Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What it Means to be part of the Human Race

Think about yourself and what it means to you to be part of the human race. (Sharing, 122)
See your relationships as gifts of love to yourself. See your family as shining spiritual gifts that you have chosen to have with you in this physical world.

Understand that the love within you is yours to give and in giving, you receive. The truth of love is found in the physical action of love. The physical action of love is caring and sharing all that is in your life with another. (122)

Lately I’ve been re-reading Sharing: Self Discovery in Relationships. I began reading this again with a prompt from a friend a few weeks ago. I have the book in a pile on my bed, and often pick it up and read pages at a time, when I feel moved to do so. This time was, as always, a perfect time for my mind, and I have found the energy of the words in the book extremely helpful in balancing my own energy of thinking as I end the day before sleep, or begin the day with coffee, thinking before I begin my “to-do” list. I’ve thought a lot about– what does this mean, “helps me to balance my energy,” why, how, how do I feel as I read, what is the difference it makes to me as I experience the day and interactions of the day. Some days that answer “it helps me to balance my energy” seems exactly enough – a full explanation of all it means and does for and with me, as my mind chooses to read, take in, absorb and heal in those moments of rest and momentum. Other times, I know that answering in more detail gives my mind, and whoever I’m talking with, more of an opening into my experience as I love it, and I feel my way as I talk about it. To me, it is reminiscing in real-time (creating!). As I think about my life, my thoughts, my feelings, I feel I am gathering them up together into a bundle - not so much like a bundle of dirty clothes to carry to the washing machine, but more like a blanket, warmed, that I am gathering around me.

As I feel this delicious feeling of comfort, I reflect upon the value of what I have learned and am learning in my life. This morning as I listened to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, and the humility with which she expressed how moved she was by this opportunity and the gratitude she has felt for all of those who have helped and guided her in her life, I thought about my life and the many ways of love and support I’ve experienced. This led me to thinking about how magnificent it is to know that our “spiritual design” is our own built-in guidance system, which is always supported by those we love and who love us, even when we do not necessarily recognize or acknowledge this love.

“Know that you have chosen to live in this life together, to learn and grow together, and that the lesson, the ultimate lesson of creation is unconditional love.” (119)

I listened to the nominee talk about her beginnings in the Bronx projects, the fact that she was diabetic at the age of 8, her father dying when she was 9. She did not dwell on the challenges, but beautifully acknowledged the gifts, the blessings, the guidance throughout, especially that of her mother. I’m not half the woman she is… This nominee has accomplished a great deal in her life of 53-4 years, which is universally acknowledged. She acknowledged beautifully, with such love, the true gifts of the heart, and the support of achieving any dream.

My parents supported us in this way. During the weekend when I went with Kathy to her granddaughter’s college graduation party, I had the opportunity to interact with her children and other family friends in a beautiful country setting. Driving to the event, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape – the rolling hills, both green and blue-grey in the distance, the vibrant green of leaves close up, the sounds of birds, the sight of hay rolled on fields exquisitely like tapestry, cows resting beneath trees and beside water. The peacefulness of the air (even bug-ridden at times), the soothing energy of the natural sights, the canopies of green, and especially the panorama of clouds, gave me infinite gifts which will linger in my memory forever. All of this enhances my appreciation of what it means to be alive – the giving and receiving as energy.

This morning I read in Sharing:
“As an adult, you now have the opportunity to repeat the drama as a parent of children. You become the primary teacher. You will choose to be or not to be a parent. The choice will be made according to the lesson that you have chosen. You will have alternate plans available to you. In being a parent you will act out the lessons that you have learned thus far in life.

The lessons that you have accepted with understanding will be captured within your unconscious memory and you will focus upon that memory as easily as you will focus upon your conscious memory. If you purposefully return in memory to the positive energies of your life, you will allow yourself to discover your purpose in life. “ (132-133)

When I think about my purpose in life, and I listen to the life accomplishments of others, such as Sonia Sotomayor, I reflect upon my own sense of myself and when I have felt I was productive, pleased with my accomplishments, and when I have felt like a failure, ashamed of what I have or haven’t or could have done (what was worthy of my time and energy, and therefore acceptable to others, too). When I am with others who own beautiful homes, have beautiful families, jobs with great and far-reaching effects, I appreciate these aspects of their life, and I think about my own choices of energy. I think about the absolute value and beauty of who we all are as energy beings, creative and playful in the best ways that we enjoy our creations – whether jobs, children, all relationships. As I gather the energy of myself and my life in moments, like this warm blanket (or cold dip in the swimming pool when the air is warm), I remember what I have absorbed from this book, Sharing: resistance from the intellect and ego occurs as something unpleasant to us, and it is a normal action for our intellect and ego when our spirit and soul are awakening. To consciously create as an energy form is a gift we all share. I’ve lived some wonderful experiences, with my father dying for example, and others I love in various states of energy, and the more I live and learn, the more I love what it means to be alive. It is so exciting to be able to think through the experiences of life and love them as I love the sight and energy feel of a bright orange butterfly that flits in my field of vision. With each “unpleasantness,” the joy in me grows, now. I feel the wonderful stability of maturing, not just in physical age but I mean mostly in my mind coming to know itself, and accepting the energy of love as the ultimate guiding force of my life. I have not had children, or a marriage, yet I have understood so much better what it means for us to have alternate choices, always guiding us in our evolution as consciousness, and how amazing this design of us is. An old friend once said to me, what I miss most is the laughter….. this made me think, because, while I cherished that, too, I also missed the opportunity to more consciously, physically engage in the energy of our lessons, the depth of what we shared, both verbal and nonverbal. This comment made me so conscious of the differences in our personalities, in our ways of relating to ourselves and our lives. The communication was a gift to me in itself, because it clarified this aspect for me and helped me to appreciate both of us and the truth of our friendship more.

“Your ego shuts out the light that allows you clarity of vision into your soul activities and your inner thoughts.“ (123)

To continue to understand sharing, giving and receiving as equal loving spiritual beings at our core, is to truly love. This book is a guide for me always in mapping my own journey – revealing my own map to me, and helping me to navigate the ocean of all interact I have lived and will live each moment as a physical human being. Balancing self creates acknowledgement of each part of us as One energy, consciously interacting – sharing, giving and receiving, being love. This book has helped me to appreciate all relationships, and to more consciously honor and acknowledge all those I create as I live my daily life. The freedom to be love is a gift we give ourselves as we learn to know thyself. Each friend I make and meet is a part of my human family. This is a constant revelation to me. I gather the thoughts and images of it like that warm blanket on a cold day. How amazing it is, and endlessly comforting.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dear Heart, The Asylum's No Place for You

Eudora Welty photo, from the recent Smithsonian magazine article

"I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within."

"`I said, "Dear heart, I know the asylum's no place for you, but neither is the top of a real high mountain or a cave in the cold dark ground. Here's the place." And he said, "All right, Edna Earle, but make me some candy."' (from The Ponder Heart, 1954)
Eudora Welty

“Making pictures of people in all sorts of situations, I learned that every feeling waits upon its gesture, and I had to be prepared to recognize this moment when I saw it,” she later wrote in the memoir “One Writer’s Beginnings.” “These were things a story writer needed to know.” NY Times Art Review

Eudora Welty would have been 100 on April 24. My cousin forwarded to me the Times Literary Supplement's article about Eudora Welty's Centenary, which at last I read. Paul Binding's subtitle is "an appreciation of the travelling publicist of the New Deal and enduring storyteller of the Old South." I enjoyed the article very much. Anyone who has never read Eudora Welty's work has missed a treat and an education in the artistic world of human expression. Although always a fan, I would have missed this article without my cousin's prompt. Thank you!

Though before my "time," my Mississippi roots are embedded here, and the publicist compassion Eudora Welty lived as she chose to forego her business degree at Columbia remind me of all ways we always find our way "home." She returned to Mississippi when she recognized the impracticality of her plan, Paul Binding wrote. She joined the WPA program, funded in April 1935, and her love of people and the cultural truth of life as it was then enhanced her way of doing her job. She saw the high spirits, the grinding challenge of life, of her familiar yet foreign landscape. She beautifully captured the nuances of certain microcosms of life, American life, Southern life. She famously wrote, "The Depression was not a noticeable phenomenon in the poorest state in the Union." Welty took photographs along the way - easily learning when to click the shutter, refining her sensibilities to know just the moment when people reveal themselves, "unposed." People photographed by the heart and the mind together make a different impression upon us. Her power of observation, her skill of articulation, with grace, the nuances of human feeling and gesture, in contexts clearly drawn, are unique and will forever impress their common feeling and uncommon expression.

My parents gave me a copy of One Writer's Beginnings sometime when I was in college. I treasured the gift, and Welty's writing it. Mississippi roots run deep, and although I grew up in Africa, there was never a time when I forgot porches, rockers, trellis vines, ice rattling in pitchers, overgrown green ponds, glass dog figurines, old gas pumps...pictures of all kinds float through, with feeling.

It's a profound gift to me to have been introduced to Eudora Welty's work, and to savor it at any level. Her way of observing and recording without propagandizing, noticing the dignity of people in every circumstance, continues to teach me in the best ways what it means to be human.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hanging onto Bliss

As I have been reading the last chapter (Celebrating Relationships) in Kathy Oddenino's third book, Sharing, I've also been re-reading Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion. What a book. Please read both of them! Joseph Campbell was born in 1904 and lived until 1987. He is best known, most popularly known perhaps, for his philosophy of "follow your bliss." I am a peripheral student of Joseph Campbell's - I never met him, though I continue to enjoy and learn from him in the form of his work and the preservation and popularization of his work. That sharing comes from his passion, and the passion of those with whom he interacted, those whose lives he helped to change for the better. I am a first-hand student of Kathy Oddenino's. I have the opportunity to learn from her directly, in person, as well as from her many books and "continuing education" classes.

"The energy within you is only affected by your perception of self. ... In each and every event of your physical world there is a celebration that is hidden. It is hidden from your conscious view by your own resistances to learning the lesson. Celebration is inherent in learning. Learning is movement, change, and growth." (Oddenino, Sharing, 341)

"You do not have a complete adventure unless you do get back. There is a time to go into the woods and a time to come back, and you know which it is. Do you have the courage? It takes a hell of a lot of courage to return after you've been in the woods. There are modes of having this realization, and the final thing is knowing, loving and serving life in a way in which you are eternally at rest. That point of rest has got to be in all of it. Even though you are active out there in the world, within you there's a point of complete composure and rest. When that's not there, then you are in agony.

When the world
seems to be falling apart,
the rule is to hang onto your own bliss.
It's that life that survives."
(Campbell, Reflections)

Read a few other readers' views of the Companion. Then make up your own mind!

Joseph Campbell knew how to use his mind for good. The only true use of a mind is for good, since we are designed to "know thyself." Daily I find little ways to "know thyself" more, with guidelines such as these. How easily and with what determination we attach ourselves to every physical way of thinking and doing as "all that is." This week I've gotten lots of advice, about a number of different things. I'm learning to listen, sift, absorb more purely what is truly in keeping with me and my own consciously opening energy self, and not be hyper-reactive to someone who comes with advice unsolicited. It's a big lesson for me in this life, and I love the many-splendored ways of finding and hanging on to my my own bliss. I've been hyper-reactive in my life when I've felt like I wasn't doing something right, and interpreted this as my own "failure," rather than simply, maybe there's a better way. It's amazing to me to THINK, to learn how my mind is coming to know itself, and love what it gains as I grow.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Friendship and Fencing

Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889 by Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) Photo: Samuel Courtauld Trust, Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery

Today in the British Telegraph I read an article about Van Gogh and Gauguin. Two German art historians have written a new story about how Van Gogh's famous ear "fell" off. They write about this "pact of silence" between the two friends, saying that Gauguin, a skilled fencer, cut off Van Gogh's ear as they fought in front of a brothel which housed a prostitute they both had passions for. Some art historians and scholars, curators disagree. I've been interested in Van Gogh for a long time, in his paintings, and his letters. He wrote letters, especially to his brother Theo, that are an archive worth preserving within themselves. His passion for color, his absolute absorption in the energy of the air, the color, the textures, the way light captured his own - all are revealing and fascinating to wonder about. I smiled when I read this article, because the details of fighting over a woman - the artists enraged and unable, for the moment, to come to gentler words - make much more sense to me in my appreciation of Van Gogh and his expressions than does the self-mutilation and the violence of razoring his own ear and bleeding for only his own disgust. The affection for Gauguin and other passions they shared, smoking gun or not, makes more sense to me, too.

The other aspect of this that is so wonderfully human is how stories are told, how we accept them, explore them, how they become "fact," until our perception changes to a new level of truth. Today as I was talking with Kathy Oddenino as we prepare for her next seminar, she answered a question I had with "energy is an event! We are an event!" As I come to know Life as energy in matter and motion, I smile to know Life, each moment, is an energy event. To know "we are an event" has yet another twist, another turn, another spiral of energy experience to explore. This story of Van Gogh and Gauguin, whatever the truth of the ear and the sword, reminds me of how passionately we live, and how much better we love as we learn to know our true colors and express them so.

In one letter to his brother Theo, Van Gogh shared a poem which included the words "after the sun's good night kiss." I love the phrase. He spoke about the beauty and wealth of flowers and surprising peacefulness of the parks in London. He sold only one painting during his lifetime, The Red Vineyard (400 francs). Since then, his paintings have brought in record sums and attention. I love Van Gogh's absolute attention and devotion to his craft, to his loves. Speculations abound about the chemical effects of paint fumes, the depression and challenges he faced with beliefs that he worked with in his mind. The record of his passion is clear, and his appreciation of the vitality and life of color. He honored other artists with the same devotion, present, past, and future.

As I think about Van Gogh, his letters, his images, his struggles and joys, I think of letters and images in my own world of influence. As "National Nurses' Week" begins, I'm reading about Florence Nightingale and her work and world of influence. "The pioneers of one generation are forgotten when their work has passed into the accepted doctrine and practice of another." -- Edward Cook, Florence Nightingale . Her influence was in another sphere, which I'll write about in another post. As I read bits of current history, I see shining glimpses of stones in the road which are records of those who have gone before us. When an old friend found me on Facebook last week, she wrote to tell me congratulations, and that she had bought my book and was eagerly awaiting it. I was happy to hear from her again, and happy to know she shared my joy of writing the story of "my life" in one cycle as I've lived it. Out of that great "unknown" (facebook) appeared this friend again, with a picture of her with her beautiful little boy. What joy! Daily news is full of our stories and images. To love ourselves honors each other and each image we create, no matter what we "sell" in this lifetime. Let's honor our stepping stones, and not just wait for their biographers or footnotes in history. We are our own ancestors and we make history as we live every moment. Know Thyself - Share the wealth!

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Sound of Music

I watched this video from a link on Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project. Her mother-in-law sent her the link. I hope you'll watch it. I smiled as the people smiled, and the collective energy became this great, smiling, clapping joy (minus a few reluctant wonderers and skeptics, whose minds were impressed nonetheless, to be brought up again later.., perhaps when least expected and most wanted...!)

More than 200 dancers were performing their version of "Do Re Mi", in the Central Station of Antwerp. with just 2 rehearsals they created this amazing stunt!