantly trying to bleed through—even while we may be living what appear to be extraordinary lives with an externally charmed set of circumstances.
“How do you manage to behave in manner so contrary to what is going on in your head?” I finally ask the man with whom I have been talking.
“Well,” the man replies thoughtfully “I figure, why harm someone else? I know these words are my parents’ words and that they have done enough harm to me already. I know where these sentences are from. Why should I visit these painful words—my pain—on someone else?”
“Do you ever get any relief from this soundtrack?” I ask him out of compassion.
“No, not really,” he responds matter-of-factly.
It is late in the day. It is time to go.
We say a few closing words to one another, and I leave with a new conception of the word “hero.”
There are a great number of deeply feeling souls among whom I travel. They share, sometimes, a lingering sense of despondency because their hearts are attuned to the pain that exists in areas of the world where profound spiritual misalignment is present.
Collectively, these hearts ask questions like, “Why is there violence? Why must there be discord, greed and prejudice? Why can’t we learn to work together and share?”
Keeping a pulse on my immediate world in my own meditation pratice, I have found that–if I am able to maintain my own connectivity while abiding by my personal, meditative guidance–that larger sense of pain falls away to be supplanted by a new, pure joy. This joy comes with the fulfillment of one’s own dharma or while walking one’s own path in alignment with the Light–moment by moment.
The spiritual bleeding that I have come to know among thinking, feeling and caring people is staved and even stopped when we, as individuals, make a committment to the practice of following our singular, Sacred guidance. As we come into alignment with Divine purpose, healings may occur, not only for ourselves but also for others, whose lives we may choose to touch, leave, change or never know.
While attending a dinner, I ask a woman what comes to mind when she considers the phrase “the space of the heart.”
“Confusion,” she replies, answering quite quickly. Then she continues her list, “Unreliable, feeling without discernment, illogical.”
Her response catches me off guard, as I have been working on approaching life more and more from the space of my heart, though admittedly I stray when challenged. Then, upon further reflection and in all fairness, I have to remember the first time my spiritual teacher/trainer told me that I needed to mind my emotions before making decisions–to learn how to listen to and trust my heart.
At the time, when my teacher advised me to begin attending to my heart, I thought, “She is out of her mind.”
For years, I had worked very hard at burying my seemingly irrational emotions in favor of a relationship with what I viewed as my more logical self. The idea of suddenly having to pay attention to my emotions and “heart” seemed like it might lead to significant backsliding.
But, to return to our dinner conversation…
“Okay,” I say. “Fair enough. What do you think about listening to or relying upon the hunches granted to you by connecting to the essence of who you are?”
“Uh, well…more reliable perhaps, though that sounds too difficult to do,” my dining companion responds dubiously.
Jackpot. That, it would seem, is how most of us move through our lives, finding the pure treasure of our own Knowing too difficult to access. Our own Wisdom remains largely undiscovered, unrecovered and buried at the core of the heart.
This is where three, swash-buckling heroes named Reverie, Meditation and Receptive Prayer enter our tale, complete with long, lustrous and wavy locks of flowing hair and loads of bon-vivant sex appeal.
The purpose of minding our emotions does not mean we act on or react to every initial emotional impulse crossing the screen of a moment. Minding the heart means we pay attention to the general direction of the wind–the way things are blowing–in our internal, emotional weather-world, while remembering that this is indeed a reliable way to travel, because it is the way of the Spirit.
Minding Spirit grants us the freedom to discover who we are–in our hearts. And, we are so much more than our next shopping list, the contents of our closets, the itinerary of a chosen excursion or distracting selection in entertainment. We are capable of profound, life-affirming change, transformation, Love, forgiveness, resolutions and world-changing solutions.
So, the next the next time you feel the urge to go “somewhere” or to do “something,” consider a date with one of our tale’s swash-buckling heroes. You might be surprised by your sudden change in plans, what you discover inside or what you will then choose to do.
Trying to describe to my yoga students what it is like–while sitting in meditation–to listen to and ask my cellular body what it needs to maintain well-being, I have to admit that listening to the body is one of the most difficult tasks a person could ever hope to master. Listening usually involves making, sometimes daily, adjustments to habits of sustenance, physical activity, degree of solo time and/or appropriate social action.
Gaining a clear perception on how best to honor the physical frame, especially where two or more of the body’s systems or vital organs may be in non-agreement, renders each of us body-listeners-in-training, no matter how practiced we may become at juggling the body’s sometimes disparate requirements. (i.e. The heart needs movement and exercise, while a sprained ankle needs rest and elevation in order to repair.)
Over the course of many years of practice, I have learned these things:
1. Most people need four to seven hours of dedicated quiet time or a personal practice involving a solo, repetitive activity each week in order to listen and “converse” with the body.
2. If we have set aside time, we may become quite adept at discerning when the body is out of sorts, though we may not always be able to name or determine exactly what is going on–to make a “diagnosis.” It is important to leave formal diagnosis to medical experts.
3. We should all be consulting with professional, medical personnel on a regular basis and using their expertise to corroborate or dispel personal notions about what might be out of balance within the body–via formal testing and consultation.
4. A thoroughly practiced body-listener may have a sense that the body is out of balance even before something might show up on an allopathic medical test, and he or she might have the opportunity to assist the body in rebalancing itself through timely lifestyle changes. So, keep listening.