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You are what your deep, driving desire is.

As is your desire, so is your will.

As your will is, so is your deed.

As your deed is, so is your destiny.

(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad)

Lore states that it takes at least twenty-one continuous days of an activity to form a habit, or to break one.

I started in on two very important re-commitments this past week – my daily Reiki practice and daily meditation. I’m four days into my twenty-one days on the daily Reiki practice, and three days into the daily meditation – and it feels GOOD.

One of the meditations this week included the above quote from the Vedic wisdom texts, the Upanishads. It tugged at me, and pulled at me, and kept gnawing on the corners of my thoughts like an insistent puppy.

Desire – I have shied away from this word. We’re taught that it’s wanton to feel desire. That it’s naughty. What garbage. I’m reclaiming it – and I’m going to start viewing these things I’m trying to implement, grow, and change in my life as desires…ones I’m capable of fulfilling.

Desire is so much more positive, so much more vital, visceral, and vibrant than ‘want.’ Desire makes me think more of actively getting something, whereas ‘want’ makes me think of ‘lack’ and feels depriving. It’s a mind game – but not so different from the hundreds of other ones I trip myself through every day.

So, here’s to knowing what I desire, and being willing to discover more along the way. Here’s to knowing that I have the power to create it in my life, to bring it into being. Here’s to being full of desire, and the passion to pursue it.

 

 

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I had to work on Thanksgiving Day from three-thirty to ten-thirty at night. By the time I had been there for an hour or two, I had a real good case of the saddies and was well into one of the best pity-parties I’ve thrown myself in a long, long time.

For the most part, I attend all the family celebrations and stuff – it’s always been important to me to do so. I don’t ever want to look back and say, “I wish I had….” when I have the ultimate ability to stop that from happening right now, today.

So, anyhow, I was well into a really sticky pity party. I was getting truly morose, and feeling pretty justified in it. I was up to my ears in it, when I started thinking about my parents. They always make sure that there’s a place for all of us to gather together for holidays. What would happen when they weren’t here anymore? (I make myself face this unpleasant eventuality from time to time, trying to get myself mentally prepared, even though I’m pretty sure no one is ever as mentally prepared as they think they are).

So what would happen if they weren’t here to issue the invitation and the space and time to get together, to sit around a table with one another and break bread? (The ‘What If’ game is such a lovely and effective addition to any good pity party. Guaranteed to suck you even further into the mire). I am extremely unoptimistic about either of my siblings taking up the mantle and organizing and holding any kind of gathering, so it would probably have to be me. Then I started thinking about how that would all shake down without my parents around as buffers and referees. Not pretty. Not the stuff from which hazy firelit memories are made. The stuff of nightmares, really.

Then I started thinking about what that would mean, if I didn’t get together with them anymore. If it was just me. If Wittler and I didn’t get married, and/or didn’t have kids. If I was truly all alone on Thanksgiving and on every other major occasion for gathering together with family and friends. (See, I told ya – this was a grade-A pity party I was throwing myself here).

And then, it shifted. And I started to think about how that wasn’t the case for me. I had people with whom to gather, though I was unable to for this specific holiday. People who would throw open doors and arms if I appeared today on their doorstep. But other people didn’t have that.

And that’s when I had to scrap the whole mood I’d been cultivating. There is nothing like choosing to walk the ‘Path of Mastery’ that will put the kibosh on a good pity party. You can’t stay in it when you start thinking about what it’s like out there for everyone else.

I started wondering about the really elderly lady who lives a few units down from us. I only ever see the home care nurses – no family – come and go from her apartment. Who did she gather with yesterday? I started wondering about the man who came to my counter – he made sure to tell me that he was alone by choice on Thanksgiving, how he didn’t want to gather with a ‘bunch of strangers’ and keep talking about how the turkey was great (valid). But he lingered there, at the counter with me, unwilling to leave. Wanting me to hear him and see him. Wanting connection.

I started thinking about them, and all the people like them, who are alone on days like Thanksgiving. Who are alone so much of the time. Of those who, perhaps, did not even have the memory of pleasant times gathered together with others the way that I did (warts and all).

As I broke off pieces of my cold pop-tart dinner, I knew that my mom was tucking away leftovers for me to take home with me tonight, when I go over there. I knew that they wished I was there, just as much as I wished I was.

Yeah – you can’t have a good pity party when you’re on the ‘Path of Mastery.’ You can’t keep feeling sorry for yourself, when you know that there are so many others who suffer worse than you do. Standing for a moment on another’s path, wearing their pinchy shoes, has a way of putting all your trials and tribulations in perspective.

Today, I am grateful that I have the ability and the inclination to do this. I am grateful that every single time I get myself well into a good pity party, there is something that taps me on the shoulder and says, “I know you feel bad, but look over there. Think about how that must be for them.”

I am grateful for empathy. I am grateful for the choices I’ve made, and the people who’ve chosen to walk a stretch of this path with me. I am grateful for perspective and sympathy. I am grateful.

Dig it – today I am trying to emulate Hildegard of Bingen and be as “a feather on the breath of God.”

I’ve struggled my entire life to find the right balance between two totally different outlooks, and unable to cling to one or the other. Either I adhered a little too tightly to the preferred outlook of those who had a huge hand in the way that I was raised: “God helps them who help themselves.” Or, I clung a bit too tightly to that whole “the lilies of the field” outlook: neither toil nor spin.

There’s gotta be something in between those two things. Something manageable, something I can maintain.

I’ve always been a planner, and that’s served me well in so far as I’ve gotten far and done a lot in the relatively few years I’ve been kicking around the world. I’ve asked myself more and more lately if getting far is as important as ending up where you hoped to be.

Because I’m not altogether certain I have.

And that’s okay, in a way. I wouldn’t take any of it back. Not even the most craptastical parts. (Which then begs the question that maybe wherever we end up, is exactly where we were meant to be, whatever it is. Which is like the chicken and the egg, and makes me feel like I can literally feel my brain turn inside out).

But that’s not really what ol’ Hildegard is getting at. She’s talking about letting go of all the anxiety we create around the idea of having to get anywhere, and letting go and trusting that you’ll end up wherever it is you were meant to be at the right time.

Because what really creates that anxiety? Nothing that really comes from within me – it’s all stuff I internalize that comes from without. All the shoulds and oughtas. All the expectations of those around me, spoken and unspoken.

So, yeah. Every single time I start to feel all wiggy about where I’m supposed to head next, I’m going to think about being that feather, just floating on the breath of God. Knowing I’ll get there – wherever there is – just when I’m meant to. And not a second sooner. No matter how much anxiety I generate about it.

Hindsight provides new eyes. (Wayne W. Dyer)

One of my greatest downfalls has ever and always been being too future-oriented. In plain-speak, I think way too much about tomorrow, and not enough about where the heck I am right now, this minute. I’ve been making some headway on that lately, and it feels good.

I’ve been doing the ‘work’ of changing that way of thinking, and being consistent in it — when I catch myself in the act of robbing the joy of the moment in thought and deep contemplation of how much further I need to go, I take a breath. And then another. And I think, “You will not pass this way again, Carolyn. Enjoy the scenery. Smell the roses. Savor the moment.” And like a dreamer pulling away from the lingering tendrils of the dream, I look around and discover that right where I am, now, in that moment, is beautiful. Precious.

It’s funny how I always seem to end up saying to someone else just what I need to hear most. Tonight I facilitated another awesome Reiki Share (that’s not me tooting my own horn — it’s me touting the benefits of Reiki Share *smile*). At the conclusion, we were all talking to a newer traveler about her impatience to get somewhere else on her path.

I turned to her, and seeing myself, I told her that I did truly know exactly how that felt. But having trudged a bit longer, I’d discovered something. That, yes, we do continue to long for some greener pasture, some benchmark that we set for ourselves, no matter how stringently we attempt to live in the moment. That’s part of being human — the desire for more, to be more, to have more, to grow more, to feel more.

But that there would come a point for her, when she’d reached her own self-imposed benchmark and looked backward. That someday, she would look back at this self, this now self, and she would be nearly unrecognizable to who she had striven to become, who she had become. And that even though in the doing it felt like it was taking forever, it would happen in a blink of an eye. A moment.

I am my own worst critic — like most people. I am my own nasty whip-wielding slave-driver — like most people. But I had that moment, and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given. I had that moment, where I looked backward down the path I’d been walking and saw myself at the start of the journey, and felt who I was at this point in the journey. And the self I sprung from felt like a fond stranger.

Meeting myself this way, through time and distance, had an unexpected effect. It let me relax. I could finally look at myself and realize that all of that change and growth happened, and I almost didn’t know it. All that way traveled, and me so intent on where I had yet to go, that I didn’t even see how far I’d come, how much I’d changed.

It made me think about all the selves I’ve had. It made me think about myself at, say, nineteen. (I’ve gotten a new perspective on the nineteen-year-old lately, since I’ve been working with some of them, and the proximity has driven home a few interesting lessons about the gifts of time, age, and challenge.) At nineteen, I had the temerity, the naiveté, and the rose-colored glasses to see the world as this big realm of possibility. Overwhelming, boundless possibility.

In some ways, I still do. But the naiveté has been tempered with wisdom, and the temerity with patience and compassion. I’ve traded in the rose-colored glasses for something with a little clearer outlook, and find that I like the view just fine.

The biggest gift? Knowing myself. Knowing myself so, so much better and deeper than I ever could at nineteen. Loving myself enough to stand up for myself in the way that almost none of us can manage to do well or consistently at nineteen. Respecting myself. Having compassion for myself.

Knowing that it starts right there, with me. I didn’t know that at nineteen — that before you strap on that cape and well-meaning smile, and set forth to save the world from itself, you’d better have saved yourself first.

Walking the path of mastery isn’t for the timid. Not if they want to stay timid. For every flat, even stretch of smooth sailing, there are periods of rocky, uphill climbs. Parts where you fall. Times when you crawl. And the whole time, you’re being given a gift — the one you asked for. To be made new. To be formed by life so that you can shape your life.

I’ve got a lot of affection for that wide-eyed gal I was. I love her to pieces. She was so full of illusion and romance, strutting along with a swing in her step and a chip on her shoulder. A saunter and a smile and the godawful hubris to think that she knew so darn much about so darn much.

Without her, I wouldn’t be standing here, right where I am now. And I love now. I love the possibilities I see from this vantage point, which that girl could hardly have dreamed of. I love that instead of thinking I know so much about so much, I realize how little I do know. That I can accept that it isn’t always necessary to know.

Looking back helped me embrace my now, which in turn, will make my future a whole lot brighter. Funny that it seems to have to work that way.

I’ve pretty much decided that the person I most need to ‘hug it out’ with … is me. (For the uninitiated, ‘hugging it out’ is to end an argument or dispute with a hug showing that the ill will is over). The person I am the cruelest to … is me. The person I am most frequently at odds with…is me. The person I am the hardest on…is me.

Not a real comfortable thought. Pretty crappity, actually.

And how did I come to this bit of wisdom?? By getting slapped upside the back of my head with it via the Universe. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I choose to pay attention – and when some issue comes up for me in separate instances in quick succession, I figure that it’s being brought front-and-center for a reason. I choose to believe the reason is because it’s something I must be ready to look at or deal with.

On Monday, in two separate instances, I was forced to confront the fact that I have an absolutely impossible time saying anything good about myself in a true and real way. And I don’t mean that I can’t admit that I do things well – but that’s surface stuff. I can’t say nice things about who I am as a being. And that sucks.

The first slap? During our art journaling group, where the page topic was “I am beautiful and sacred because…” People, I had nothing. I looked around at my friends who were busily listing out the ways they knew they were beautiful and sacred, and I sat there frozen like a deer caught in headlights. I actually felt my brain do that open-mouthed, fish gasping, um-um-um, thing. I finally picked some stuff that I felt like I could convince myself was true and put it on my list. And somewhere in the back of my mind, the justifications started, “That was just hard because you weren’t focusing. It’s nothing. You know all this stuff. Blah. Blah. Blah.”

And I went about my day. That night (as I wrote about in my last blog), I attended a ‘floating salon’ where we were talking about our womanness and what it is to be a woman, etc. One of the things that we were encouraged to do as a part of embracing our juicy selves was to brag. About ourselves. Again, the deer-in-headlights, fish gaping reaction. My brain panicked and just kind of stuttered.

As you all know, I am verbose. Loquacious, even. When asked to come up with even one brag, I had nothing. And as much as I’d like to say it’s because I am some paragon of modesty, up for sainthood or something, I can’t because I’m not.

What I am is a product of my upbringing – the child of Midwestern parents whose genealogy includes a whole lot of stoic folks. Talking about yourself is pretty much a no-no. When you’re asked how you are, the proper response is “Fine. And you?” And then they say, “Fine.” And then you talk about the weather. Bragging? That’s anathema.

I can admit that’s a convenient ‘out’ for me – when you become an adult and make your way in the world on your own, it’s on you to iron out the wrinkles that are inherent in any upbringing (different upbringing = different garment = different wrinkles – but no matter what, we’ve all got wrinkles). Once you’re out there on your own, I figure you don’t get to point at your mommy and daddy and say that’s why this or that is screwy with you. What you get to do is sit with your wrinkle and figure out why you’re still hanging onto something that obviously doesn’t work for you anymore. And replace it with something a bit healthier, or with a better fit for you.

And the reason I’m clear on the fact that I can’t simply point to my Midwestern upbringing, shrug my shoulders and let it go is because this was the second time today that I needed to be able to say something good and positive about myself, and it was the second time I was utterly stymied by that simple task.

What’s one good thing I can say about myself? Well, it’s another ‘easy’ one because it’s about something I do, not something I am. I am an awesome cheerleader for people – I am awesome at telling other people how awesome they are. It’s absolutely effortless for me to see their good stuff and tell them about it.

Why in the hell can’t I do that for myself? I am okay at telling myself the things I am good at – I can at least acknowledge it. I am utter crap at telling myself the things I am. You know, I don’t even know if I am clear on what I am. What I embody. What I shine forth.

I’ve thought about this for a couple of days now, and I think it has to start with stopping something. I have to stop telling myself all the ways I fail. I have to stop pointing at all the missteps and small mistakes and flogging myself with them. I have to stop telling myself perpetually that there is something wrong with me.

A few weeks ago, one of my dear friends posted a video on her blog. And I found myself going back to watch it again and again. It was called “There is nothing wrong with you.” I watched it, and I cried. Because no matter how much self work I’ve done, no matter how much excavating I’ve done inwardly, no matter how many books I’ve read or classes I’ve attended, I still believe that I am something to be fixed. To be improved. To be healed. To be amended, appended, adjusted. That I need to improve, remove. That I need to tweak and pull and twist myself continually in the aim of finally achieving…what?

And you know what? It’s not true. I am not broken. I am not faulty. I am not sick. I am not damaged. I am not a screw up. I am not a failure. I am not something to be fixed.

There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with you, either, by the way, though you think there is.

I think that somewhere along the way, I stopped focusing on what the path of mastery is supposed to be about and started getting stuck in fixing all my foibles. That is not the path of mastery. The path of mastery is noticing. It is attending. It is being present. It is noticing who you are and what you do, and how it makes you feel – and then knowing that the path continues beyond that point of notice, offering you opportunity after opportunity to make new choices. Nowhere in that is there any inherent judgment. I slapped the judgment in there all by myself.

It’s reflective of that distinction that good parents make when correcting a child – to make sure to say that it was a bad choice, or a naughty thing to do, but to never tell the child that they are bad or naughty. Somewhere along the line, I stopped making that distinction for myself, and started telling myself that I was wrong, that I was broken, that I was bad. And I forgot that it was the things I did – which can always be changed, and new choices made – which could be judged, if judging is even necessary.

I’m sharing the video on here again, because I need to watch it again. There is nothing wrong with me. I cannot hear that enough times, and maybe neither can you.

“We live in a culture that tells us that there is never enough. That we are not enough, that we are not good enough, that we are not safe enough, that we can never be certain enough, that we’re not perfect enough. And maybe the one that we really don’t talk about, that I think is perhaps the most dangerous, is that we are not extraordinary enough. In this world, somehow, an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life. And so often we are missing what is truly important because we’re on the quest for what is extraordinary. Not understanding that in our ordinary lives, in the ordinary moments of our lives, is really where we can find the most joy.” (Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW)

I love this woman and her message. She’s willing to look at – and talk about – all the things that we turn away from. Thought I’d share this with you today – it’s something I’ll bring into the hours and the minutes of my day today.

Watch the full video on her blog here.

When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing – nothing. (Saint Francis of Assisi)

Tonight I facilitated another Reiki Share, and walked out of there feeling like a brand-new-gal. These gatherings have been one of my greatest joys as a Reiki practitioner (for about a bazillion reasons). Tonight, we got to talking about prayer and prayerfulness. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately, and I was so glad to get the input and thoughts of others as I muse over, ponder over, and chew on the whole concept of prayer, and the attitude of prayerfulness.

God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer. (Mother Teresa)

I have had a complicated relationship with prayer, I think. Maybe most people have – I don’t know. All I know is that I was raised as a Catholic, and that was my religious foundation for a great deal of my life. I don’t even want to get into that whole phenomenon of Catholic anger, or the idea of the “recovering Catholic.” That’s not what I’m driving at here, and I don’t really identify with either of those things. My Catholic upbringing – and my specific exposure to that perspective – gave me one conception of prayer, one way to live prayer, one way to act in prayer. And for a long time, that was the only way I could think about praying.

I believe I am finally in a place where I can actually appreciate the meaning of the word prayerful for the first time in my life. Of sensing the necessary openness, instead of expectation. And I came to it through Reiki.

One part of Reiki is actually providing yourself and others with treatment – that’s the part that most people are familiar with. They’ve seen it on the news, they’ve seen it on Dr. Oz, they’ve read about it online. And, all of that exposure? It’s great. I love it. But it neglects so much.

It’s the other part of Reiki that seems to be unseen, unacknowledged, and undiscussed. The inward part – the part where the practitioner (the one who practices) commits to walking a spiritual path. The part of Reiki that is the act of living prayerfully.

In college, I read Dorothy Day’s biography, and the quote that most struck me was when she said, “I could not go to God on my knees.” For such a long time, I really thought that was pretty much the only option I had – to be penitent, knees bent, head bowed, staring downward.

Prayer is not merely an occasional impulse to which we respond when we are in trouble: prayer is a life attitude. (Walter A. Mueller)

In the intervening years between reading and identifying with that quote and today, my conception of prayer, and my understanding of what it means to be prayerful, has grown and blossomed. Yes, there are times I go to God on my knees, but I let it be in reverence, and not in shame. There are also times I go with arms held high, feeling joyful and embraced. Feeling jubilant.

Eddie Izzard, a rather unconventional comedian, does quite a few skits on religion. (I love his comedy – it’s intelligent and quick and wry.) In one particular skit, he says that one of the things that’s always bewildered him is the way that so many Christians manage to sing praise songs in a dirge tone. That was my experience growing up – attending church each Sunday and watching the congregants sing Alleluia as though they were going to the gallows. And I prayed dirgefully. Uck.

Reiki has brought me a new way to experience prayer – something which I did not expect. I’ve talked about this quite a bit in Reiki Shares and in other gatherings, but not here on my blog. For me, providing treatment for someone becomes a prayerful experience. I tell clients that it feels almost as though the entire session becomes one long prayer. There is peace, and silence, and the space for them to heal and to find resolution. For me, there is inner quiet, and a meditative state that is something quite different than the state I’m in when I grocery shop or watch tv. There is an attentiveness and openness on the part of both myself and the client. We each enter the session with hopes (a form of prayer) and intentions (a kind of petition) and openness (the willingness to hear and receive the results of those hopes and intentions).

Prayer gives a man the opportunity of getting to know a gentleman he hardly ever meets. I do not mean his maker, but himself. (William Inge)

I try to bring more of that into my day (with varying degrees of success). I try to bring myself into a state of mindfulness more often in my everyday life. I try to think prayerfully, walk prayerfully. Be prayerful.

Being prayerful, for me, has come to mean:

  • Being soft like water – able to bend with the flexible and changing world around me.
  • Being passionate like fire – able to feel all the things that it means to be human with depth and meaning.
  • Being open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, new ways of behaving.
  • Being mindful of all the world around me, and the deservingness of everyone and everything to be treated with the reverence that is due one of God’s creations.
  • Being mindful of my speech, knowing that the wrong words have such ability to harm.
  • Being mindful of my attitudes, knowing that I (like everyone else) tend to get “stuck” in them.
  • Being mindful of my part in all things – that even when I feel as though I’ve been wronged, there is something in that experience that is mine, and that I need to own.
  • Open arms. Open hands. Open heart.
  • More listening, less talking.

My intention this month was to work at being more prayerful in my daily life. I want to embrace all the ways that prayer has been a blessing to me in both joy and sorrow. I want to walk, knowing that with each step I take, I have an opportunity to walk prayerfully. With each breath, I have an opportunity to breathe prayerfully. Each word, each thought, each action – is an opportunity to be prayerful.

I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. (Abraham Lincoln)

It is of course possible to dance a prayer. (Terri Guillemets)

I wrote about this tonight because it’s occupying my thoughts, and I wanted to write about it to see where I was with it. I fully expect my feelings, thoughts, and ideas about prayer to change and grow – I welcome it. When I “write to discovery,” as I intended to do tonight, I tend not to be as eloquent as when I feel sure of what I’m saying – thanks for bearing with that.

I’d love to hear about what prayerfulness means for others. How do you experience prayer? How do you live prayer in your life? What things have you had to heal about prayer in order to get where you are today?

Part of walking the path of mastery is picking up all the pieces of your life one by one, like stones on the riverbank, and holding them in your hands. Turning them over and over, examining them. Seeing them again and for the first time. My growing relationship to prayer is another of those stones – one which I know I’ll cup thoughtfully in my palm many times as I walk forward.

Tonight, I took a rare night off, and did NO work. Lately, that just never seems to happen and I was long overdue.

I came home from the shop, bagged up the library books from under the coffee table, and piled on the kitchen chair, and next to the bed. I walked the two blocks to deliver them – intending to head right home like a good girl and get to work.

The moment I stepped through the door, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. They called to me like they always do. All the books, all the shelves upon shelves of books. All the stories. And I walked down each aisle, not really on a mission for anything in particular. Just enjoying the silence, and the atmosphere. And I decided to check out only fiction – only completely frivolous books. No philosophical tomes, no spiritual texts. No art books. No books that had anything, whatsoever, to do with work – I haven’t done that in too long.

I meandered home, enjoying the heat and watching the people sitting outside the restaurants and walking from shop to shop.

I plopped the books in a glorious pile on the end of the kitchen table, and made myself a tall cold glass of extra-chocolatey milk. I took my time reading the book jackets, choosing which would be my first.

I curled up on the couch under my favorite blanket – the thin blue one I bought at Summerfest one year, and used as a ground cover for the Tom Petty concert. For once, our cat chose to let me have some space instead of immediately leaping up and demanding attention. I sank into the story, losing all track of time, every once in a while shifting position. Riveted.

I left the book half-read (I’m a fast reader), and pulled out my art supplies. The story triggered something, and I finally knew how to finish an art journal page I’d been mulling over for a week. I yanked stamps out of binders, lugged the ink case onto the table, poured gesso onto a plastic bag, grabbed a brush, and started working. After all the mulling I’d done, it came together quickly now…just how I wanted it to look. Just how it looked in my heart.

I didn’t make dinner. I ate spready cheese and Ritz crackers and a dark chocolate candy bar. I pulled out another art project that just needed a few finishing touches, and added them, trying not to think too much. Just letting it come.

I never really write about this kind of stuff – these small things, small rituals that make up my days – not even in my personal journal. Today, it felt important – I’ve been busting my butt, and immersing myself in the work that goes into bringing a dream into being. Today, it was important to do what I wanted to do for no other reason than I felt like doing it.

When I get so focused, I get so much done, and it feels really good. A line of checkmarks marching down a to-do list is one of my favorite sights. But one of the parts of walking the path of mastery is to recognize areas of imbalance – and all work and no play makes Carolyn a dull girl.

For the rest of the night? I’m updating this blog (cause I feel like it) and my art blog (cause I feel like it), and then I’ll watch the rest of Two Mules for Sister Sarah with Jeremy and the cat, and head to bed. Cause I feel like it.

Here’s hoping that all of you make time for play – too long without it, and the joy leaches out of life!

I attended and graduated from Mount Mary College in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and I – like every woman to pass through those hallowed halls of learning – was required to take a course entitled ‘Search for Meaning.’ The class was four credits – two of which were philosophy-oriented, and two of which were spiritually-oriented. We had two instructors – translation: we had two times four credits of homework for the class, and we ended up christening it all sorts of things like ‘Search for Sanity,’ or ‘Search for my Lost Social Life.’

And despite the workload, it was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. It was a deeply important part of the formation of my growing spiritual and philosophical nature.

Every student to pass through Mount Mary was required to take that course, and despite the differences in content for each section, one requirement never wavered: we all read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. (Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who’s path led him to witness and endure some of humanity’s most horrific acts against its own members (the Holocaust) – his suffering and the suffering of those around him inspired him upon his release to write it out and send it out into the world anonymously. At the last moment, a friend talked him into at least putting his name on the title page. And this short book stands as a testament to humanity’s quest to discover the meaning of life, even and especially amidst great suffering.)

I’ve found myself thinking about that book on and off in the years since I took that class, since I graduated, and a lot of life happened, and a lot of change happened. I found myself thinking about it for a few weeks, so I finally dug it out and I’ve been curling up with it for a few minutes a day since I unearthed it from the depths.

It’s interesting to see the places where I marked the pages. What I underlined then, what I underlined now. The differences in perspective. The ability to see deeper than before, and to catch nuance and meaning in things that all those years ago, I didn’t know would become important.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite parts with you tonight. I’ll let them stand alone, because they speak for themselves.

“When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.’”

“…the meaning of life differs from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. ‘Life’ does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are real and concrete.”

“Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it….The prisoner who had lost faith in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Usually this happened quite suddenly, in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of which were familiar to the experienced camp inmate. We all feared this moment – not for ourselves, which would have been pointless, but for our friends….He simply gave up….and nothing bothered him anymore.”

“We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

“What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you….human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death.”

I’ve been going through some tough stuff lately, and learning some hard lessons. Revisiting this helped me put things into perspective, and to remind me of some of the things I believe in. It helped me refocus on the core of what I hold to be true in what sometimes feels like a world gone mad. Hope you found something here for you, too.

Um... Yeah. It looks kinda like that for all of us. The comfort is that I'm pretty sure it's supposed to 🙂

When I was in high school (which will date me, but whatever), Garth Brooks was huge, and that song was huge. And every time we have a night like tonight, where wave after wave of storms rolls over us, unleashing fury in crash and thrash and torrent, the words of that song come creeping back in.

I taught Reiki tonight – to a woman who made a long journey to come and be a part of the class each day. To a woman who braved Tornado Warnings and funnel cloud sightings and sheets of rain to drive here. To a woman who so valued the training, that she made an arduous trek to complete it. I honor her dedication, and her commitment to the path that she said she’d spent over ten years waiting to pursue.

I thought about that a lot tonight, as we intermittently checked the front windows of the shop to ensure that we weren’t on the brink of ending up following the yellow brick road, instead of the Reiki path (haha). About how some of the things that we want desperately end up lying mysteriously easily in the palms of our hands, as though they’d been nestled there all along. And how other things, other longings, seemed to have to cost you, seemed to have to exact a price.

We lit candles to make sure that there would be some light if the storm managed to knock out the power. As the electricity pulsed and dimmed over and over again, I thought a lot about how it said something about her character, and the depths of her desire, to saunter out into the storm to complete her training. It says something about each of us, when we pursue the things that don’t seem to want to come easily. It says something about who we are deep inside.

I always think of it as being willing to bleed for it – not to be gross. What are you willing to bleed for, to sweat for, to sacrifice for, to bring into being? I look around at a lot of people in my generation, and in the generation coming up behind my generation, and there’s this pervasive sense of entitlement. Well, folks, newsflash – you might get to the top of the heap by lucky accident, but you’ve gotta stay there by your own will. Or you have to put in your time in the trenches, so that someday, you can stand at the top and survey how far you’ve come.

When did we ever think that this was supposed to be easy? Just where in the heck did that come from? Where did we ever get the idea that it wasn’t supposed to hurt, wasn’t supposed to cost us, wasn’t supposed to leave scars? Life does that – if you’re really living it.

If you’re really living it, going deep, and putting yourself out there, you risk – and those who risk gain the rewards. Those who show up in their own lives every day risk much, but gain much. It is just as much work to maintain a true apathy, as it is to cultivate the ability to be PRESENT in your life.

Do you show up? Do you risk anything? What hill are you willing to die upon? What are you willing to hurt for? I think about that, as I listen to the “where’s-mine-ers” and the “me-too-ers” and everyone else who thinks it all just comes so easily – all the people who think that they should just have it handed to them.

And then I thought about my student tonight, and I realized that she valued what she came to receive. She knew that sometimes, things have to cost you – and the things you’ve longed for – the things that fill your soul to bursting – are worth the price you pay for them.

Thanks for letting me rant a bit. It felt important to acknowledge this, and to talk about it tonight (as the thunder rolls, and the lightning strikes…)

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)