Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"I'm OK, You're OK"

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." ~ Henry David Thoreau

When I was a young child, this book tended to be laying around the house.  A popular bestseller by a psychiatrist in the early 70's, I remember staring at the cover several times, pondering the title, my young mind not able to get a handle on it, yet wondering what it meant. 

The title came to mind this morning as I was reflecting on what we often tell each other in this very loose spiritual community where I tend to hang out.  "I'm OK, You're OK."  Repeat after me.  It begins to feel familiar.

Here we go again.  I felt much the same way hanging around Fundamentalists, where the mantra was actually "I'm Not OK, You're Not OK" (well, that is, until you obtain the secret formula to flip the magic switch to "OK").  Hmmmm, then again, they aren't only ones who claim to have a switch.

We feel there must be a rule, some kind of rule, there just HAS to be a rule, like a rigid "Law of Attraction" (explained and understood in a myriad of disparate ways) - because if there isn't some magic formula, some magic switch to "OK", then that's really very terrifying, isn't it, almost as terrifying (though really not nearly) as Fundamentalist heaven and hell.

During my forum days, one of my most popular (and controversial) posts was essentially based on the question "How can you be happy in heaven while others are suffering in hell?"  It was directed towards evangelicals because it was my contention that there was no way anyone could truly be happy in heaven, not if they loved anyone in hell.  I rephrased it much more strongly the first time I posted it:  "If hell exists, everyone is going there," triggering quite the evangelical firestorm in response.  I'm wasn't afraid of a firestorm, not if I spoke my truth.

I have observed an unhealthy trend in some circles I travel.  People are far too often feeling restrained from saying when things are not going so OK.  Because if you say it too strongly, that might make it worse, your words and thoughts betraying you in the process.

Or in the worst of mental mind traps, maybe if you DO say you aren't fully experiencing "OK" at the moment, people will determine you are not walking the walk in some way, not thinking the right thoughts, as you supposedly are required to be OK if you are following the rules.  And before we know it, as much as we might resist, we are quietly judging others and ourselves, litmus tests in hand, just like the Fundamentalists, with ideals impossibly out of reach.  The thought police on overdrive, that's basically what happens.  So let's all watch our language, get out the brooms and the rugs, sweep in unison together, repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat again...and just say we're ALL OK.

And sadly, any chance of actually being real with one another (or with ourselves) is swept away in the process.  To be human is to experience both OK and Not OK and everything in between.  That's why we are here.

In my mental house, I'm putting away the rugs and the brooms.  I invite you to do the same, if you dare, or at least attempt to leave them at the door if you come to visit.

Do I believe in co-creation?  Actually, yes, as it makes sense if we are aspects of an omnipresent God.  Does it always make sense?  Is there some magic switch?  If I say "I do believe, I do believe, I do believe" enough, will fairies magically appear?  Perhaps.  Sometimes.  I'm really not sure when.

Do I believe dwelling on the negative can do us harm?  Of course it can, if it becomes an obsession, but masking what we feel can harm us just as much.

If I can't say if things are going not so OK to a dear friend, if all that comes out next on both our parts are the brooms, the rugs and the mantras, then something is very NOT OK with that.  And I'm left to walk the path alone, the page my only friend.  

Most of all, I believe in Unconditional Love, which generally transcends all the "rules".  Aspects of God, I sense we willingly come here to create certain lessons for ourselves, that's the closest I can come, because every time I have a challenge (like this time now), I come away with a lesson, forever changed - the more powerful the challenge, the more powerful the lesson.  And especially the compassion and empathy for others (and for myself too). 

Might I ask a favor?  (And by the way, I'm listening to my own advice too...)  The next time a friend tries to tell you things really aren't so OK, allow that person to BE REAL (and if you are the person doing the telling, if in a space of trust, allow YOURSELF to be real and say what is upon your heart).  Listen, dear friends.  Reflect.  Empathize.  And of course, offer encouragement and advice if you can.  See both the "OK" and "Not OK" (and everything in between) - and within yourself too while you're at it.  Share yourself openly in response if you dare.  And maybe, just maybe, you will both manage to be real, a gift well beyond the words.

Compassion.  Empathy.  Love.  Yes, it has much to do with that.  Those are the words I choose to focus upon as I begin a New Day.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Depths

And though I attempted to evade it, here is what was really on my heart to write tonight...(even better, it's now the next day, so I can post two blog entries, two days in a row...)

"How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean." 
~ Arthur C. Clarke

How often do we find ourselves splashing around in shallow waters, like children playing a game, when we are fully capable of exploring the hidden depths of the sea?  The shallows have their place of course, yet I yearn to know the depths.

I have toyed with this notion of learning to swim all of my life.  I used to be so afraid of the water, I avoided walking by the deep end of a pool.

I just happened to go to one of the only high schools in my city with a pool, a kind of curse for people like me.  In earlier days, they used to force every gym student to learn how to swim (an unpleasant memory of one of my sisters).  By the time I got to the school, you could take Dance class instead, so I managed to dance my way out of the requirement (though not the most coordinated, I actually enjoyed that quite a bit).

Most terrors are born in childhood when our trust is torn away.  I remember floating in a Colorado lake, right at the edge of the mountains at the age of 6 (Soda Lake it was called - I was told anyone could float in Soda Lake, and I believed them).  Not from a swimming family, a neighbor took us out one day.  It was absolutely wonderful, I recall, not frightening at all, floating looking up at crystal Colorado skies above.

Another day that summer, we went to a pool instead.  Soon I was floating again.  Then taken by surprise, someone splashed me with water and pushed me under (perhaps it was an accident, I feared it was a bully).   I can't really remember all that happened next, but I know it was scary.  No, I didn't drown (obviously!), though I thought I might.  I don't think the water was actually that deep.  But for whatever reason (and I always did have breathing issues), that was it.  One violation of trust and that was all it took.  I still occasionally splashed in shallow pools, but I didn't dare to float, not for many years.

In high school, ironic as it seems, I was a swim team assistant, though I escaped the pool in Gym.  Friends were on the team, including at least one I quietly admired a bit more over time.  I silently sat in an office above, behind the glass with scores in hand, typing away, rarely daring to even venture near the depths.

Then a day came in my 20's when I forced myself to swim.  My teacher was very, very clever, gently coaxing me into the water.  It took literally weeks to learn to float.  Nearing retirement, she had taught many frightened children and I suspect quite a few frightened adults.  First she held me in the water completely like a child, then as she slowly moved towards letting go, gradually handing me smaller and smaller inflatable objects, one day I found myself clinging to a single empty milk container floating in the water.  And realizing just how silly that was, I let it go.  Floating was easy!  And eventually I started to learn to swim...mostly... I was beginning to get the idea in the shallows, until I had to breathe - so still I feared the depths, as mastering my breathing eluded me.

Then the car wreck happened, the little truck utterly totaled on an isolated mountain road.  There were no cell phones, but people arrived to help.  I wasn't driving and it wasn't our fault, and we were mostly ok (a woman in the other car almost died, and that was where everyone's attention was).  I thought I was mostly ok anyway.  Or so it seemed.  Just to realize a day or so later I really wasn't ok, and I was in a neck brace, sling, muscle relaxants at night for way too long and physical therapy for a year.  The insurance company brought that to a rather abrupt halt (a story in itself).  The pains in my neck and shoulder and tingling in my hand eventually went away.  Many things heal in time.  But I used it all as a convenient excuse to stop the swimming, the depths out of reach once again. 

Around the time of my divorce, not long after my spiritual awakening, I decided to confront the depths again.  The only pool nearby was a scuba pool (surprisingly in Kansas), as deep as pools can go, pictures of lavish adventures at sea on the walls as you approached it.  My son was taking lessons there.  One day I decided to take lessons too.  It was a time of bold adventure, a time of facing fears.  This teacher was more demanding, not quite so gentle and patient as the first.  But I listened.  I finally learned to swim, mostly (even better than before).  Unfortunately, I never quite mastered my fear of the depths before we moved, though he made me swim over that gaping hole of darkness several times.  I did it as fast as I could, the breathing still elusive.  I could swim in other ways of course and breathe all I liked, but I didn't like swimming over the deep in the blind, always silently fearing something would pull me under, as it had long ago.  Even so, I did learn the joys of peacefully floating in the shallows.

One day, my teacher tried to get me to dive under the water from the surface (not from the edge, he knew I wasn't ready for that).  I literally couldn't do it, I was so buoyant (ironic to discover).  I think it might have made it easier to dive, to actually go there, to see it, to explore it, then it wouldn't be so dark.  But I couldn't.  Not in that pool.

Another day very near the end of my time in that locale, a substitute teacher assumed I knew how to tread water.  I didn't.  She coaxed me to attempt it anyway.  And I was amazed that I could!  It was easy.  It was much like dancing.  I defied the depths that day, laughing, dancing over the dark I feared - it was like a miracle.  The depths would never be the quite the same again. 

Soon my days in Kansas ended, and though I took just a few more swimming lessons by the ocean far away, the depths await me still.  I am a master of behind the glass...a window is open, the ocean breeze freeing me to breathe.  So I sit here typing while I look out to the waters...the depths call me to the Dance.  It's up to me to listen...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hide and Seek

As an indicator of just how busy of a week it has been, I discovered this unfinished blog entry from several days ago as I was about to blog again, actually an expansion of a personal account I shared with a need to delete it of it is...

"You may choose to hide, or you may choose to seek, it is entirely up to you." 
~ Steve Rother/The Group

I headed out on my walk to the park earlier this morning, in a state of peaceful reflection, consciously walking in a space of quiet Joy amidst the roses blooming in the sunshine.  It's "Rose Festival" time in the City of Roses, and the area actually does live up to its name.   For a time, I enjoyed the peaceful solitude of the park, practically all to myself, exactly what I had hoped for.

And then...

The lawn mowing crew.  A loud and monstrous thing right in front of me, plus the truck and trailer it came in heading straight for me on the gravel access road.  I of course quickly changed direction.  But no matter where I seemed to go to evade the giant mower, there he was. I headed for a smaller path, just to discover a man with a smaller hand-pushed mower up ahead.

So I went even  farther out of the way to sit on a bench under a tree, and from seemingly out of nowhere, another big mower literally showed up right behind us to mow the grass where my dog was about to lay down! It was then that I got a bit angry, all but destroying my peaceful state of mind, fleeting as it was.

I decided to leave the park, my quiet meditation clearly not going as planned. That's when even more people arrived with their dogs (normally I don't mind people and dogs, but today I was looking for peace), followed by van loads of preschoolers laughing and playing as they tumbled out onto the trail.

It was then I finally realized God was laughing too. It was a bit of a test, you see - of course it was! What a magical thing it is to play a game with God. And Who Is an Omnipresent God anyway?

"Can you still feel the Joy?"  Joy comes in many forms of course.  And even though the walk had utterly defied my peaceful expectations, yes, indeed I could.

I left the park and headed up the steepest route to home (that's my workout challenge every day, I'm so determined to get in better shape). Now the entire thing was making me laugh, as I was in on the joke.  Could I still enjoy the walk in the midst of all the noise?  Loud planes flew right overhead, one quite low. 

In the final block, I have to say I couldn't help but smile.  Then I went out to my little garden. Finally it was quiet, and I took a deep breath, smiling, watching my roses bloom, looking up at the evergreens I love under such a beautiful clear blue sky.

Playing hide and seek with God as we walk upon the Earth has its rewards. And isn't that really why we are here?