Archive for the 'blessings' Category

Getting past the initial thrill

September 29, 2012

There’s a phenomenon, I’m not sure it has a name, of realizing that one has accomplished something one desired but/and now one has to do something with it.

It could be “getting into Harvard” — okay, now what am I going to do with that educational opportunity?  (I was reading Joe Nocera on college rankings.)  Or getting a particular job or kind of job.  Maybe for some people it’s getting married or having a child or learning a particular trade or being signed to a record deal.  I’m sure there are a lot of fact patterns for the same phenomenon.  What will I actually accomplish, now that I’ve gotten where I’ve wanted to go?

When I began to develop spiritual gifts, it occurred to me pretty early on that they’re not parlor tricks or things to be used for material advantage.  On the other hand, it’s also become pretty clear that sitting on a mountain top in contemplation is not where my path seems to lead.

So what do I do now that I’ve gotten to this point in my life?  I can recite the Jewish blessing for thanks for having been brought to this point (actually, I would have to go look it up somewhere, but I could express the concept from my heart in prayer), but what this point actually is remains something of a mystery to me.  Relating it to the “getting into Harvard” phenomenon helps me think about it in a more concrete way.

 

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Encountering a man at his practice

May 23, 2012

Between two medical errands for a family member this morning, I walked past the local high school,which has a lot of grass and trees between its building and Mass. Ave.  There, crouching on a path beneath a tree, was an older man.  He was wearing white or off-white, including his turban.  He apparently noticed my noticing him before I drew parallel to him on the sidewalk, because he suddenly turned round and back to see me approaching, and without getting up, he put his hands together and bowed as I did draw parallel.  I awkwardly returned the gesture but from a standing position, and then came the good part — we smiled, and I found myself as I continued to my second medical errand smiling so broadly, contemplating approaching the divine together the way one might go up to get a book signed by the author, feeling like I had met up with someone of like mind in some aspect.  My smile was not my own as I continued walking, and it was a terrific one.  I don’t know who he was, but the encounter was lovely and it felt as if it included an exchange of blessings, and that he was happy at the encounter, too.

Beyond the encounter itself is what I think it means in my life, or at least in the spiritual progress of whomever I’m helping if it’s not me.  I think I’ve been looking to have such an encounter, but where I hoped it might be, with people I might have known or wanted to know, it wasn’t.  It was here, in front of Arlington High School, with someone I might have no other means of communicating with, whom I know nothing about, and whom I may never see again.

The encounter came after my trip to NJ, where I grew up, and during which I felt a new understanding of an old theme.  It came up in multiple guises with multiple casts of participants.  I saw the theme from different angles, and that seemed to result in a release.  I felt for myself and maybe on behalf of someone else an acceptance of something like the idea that other people’s choices that may seem mysterious to us might actually be best for them.  If we let go of insisting, we open ourselves up to something better, then, is what the upshot of this combination of release and encounter seems to me to be.

Yearning

March 7, 2012

Having alluded to having had a sort of spiritual experience back in 2000, I thought I might write about an aspect of it that I haven’t yet understood to my satisfaction.  I wrote that “I found myself connecting with faith, joy, hope,”in my previous post, and that’s true.  I also found myself with a really strong sense of yearning.

My immediate association with the yearning was high school and unrequited romantic love, which was quite an experience at age forty-two.  I felt moved to write a poem, the first one I had written in decades, and it turned out to be about longing and previous loss, about the narrator as an adolescent and about a younger boy named Icarus lying dead on the beach beside her.  In it also figured her burnt hands, an accident, a great love from her past whom she hears singing in the distance behind her.  It started off with a question about how do you capture the emptied heart, and it seems to resolve it by not trying to possess the love of this man in the background but to accept it, to bask in it as being for her but not hers.  She winds up by the end of the poem being able to look at her scarred and misshapen hands and not hide them, as she had, and somehow by accepting his love as for her and but not as generated, in its origin, on her behalf, [“It is just what he does / for a living, his living], her heart has grown full again.

There are three kinds of yearning I’ve read about since I had that experience and wrote that poem that have rung a bell for me in connection with that experience.  One was C.S. Lewis’s sense of yearning in his own spiritual journey, another was something I read in a eastern religious context about yearning and about not confusing the willingness to serve (which does lead to a requiting of that yearning, through union with God, which does not and instead results in a “fall”) with desire to merge with God and experience that love and resolution), and the third was about a yearning for admiration and righteousness, as I recall it from memory from a recent David Brooks column.

So, to me, this all indicates that the yearning is for love, and for a very deep love.  Maybe some people hope that the sum total of the love they receive from others in response to their upright behavior will be the path to that love, while others seek it through an interior experience.  I’m going to speculate that the orientation of pursuing admirable and righteous behavior is a way, and a wonderful way, of keeping a person’s heart open during adverse circumstances.  My own experience of needing to keep my heart open was in the context of creating a family, and I knew after losing a baby, that I needed a child to nurture in order to keep from becoming angry and bitter, which I knew with a great certainty was something to avoid.  So my husband and I adopted children (which was actually something we had planned to do after having a couple through the biological process), and my heart was kept open through that (maybe also broken, but I’d prefer heartbreak to a closed heart).  When the heart is kept open, I think great things are always possible.

This leads me to my latest understanding of my old poem.  That there is, in the context of romantic love, some sort of equivalent to loving a child born to another set of parents, and that somehow I am trying to figure out how to do that, and to do it without lapsing into petty emotions like jealousy and selfishness and whatever emotion “neediness” comes out of.  If I can figure out how to locate that purer strand of love in the midst of romantic love, I think I will find the blessing in the difficulty of the situation in which I found that love, and, paradoxically, come to accept and appreciate the difficult context.

How that experience of love relates to love of the divine and to spiritual merging I am not sure, but I have this nagging and annoying suspicion that it involves learning to love myself better than I do.  I think my sense of what it meant to buy flowers might be an opening to that understanding — when I love someone deeply interpenetrated with me, I love myself, perhaps inadvertently, and that experience allows me to prime the pump and feel what self-love feels like, and from that have that kind of love grow inside of me.  I’m not sure, probably because I’m in the midst of it.  I know I try to love and help other people in a way that probably is unhealthy, that doesn’t come out of a place of strength and deep resource, and I am aware of trying to adjust what I do so that I love people and help as I can but not become drained myself.  My sense is that my struggles with this are related to my difficulties with self-love.  I think for me a huge challenge is how to love myself in the face of loss, to not let difficult outcomes that I can’t control affect my regard for myself.  And I do know that I am a work in progress (although I do have that voice that keeps asking, “Are we there yet?”  We are when I don’t hear it anymore, I think.)

In the meantime I am thankful for having great love in my life, even when I feel frustrated by its context.  I guess I hope that recognizing the blessing in that perceived difficulty, welcoming it, and developing the gift it offers me will lead to a sense of peace that may quiet the yearning, either directly or indirectly.

Golden Tie

January 22, 2012

I posted the beginnings of my musings on the presentation of a yellow, or gold, tie to David Brooks by a houseguest of his, that he reported during the most recent posting of the pre-NewsHour blog segment Shields and Brooks do with Hari Sreenivasan.  The tie turned out to have a label identifying it as some sort of promotional item from Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana.  The story seems to be that Daniels distributed the ties in China, and a houseguest from China gave one to David.

I commented on the NewsHour blog that the tie reminded me of white (or gold or blue) scarves given as offerings in some strands of Buddhist culture.  I don’t know too much about this custom.  I did a little bit of reading today about it, after the idea that the tie was like a khata in this context had burbled up in my mind in a vague form.  What I read makes me think that the Mitch Daniels “re-gifting” aspect of the gift is not irrelevant.  But I thought I’d go on about it here, not on the NewsHour blog, out of concern for being thought an inappropriate guest there (and I would have linked to my blog in my comment there, but I’ve never been sure that’s considered acceptable practice on that blog).

I read that the scarf (khata) may be offered back to the person making the original offer (of the scarf) to the lama.  Now, Mitch Daniels and David Brooks clearly are not the same person, but they could be what some people might call part of the same soul group, or manifestations of the same spirit in some way.  The way I interpret what’s going on, in light of other understandings I have about a spiritual partnership that got very complicated, is that the person who passed his spiritual understandings to his partner was no longer available to receive them back from her, so eventually she found a way to return them to his “soul brother,” someone who shared important features of his make-up — that recipient here is David Brooks (“the part of the seeker, formerly played by Mitch Daniels in this tale, is now being played by David Brooks”).  This is a lot more positive an interpretation than was the one apparently previously held that inferred that the lama simply returned the gift to the wrong person.

I don’t actually think the story is really about Mitch Daniels and David Brooks per se, as their own selves, rather I think that they are re-enacting a situation that happened over many centuries.  I think the Mitch Daniels character is long gone (and I don’t think this says anything negative about Daniels’ health or prospects).  I think David’s character is some kind of wise teacher (his career as a pundit is an echo), but I think the return of the scarf symbolizes that he has been missing something, in need perhaps of some understanding that has been returned to him.  I don’t know, I don’t know his life, his spiritual life, or all that much about him, but it doesn’t really matter what I know, whatever it all means will become clear to him at some point, and that’s, to me, what his receipt of this gift from his houseguest is all about.

Blessings

January 7, 2012

I went to Friday night services last night, and the rabbi had us work with a partner to exchange blessings.  Each partner was to ask for a particular blessing, and then the other would give that blessing.

I worked with a young woman, probably young enough to be my daughter, but who knows, I used to be mistaken for someone much younger myself.  It was neat to put that kind of consideration aside and just interact with the person on the same level, as an equal.  And we asked for not dissimilar things — to feel from within that one is okay, to have peace of mind through an integration of mind and body.

Afterwards, I thought about practices like Reiki and about being a conduit for energy, healing energy, blessing energy, God’s love, the forces of the universe beyond us, whatever, because I really got that sense that she and I had accomplished that together.  Both the feeling of being blessed and of blessing were wonderful.

I should probably add that I had squelched my initial discomfort with the rabbi’s giving us such an assignment.  My discomfort had something to do with my prior experience with “group work” and with being told what to do (and probably with working on something requiring some amount of intimacy with someone I didn’t know), but I really like the idea of blessings and I was curious to experience what would happen and I know that we find our spiritual experiences where we might not expect them, so I pushed my misgivings aside.  I’m glad I did.

I am also interested that the person who initially invited me to the services, and has sat next to me when I’ve gone so far, wasn’t there last night, although, of course, we might have had different partners for the exercise.  I take it as a help to me to focus on the blessings themselves, because in a way, not knowing the other person from before makes that easier, once any initial awkwardness is gotten over.