Last week I spent 5 days sitting in silent meditation with Sharon Landrith, a teacher of Adyashanti's lineage. There is something in me that wants to drink and drink and drink of that deep silence and stillness, and I keep going back for more.
When my kids were younger we went to a Sunday gathering that our neighbor hosted. It was a spiritual gathering, and I remember at some point the leader said if you wanted to find a teacher, and open to something deeper in your life, light a candle every night for a month, and look into it for 30 minutes.
His words triggered rage. I thought 'this guy is obviously retired, and he's got the time. Some of us around here actually have to WORK!!' I was SO pissed.
How could he have the audacity to tell me that there was that kind of time to be had? He didn't know! Locked into the identity of an organic farmer pulled up by my own boot straps, my life was built on devotion to non-stop work, and had been for years. I honored no space for contemplation.
Looking back I see I yearned for that quiet candle gazing so so badly. The depth of the rage was equal to the depth of the yearning.
Several years later when life started to up heave I remembered his guidance. I sat every night with a candle, gazing into the pure beauty of the soft flicker. Within a month I found my first teacher.
It is a journey to really trust and honor the call for quiet and stillness. Our culture does not support it. Value is placed on doing, achieving, and building up a life. We are not taught the sacredness of quiet stillness and keen listening for the whisper of God. If the yearning is there, heed it. It is the voice of God calling you home.
Spiritual inquiry is different than asking questions and trying to figure out the answers in the way that we usually do. Usually we pose a question to ourselves and begin to worry it over and over with thinking. We are sure that if we just think about it enough, research it enough, ask enough people about it we will figure it out.
Spiritual inquiry is much different. It does not use the mind to figure out the answer to a question.
In spiritual inquiry - also called meditative or contemplative prayer - the mind poses a question, rests this question into the heart, into God, into the absolute, and then patiently abides until the answer yields into form.
When these answers come, they come with an energy that is instantly recognizable as the truth. The truth does not need qualification or justification, and once this truth is experienced inside a person, they know it on a level deeper than mind. A person who has experienced the truth does not need external validation because they simply KNOW.
It is with this experiential insight into truth that abiding shifts in behavior and habitual patterns of thinking can occur. This is the beauty and power that The Work has to offer us.
When the mind sincerely asks the heart a question, and brings all of its pain and confusion to the door of the heart and lays it there in patience, and then waits in that sacred land of not-knowing, the heart will yield up an answer from a place beyond thinking, a place of truth.
The Work of Byron Katie, presence, and spiritual inquiry all beckon to this domain of the heart, of the absolute, of God. These modalities aid in our descent into the unknown, into the only place from which real insight, transformation, and creativity can arise.
This place is beyond time and space, and it is self-authenticating. This place is in everyone, and is available to anyone willing to suspend all conditioned beliefs and take the sacred plunge into the divine.
Have you ever had the thought "I'm not supposed to be here"? Have you had that thought anywhere - in this moment, at a particular juncture in time, or even existentially. It's effect is the same no matter where it gets set loose in your life.
"I'm not supposed to be here" flows under my day, deep deep down where I don't notice it. It's subtle, resounding impact on my moment to moment life is profound. How do I know the thick pervasiveness of this thought? How do I know how it is woven into the fabric of my unconscious? Because I've done The Work on it and I have seen it in action.
On the fly I can now simply say "I'm supposed to be here" and because I have often done Work on this thought, the words themselves resonate inside as true, and the world opens, if ever so briefly, to gentleness and indescribable sweetness.
The Work shows us exactly how a thought permeates our life, influences our actions and colors our emotions at every turn. That is one of the gifts of meditating on question 3 "How do you react, what happens when you believe this thought?" By meditating on this question you are SHOWN the horrors of believing a thought. That sounds extreme, but if you get close enough and subtle enough in your looking, the affects truly are nothing short of horrific.
I have a wonderful teacher in The Work who relates, after years and years of practice, that he can notice a thought float past and he has so thoroughly seen all the ways that thought wrecks havoc with his life that there is absolutely nothing in him that is tempted to latch onto it ever again. Now that is freedom.
That kind of freedom comes from really clearly seeing just what a thought does to your life, to your world. Without this clear seeing there will always be some part of you that figures it's a good idea to believe it.
Here's something else this same teacher once said (I really love him). He said that thoughts are like tools. As simple and as non-emotional as that. Thoughts are tools that we pick up and use every day.
Now think of some tools. If you pick up a hammer it's a good idea to know what it will do if you swing it, right? And need I bring in the image of a chain saw? Backhoe? We sure as heck want to know what happens when we power these things up. The same is true for thoughts.
Every single thought has it's own exact and particular affect when we pick it up and turn it on. The Work gives a way to clearly see what thoughts do when we fire them up and start using them (often willy-nilly) in our life.
"I'm not supposed to be here." Let's look. What kind of world do we live in when that thought holds complete sway? What's that life like?
Hell. I am always an outsider. Something else is supposed to be happening, and I need to figure out what it is. In a world where "I am not supposed to be here" is true I live with an energetic edge that forever keeps me outside of now - like the push that two magnets create - that energetic push is between me and the world, me and other people, even me and the chair I'm sitting in.
There's a sad, ashamed quality of looking that comes through my eyes. I feel fear. There is no rest. I am the Little Match Girl, always looking in, separate, freezing and forlorn.
That is the world that we live in when the thought "I'm not supposed to be here" is in power. When that thought is king look at the country he rules. Really look at it. What is that kingdom like? I'm not supposed to be here. Do you want to live there?
Now for a moment imagine that you are walking into a world where this thought is absent. In fact, no one in this entire world has ever even heard the thought "I'm not supposed to be here." What is that world like? Take a moment. Sense into it.
There is a deep coming home. A sense of indescribable joy begins to rise through me that cries 'can I be this lucky? Can it be this good'? My being begins to sink into here, to fuse and join with what is here. And I can hardly believe that I get to live here. The joy is almost to much to bear.
This is the world we live in. We are supposed to be here. You are supposed to be here. See what happens when you let that in.
A couple of years ago I was at a silent meditation retreat with Adyashanti. During one of the morning talks he spoke about throat clearing and weight shifting during meditation. His basic message was that these things are usually not necessary, and in fact are a way to bleed off nervous energy.
He went on to say that if the body remains still, and lets the nervous, shifty, want-to-do-something-about-it energy just be, eventually the energies release and integrate into the stillness. The commitment to stillness actually provides a physical example of calm that the nervous energy can map onto.
My ears perked up at his words. I had been experiencing a hard painful lump in my throat during the week of meditation, and figured it was a good idea to swallow in order to help move the energy. I trust Adyashanti, so when he spoke about keeping still and not bleeding off the energy I decided to try it.
Then things got a little crazy, and a perfectly fantastic 40 minute meditation ensued.
I decided right as the meditation bell rang in the session that I was not going to swallow for 40 minutes. Did you swallow even just reading that? I have no idea where this commitment came from, it just bubbled up fully formed as that dang bell rang.
Not only did I commit to not swallow, I simultaneously committed to rest my attention on my throat the entire time. That is to say I would be doing nothing to distract myself away from whatever sensations arose there. Yes, I committed to sit in a tortuous hell for 40 minutes.
Allow yourself imagine that scenario for a moment. Is spit starting to fill your mouth? Is the urge to swallow mounting in your throat? It is if you're anything like me.
So I sat. For 40 minutes, absolutely still, and completely focused on being present to my throat. Let me tell you, it was something else.
The urge to swallow would mount to an all consuming absolutely-have-to-do-it level, convincing me that it was by-God beyond a doubt true that I had to swallow. And right there, at the peak of intensity I would commit, just for that millisecond, to not swallow.
The urge to swallow came in waves, and each time at the peak I would hold out, and then the urge would slowly back off for a bit. And mount again. And so it went for the entire time. I got so close to giving in, and I didn't.
There was something that just absolutely believed it was a FACT that I had to swallow, and time and again it turned out to simply not true. I never HAD to swallow, despite almost everything in me telling me that yes, yes you do.
I can't say there was a resulting amazing shift in the painful lump in my throat. This surprised me as that was what I anticipated would result. Instead shifts came about in ways I didn't expect at all.
One was this clear, moment to moment repeated experience of totally thinking I had to swallow, followed by the simple not-trueness of it. To be shown over and over that something everything in me was saying was true actually wasn't was a deep lesson.
The other gift that came from the Spit Meditation, as I have come to call it, was shown to me several days after I came home. It was evening and my children were whining just before dinnertime. I felt the same sense of mounting intensity that said I HAD to do something to stop them from whining. The sense of urgency and if-I-don't-make-this-stop-I-will-go-insane was exactly the same as the sensation in the Spit Meditation.
I was able to see this very clearly, and in that had the capacity to ride out the wave. For the first time I fully appreciated how powerful the intensity of those kinds of moments were with my children. Of course I had noticed them before, but the Spit Meditation gave me a relentless experience of sitting with that kind of energy, so it became much easier to spot it when it happened elsewhere in my life.
I also realized a profound respect for just how powerful the intense energy was, and from that realization a compassion towards my self was born, as I saw how frequently it coursed through my day to day life.
I don't have a sweeping conclusion to The Spit Meditation, yet I have seen it's far reaching impact on my life, and I am thankful to whatever bubbled up in me that day several years ago as the meditation bell rang.
Last night a friend and I were talking about romantic relationships, typing away via Facebook messenger, delving into the nature of love and the feel of care-taking vs unconditional love. She remembered a dream she had involving me, and here are her words describing this dream -
"I forgot to tell you a dream I had about you a while back- I dreamed that I was asking you 'can you tell me in one word what is my problem in romantic relationships? Why I can't find a partner? What's the one word that sums it up?' ...
You said bitterness."
When she related this it stirred a memory of an experience that I had about 7 years ago. It was planting time on the farm, early spring when the smell of the warm black soil iintoxicates, and the breeze curls around the awakening tree branches with dizzying possibility, when I suddenly and precipitously started having heart palpitations to the tune of one every four seconds. This went on for about a week, during which time I was terrified, feeling my mortality in a visceral way. Nothing like that had happened to me before, although I had experienced years of physical pain in my heart. The long and short of it was that Western medicine couldn't find anything wrong, and the acupuncturist I went to said point blank "your heart is closed shut and it's starting to rebel. You have to open your heart."
Well I had absolutely no idea what that meant - open my heart? I realized she didn't mean physically take a knife and fillet it open, so what was I to do?
I prayed. I don't remember my question, or where I was, or how I was feeling inside as I prayed, but I remember what I heard because IT WAS LOUD AND CLEAR AND IMMEDIATE.
The voice said - and I put it in caps because that's how it spoke -
REMOVE THE SEEDS OF BITTERNESS FROM YOUR HEART.
Last night, hearing this word bitterness come back to me again after so many years, and, bizarrely through my own voice in my friend's dream, I was inspired to do an internet search on the word bitterness.
Here is a bible verse I found that speaks directly to my heart, and truly, if you really let in what it is saying as verbatim, and take it as a directive for your life, well, that is a blueprint for a totally wild life.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth."
Can you feel that? It keeps no record of wrongs. And here's the thing - love CAN'T hold a record of wrongs. It's not that it doesn't because it chooses not to, no, the true essence of love is that it CAN'T even begin to hold onto a wrong, a grudge, a judgment. Not at all! This is wild crazy stuff.
This is a teaching on the absolute true nature of love, to be taken verbatim. And I can feel it, I can feel the soft strongness of my heart humming along with the words in total resonance. Can you feel the gentle up-welling of springtime coming through those words? Forever new, forever yielding up and out of love. This bible verse is telling us about the essential nature of our own hearts. The confused parts of ourselves may hold grudges, judge people, be filled with bitterness, but our true hearts , our true natures, are not doing that. They can't. And therein lies our salvation.
If you're up for it, try this. Put your hand over your heart and say the words "it keeps no record of wrongs." And then sit there for a bit and feel whatever happens. This can be repeated at intervals. Tune your inner listening in towards your heart, while at the same time gently sensing into how it feels to hold your hand over your heart.
I’m currently taking a class through the Institute for The Work that, if I pass, will qualify me to volunteer on The Work Helpline - a helpline that can be accessed through the ITW website and used by anyone that wants to be facilitated by an experienced facilitator of The Work. The class curriculum includes exploration of stressful thoughts that arise around volunteering and being of service. This exploration of beliefs around service lead me to a personal foundational belief that ‘I have to be able to access my intuition’. As I put this thought through the four questions and turnarounds of The Work I experienced waves of freedom, peace, and a sense of deep belonging in the world.
Go gently with this inquiry - we have been given as gospel that it is better to access intuition.
I have to be able to access my intuition. Is that true?
NO! On what planet could that possibly be true? Not here. Look around. How many people now, and throughout all of time, have actually been able to trust their intuition? Not a big percentage. What kind of sadistic God would make it true then, that we have to be able to access our intuition when the vast majority of human experienced to date is that we do not?! What is this insane “have to” in my mind? I mean really, look at my life. Have I EVER had to be able to access my intuition? No. Am I perfectly ok right now, even given all the times I did not access or act on my intuition? Yes! I’m absolutely ok.
Who am I and how do I react when I believe that ‘I have to be able to access my intuition’?
There is a huge figure towering over me, screaming that I have to find my intuition. Terror, I don’t understand what she’s really saying. Fear. Micro assessing every little tiny move I am about to make. Testing the waters incessantly. Fear to act until I’m enlightened on a matter. It makes me tired to say the belief in my head. I feel like I’m getting yelled at. I’m being told the world is scary. I experience a collapsing in and closing as I am told that this is the way it is. Sad acceptance. Oh no.
Who or what would I be without the thought ‘I have to be able to access my intuition’?
Ahh, a huge weight comes off. Innocence. A child in the world. Meant to be here. Home. Open to everything coming my way. Welcoming, wanting to see everything. Everything is a friend. A layer between me and the world that I didn’t even know was there melts away. A weight is coming off and I want to lean back and nap for hours in perfect comfort and well being. Peace, immediate deep wordless access to my heart. Lots of heart energy. A soft continuum of my life expending into my past, no horrific breaks or mistakes.
No line between me and other things. The wind chimes outside the window come right up, right up to my heart. I feel the luxuriousness of my cat stretching on the sheepskin. Peace. Abidance. A sense of deep time. I’m off the biggest hook ever, now I can just be. I want to rest. Sleep in the peace. Deep stirring of impressions from early early childhood.
I can breathe again. Sit back with my head on the chair, supported, at rest, belonging. I’m good. I feel my innate, intact goodness. These are all just words until you feel it for yourself.
I don’t have to be able to access my intuition.
Well, isn’t that they way it often is? That I don’t trust or hear my intuition? Reality absolutely proves out that there is no reason whatsoever that I have to able to access my intuition. It’s not a prerequisite to being here in this life. Image if everyone who couldn’t access their intuition was suddenly not allowed to be here. I think there would be no humans left.
Hasn’t every time that I didn’t trust my intuition, or every time that I didn’t act on intuition, or every time that I couldn’t access my intuition – haven’t each of those times set me up to learn? Often setting me up to learn so much more than I could have had it not happened? Right now I’m seeing all the no-intuition moments of my life as beautiful arched doorways to growth. Doorways I would never have walked though if I knew I was doing it.
I have to be able to not trust my intuition.
Yes, because if I have to be able to trust my intuition at all times I am not free. I live in a prison. I have to be able to not trust my intuition so I can have the full spectrum of experience. I have to be able to not trust my intuition because, hello, it’s going to happen.
I have to be able to trust my confusion.
Do you feel that? Do you feel what happens when you fight your confusion and think that it shouldn’t be there? It gets way worse. I have to be able to trust my confusion as an equally arising face of God. Only my prejudice says that it’s not as good as clarity. What happens when you allow confusion just to fully be with you? Peace. For me, immediate transcendance to the witness point of view. Disidentification with the confusion. I see it’s not ME, it's only here with me.
As long as I push confusion away I stay in a state of fear, a state of resistance, a state where I can’t calmly look at confusion.
I have to be able to trust my confusion in that it will continue to visit me until I can be at peace in its presence, until I can welcome its presence as the teacher I need.
Greetings from a cozy sunporch. My son's cat, Bone's Eye, is curled at my knee, half purring and licking his back. Hydrangea heads whisper and blow stiffly in the fall air, their heads russet brown and leaves still green just outside the porch windows. I sometimes wonder who planted them, picturing a farm lady in the 1930s, hard working and with a love of flowers.
This morning I woke up in a funk I've come to call being 'In It'. 'It' is a dense sensation of simmering feelings - lethargy, defeat, zero motivation, and a why bother flavor all swirled together into a blanket laid thickly over my mind. Waking up into this state I don't want to do anything, and there is no creative or excited impulses bubbling up to meet the day.
When I first became consciously aware of this state of 'In It' I railed against it - why me? again? haven't I done enough inner work to be free of this? All I wanted was for it to be gone, to not exist. It was a thing to be gotten rid of, seen though, worked though until, by God, I didn't have to deal with being 'In It' anymore. When I woke up 'In It' that was proof that I wasn't getting very far.
Adyashanti teaches a practice for just such times. I will try to describe it here to the best of my ability. He says to imagine this thing that you don't want to be here - depression, self-loathing, anger, fear, hatred... you name it. If you don't want to feel it, that's precisely the one to use.
Imagine this thing, really get in touch with the felt sense of it, and then imagine that you are bringing it closer and closer to your chest. Imagine that you want to bring it so close to you that there is absolutely no space between it and you. And once you've brought it that close, bring it even closer. Bring it so close there's not even an atom's width between you and it. And once you have this thing - sadness, anger, unworthiness, so so close to your chest, bring it even closer. I'm talking no space at all. And then have patience and continue to bring it closer.
Now this is a practice, and being a practice I cannot tell you what will happen if you do it. The invitation is to try it out and see.
A client of mine had a full blown panic attack during a session recently. This person, even in the midst of utter visceral terror, kept opening and opening more and more fully to the fear, wanting it, inviting it to become even bigger, even more. The attack lasted a good while and he never shut down, never tried to get away from the panic. His surrender and commitment was astonishing to witness.
Quite suddenly a shift came, his breath became gentle, and the room was filled with vibrancy and soft peace. It was palpable. After sitting quietly for several minutes he said the most beautiful thing. He said "I hear the sound of stillness. This the only thing left after all that leaves."
It brings to mind this gospel song -
Well, He's so high you can't get over Him
So wide you can't get around Him
So low you can't get under him
you gotta go through that door
Lord Almighty, you gotta go through that door.
Consider for a moment that everything you believe limits you, oppresses you, everything you wish was different than it is, is actually God, or Source, the One, laying the doorway to peace at your very feet.
And on that note.... join us this coming Friday the 13th for more Inquiry at the Integrative Medicine Center, Room 303, from 5-7pm!
I look forward to being with you,
In this post I depict an inquiry I did on “Self-hatred is my business.” I was facilitated by a wonderful man who has practiced the Work for many years. The four questions are not tightly adhered to in this inquiry. You may notice as you read that he has me hang out in variations of “is it true?” And “can you absolutely know it’s true?” for a good while, and we really explore what those two questions can evoke.
I’m sitting back in a wicker armchair, leaning into batik throw pillows, eyes closed and wearing headphones. Silent.
“What if there is absolutely no way possible that you could believe that self-hate is any of your business?” Jerry asks, his voice deep and calm.
I take this in and sit. How could that even be possible, that it’s not my business?
“It’s totally my business” I say, a little irritated and incredulous.
“And can you be absolutely one hundred percent sure that that’s true? That self-hate is any of your business?” he asks.
I sit, eyes still closed, feeling this self-hate and re-ask the question to myself. “Yes, it is absolutely my business. The only way through it is to deal with it. Take care of it. That’s my job. My business.”
“Picture a bird” says Jerry. “Look at that bird.” He gives nice pauses between his sentences as he speaks, letting me sink into the scene. “It just flew by and landed right next to you. Is that bird, in all it’s birdness, any of you business? Any at all?”
The bird is there. Vivid in my mind. I see it like it’s real, and feel its birdness, its ownness, feel it like a substance. “No.” And the bird isn’t my business, that is completely clear.
“Ok. Now picture a table in front of you. Look at that table sitting in front of you.”
I see it. The dimension that sometimes opens in my mind into a place of images that unfold without having to try is active. I can just walk through that world like walking down the street and look at what’s already there.
“Is anything, anything at all about that table your business?” his voice asks into my headphones.
“No.” The table is absolutely its own thing. There is no part of me required to make it a table.
“Now look at that self-hate.” A pause while I look. “Is it your business? Is any little part of it your business at all?”
I hold two smooth dark grey stones, one in each palm. They are conical and heavy and radiating heat soaked up from sitting on the little oil radiator next to my knees. I look. Suddenly there is a whiff of space between myself and the self-hate. The self-hate is absolutely enormous. A giant boulder, no, more accurately a ginormous asteroid, like the asteroids depicted in movies that are about to annihilate the earth, reaching clear to the sky, taking up a huge amount of room. I can’t see around it or over it, but there is this little bit of space between me and it. I see it hung right above me, it's rough rock edges clear. It is clearly completely its own thing. Not me. I tell this to Jerry, eyes still shut.
“Is ANY part of that self-hate your business?” he asks again, steady and warm.
I sit, looking at the immense asteroid and ask the question again to myself. NO. It’s its own thing entirely. I see its vastness. It is taking up an unbelievable amount of space and there is not one atom in that boulder that apologizes for that use of space. In fact, the thought of apology is so far from the boulder’s experience of itself that I don’t feel a whisper of the idea coming from it. I tell Jerry this.
“Yeah. That boulder would never think to apologize for what it is” says Jerry.
I sit, sit next to the asteroid and watch it. It’s so obviously not me. It’s a giant boulder with its own form and edges and being-ness. I suddenly feel absolutely gigantic. Much much bigger than the asteroid. If that asteroid was in me, and it’s not me, I am amazed to realize how big I must be. I have just become so much bigger that I ever thought I was.
“So is there any bit, any little bit of that boulder, that self-hate, that is your business?” he asks again, voice patient, deep, and magically a part of the image world I am walking though.
“No. It’s not me. It is its own thing, and I can see it’s violent to think that I should have power over it, that I should own it.”
I pause and watch awhile. “No…. no. I actually like it. Now I’m inside my front door looking out through the window at it. It’s sort of bending down and looking through the window at me. Like it’s just come up the driveway and wants to come in for a visit. Like a friend, and I like this friend very much. I’m happy to see it. For real. I’m curious about it. There’s no part of me that’s moving to pretend I’m not home, or hide until it goes away. I actually want to open the door and hang out.”
“Yeah.” Another pause, and then his deep slow voice again “what happens when you think that self-hate is your business now?”
I feel the question and recoil internally. “Its awful. I see myself trying to strap up my friend and control it. I’m taking over; I’m dominating the big boulder. I don’t like that feeling at all. It is so violent. All I feel is fear and violence and that I have to desperately hurt this friend of mine. It hurts to do it.”
I see myself take giant ratchet straps and truss up the boulder in my house. The boulder is cringing and scared, looking at me, shrunk back in fear. “I don’t want to do that” I whisper, horrified.
“That’s what happens when we think that self-hate is our business, even in the least bit. We try to control it, we try to change it. We think it’s our job to do that and we’re hopeless because self-hate just IS. Self-hate is self-hate. It has a right to life because it IS, and as soon as we think it doesn’t have a right to life, it hurts because it’s not true.”
“Yeah I actually love this friend. I want him to come over again. I like spending time being with him” I say, astonished that I’m saying this, but it is true. I start to feel gratitude for this friend, that this friend wants to take the time out of its life and come and spend so much of it with me. It’s an honor.
A dump of doubt suddenly floods me. “Jerry” I say, opening my eyes and looking at him on the laptop screen sitting on the bedside table. “I just had the thought that yeah, this is great and I really see this right now, but it’s all just in this place in me I can go where I see things without trying to see them. It won’t have any bearing on tomorrow when I feel self-hate. This will be totally gone.”
“So what?” Jerry says.
I burst out laughing.
“So what? So what if this is totally pointless tomorrow?” he says.
His unapologetic ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude delights me. I want to jump around and play like a puppy. “Are you going to throw your cigarette on the ground, grind it out with your boot, and then kick someone over?” I ask “Cause that’s what you look like.”
Jerry mimes smoking a cigarette, and nails it. He laughs. It looks like the persona is appealing.
“Well”, says Jerry, “it might be that tomorrow when self-hate comes there will be a pause and something new might happen. It's like the Rumi poem. When they come to your door, invite them in, give them tea, welcome them as guests.”
I’ve heard the poem dozens of times. Read aloud by others, read in books, I’ve read it aloud to myself. Teachers have talked about it. I thought I understood it, but I hadn’t.
That very night I lay in bed with my son as he falls asleep. He is fidgety. Not fidgety in a “I’m so frustrated that I can’t get to sleep” toss and turn kind of way, but fidgety in a little boy with lots of energy who’s thinking about Martin Luther King Jr kind of way, and “we don’t have anyone like that here right now” kind of way, and a “When was Abraham Lincoln president?” kind of way. When I tell him about 130 years ago he says, “Kermit’s dad could have known him. He was alive then.” Kermit was our neighbor who died 3 days short of reaching his 99th birthday. My son is throwing his leg this way and pulling the blanket down that way and then taking off his socks and thinking deep thoughts.
I lay through it, curled up on my side next to him, one arm across his little chest. I’m impatient. I don’t mind lying here, but my mind is wandering to all the things I want to do once he falls asleep, and I am starting to think if he doesn’t go to sleep soon I won’t be able to do those things.
Oh! Impatience. This is impatience. It doesn’t feel good. Ohhhhh. Oh maybe this is one of those times, one of those guests. “Is this impatience my business?” I ask myself. “NO.” The answer is immediate and unwavering. “Whoa.” Something is happening inside of me. I can actually feel the impatience separating from me and taking form as it’s complete own thing. IT'S NOT ME. Whoa. I am so big. I am suddenly wide-open space and immensely calm. I feel all the energy in my body change and become soft, alive, and peaceful. My son falls asleep instantly. I can actually feel the waves of sleep wash over him, and he’s out in a matter of seconds. I lie there for a long time, the quiet starlight filtering through the pine boughs outside the window, my son’s little body warm under the quilt.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
I should not rent my office. I’m sitting in my office in the late afternoon, A little bit of coffee is buzzing through my blood, mixing with a good level of hydration. A feeling I like. I sit here and am filled with not being sure. Fear of not making a living. Maybe I chose the wrong thing in renting this downtown office.
I should not rent my office? Is that true?
A teacher just talked about how sometimes when he drops into ‘is it true?’ His frightened mind, monkey mind, will try to find the right answer. Try to figure it out. That is what the mind does, and that is not the Work. So, my mind is doing that right now. I’m going to sit here a minute and see if I can drop in deeper into stillness and silence and let the truth bubble up.
I should not rent my office. Is that true? To really be ready for the answer, to really listen beyond the mind, I have to be ready for ANY answer. I mean, I have to really get comfortable with ‘I don’t know’. After all, that is why I’m asking the question. My mind hasn’t been able to figure it out. Its only been able to worry and obsess over it and keep me up at night and keep all my cells one micron ahead of themselves, ready, waiting for the scary future. What if every single cell in my body downshifted into now? What would that feel like? Heaven, I presume.
Try it now! Why not? Ask yourself, What if every single cell in my body downshifted into now? What would that feel like? And let that question just float in your body. Let those cells of yours answer.
OK, I digress. I should not rent my office. Is that true?
Ah Ha! I sat with that awhile and the question that sits squarely with me appeared: I should not keep my office. It is subtly different, but nails the angst I feel more squarely on the head. It frames how I’m worried about action in the future.
I should not keep my office. Is that true?
No. A feeling of peace comes over me, and I can smell things again. Little things. No, I can feel a peace about the future. I feel a coziness of the winter, a sense of lots of time spent here in good work. Peaceful good work.
How do I react, why happens when fully I believe that I should not keep my office?
Oh shit. I’ve really messed up and I have to fix it now. I have to figure out how to exit. I see all the furniture, its heavy. I see the shame of talking to my building mates and the landlord. There is a falling though all the cells in my body. An inner waterfall of draining energy. Dread. I’m tired. I don’t even want to keep typing this out. I feel like a little girl that’s done something bad and I’m just finding out about that now. A realization of my badness, and now is suffocating me. I feel like crying and collapsing.
How do I treat other people when I am in the gripe of the world this thought creates?
I want to hide. I’m ashamed, and I want to get out of this building, out of the rental as quick as I can. I treat them like they are so much better than me. They will judge me and see how stupid and unintuitive I am. They always knew better than me.
How does the thought that ‘I should not keep my office’ keep me safe?
It’s preemptive. I get to end this rental before it gets bad and other people can say I told you so. No risk. I get to get out.
Who or what am I without the thought ‘I should not keep my office.’
I take a deep, manual breath into my belly and open my mind to this question.
Oooh, I love my office. I love the curves of the ceiling above the dormer window. It’s sweet in here, like a child’s bedroom in the 1800s. I love it. I hear the traffic outside on State Street and it puts me at ease, hearing people going about their lives while I sit in contemplative quiet. I felt this way as a child during afternoon naps. The patterns of the sun though old glass panes reflected on the ceiling. Still, quiet, present. Somehow augmented by the brief blare of a radio calling up though the open window of a passing car.
I feel unbelievably grateful that this is my office. How did I get such a peaceful beautiful space just for me? I feel energy in my body expanding up and out towards a good future. A future of quiet deep work with people, as well as with myself. My center drops down onto the chair easily in this place.
I absolutely love it in here and am happily expanding towards being in here often. It feels good. I feel like I did when I was a little girl. Happy, contained in myself, happy to be here on the planet while life unfolds around me.
I should keep my office.
Yes, it feels so freaking good when I’m without the thought. Maybe its here on it’s own path to be with me as we do this Work together. Maybe it has it’s own path that includes me being here. Mmmm, I love the way this feels. Can a space want to do something with me? Wow, yes. I look around with this question alive inside of me, and the room is alive, sparkling, brimming with aliveness. Brimming with Now.
I’m going to ask it. Ready for this readers? Here goes. Do you want to be here with me? Are you in on this collaboration? And I sit and listen, listen to the room, because that is where the answer is. Wow, it just feels like the room IS me. A very old old ancient me. One I remember as a feeling, as from a dream, a dream from long long ago. There is so much beautiful stillness and silence through and though this room, it is astounding. I feel like I am resting in a nest of stillness high above the streets, a quiet pocket of presence afloat on the skyline of Ithaca.
There is a distinct feeling that the room has waited a very long time for me. The Velveteen Rabbit.
I should not get rid of my office.
No, not out of fear. Not when the impulse is so rooted in fear. I don’t want my life decisions to come from the trenches of fear.
I should not get rid of my office because I don’t even really know it yet. I want to get to know this office. Really get to know it.
I should not get rid of my office because I feel so much stillness and presence here. The silence can ring deep hear when I really listen, and that is not something to get rid of out of fear.
I should not keep my thinking about my office.
No, I should not. The thinking feels rote, boring, unoriginal. I’ve heard theses tones of fear before, they go on and on and terrify me, but they are utterly predictable. The thinking does not bring anything fresh to me. It does not see in the Now. It is conditioned, a thick layer of sludgy tarmac coating over the Now.
I should not keep my thinking about my office because it hurts. It just doesn’t feel good.
I should not keep my thinking about my office because I am ready to move beyond thinking. I have the capacity to dive inward and listen to what is beyond my mind. Why not do that instead?! And the world flowers forth in unbelievable beauty when I do.