Archive for the 'energy' Category

Energy

February 7, 2015

The red bar on the heating oil tank gauge is at the bottom.  We had been on the home heating oil company’s automated routine delivery list for today.  (I had been told that earlier in the week.)  At noon, I called, since there had been no delivery.  I got a maybe yes, maybe no sort of answer, “You’re one of many.”

We’ve been with this oil company for years, probably twenty.  They used to say customers would never run out, that they’d give you a free tank if you did, they were that sure that you wouldn’t and they put that much emphasis on customer service.

Now they say, “We took on a lot of new business recently and we can’t keep up.  Your pipes won’t start freezing for 8 to 10 hours after your heat stops running.”

I signed us up on the emergency list, which should get us a small amount of “fluid” to tide us over until they bring the full amount.   We’ll see what happens.

This is what we get from systems and norms we as a society accept, if not embrace.  I see contributing factors from capitalism, greed, inadequate conscientiousness, insufficient ability to think ahead, and just not thinking about others to whom commitments have already been made and who are depending on those commitments.

It could be worse.  I have no babies here or elderly ill adults (as they have across the street), it’s just Jordan and myself.  But it does impact my peace of mind, my trust in others, and my sense that if I do my part (pay my oil bills and keep my walkway clear), they will do theirs and all will go smoothly.  And it could lead to damage (to house, to health, to my ability to get done what I need to get done later today).  As it is, they questioned whether I was opening the door more or something, to require more heating;  not only am I not, but, as I pointed out to the fellow, our energy consumption should actually be lower because we had six new storm windows installed this summer.

So much for good will, customer service, and the market.

Update:  We received oil late this afternoon.  While the emergency technician was preparing to hand-carry five-gallon vessels of oil from his van to pour into the tank, the company called my house to say the delivery truck would make it today after all.  I put the technician on the phone, he was relieved, as he had been trying to contact his company, and I was fine with waiting for the substantial delivery, so long as I was being told it really would come.  And it did come, about an hour later, around 4 o’clock.  The technician had told me to make sure the furnace was running while the oil was being delivered (by increasing the thermostat setting), to make sure the furnace didn’t need to be primed.

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Discernment

October 13, 2014

I’ve had people tell me that I am working on learning discernment, and I have kept that in mind, while having trouble seeing where it applies.  But this afternoon I had an example that may be about where I need to work on it.

I was reading NYTimes articles and opinion pieces, and I found myself feeling very tired and thinking about taking a nap.  And I was a little surprised to be feeling as though I needed a nap.  I reviewed when I got up (a little after six), how much walking I had done (into the center of town and back), how much tea I had had (enough that it wasn’t lack of caffeine).  I didn’t think any of that explained why I felt so tired.

And then my mother, who is staying with us for a few weeks, walked into the kitchen and told me she was going to take a nap.  I accompanied her up to the room she is using, she started her nap, and I found I didn’t feel tired anymore.

So for me, it is a lesson is learning what’s mine and what’s somebody else’s.  That, in turn, teaches me to perceive a mood or a feeling as just a mood or a feeling  —  when it’s clear it’s somebody else’s, it is also clearer it is just a mood or a feeling or whatever, something more like an item of clothing one can put on or take off, since it may not be the mood or feeling I actually have myself, left to my own devices.  Then I can, after that, think about how my moods and feelings are just as much ephemeral, contingent, and changeable as those I pick up from others; and that, then, helps me see that they are not such a big deal as they may feel from the inside of the person experiencing them.

Letting it pass through you

June 22, 2014

Sometimes during an argument, the other person hurls an insult.  I don’t know how it is for biological parents, but adoptive parents sometimes get from their children during the heat of an argument, “You’re not even my real mother.”  And you take it for what it is, part clumsy expression of fact (that I am not their first mother), part expression of pain and frustration (maybe even powerlessness), part attempt to penetrate their opponent’s defenses.  And you let it pass through you.

The relationship, as I see it, between addiction and spiritual connection is that some people are open in some ways and not in others, and they prematurely encounter a spiritual equivalent to “You’re not even my real mother.”  It may well be that “boundaries, strong identity, impulse control, and deep God experience” were lacking (that’s from today’s Daily Meditation from Father Rohr), but I think those are secondary to the problem of encountering a difficult wave of spiritual energy while, on the one hand, not being simple and  innocent enough (to allow it to pass through naturally), and, on the other hand, not being spiritually (re-)developed enough (to allow it to pass through consciously), either.  I think the addiction comes from the dynamic of the energy encountered — it is an energy that offers a rush of pleasure but at a very high long-term cost.  Very innocent people I think never get caught up in the energy because they are oblivious to it, but people with a little less innocence may stop to take a look, to see what it is, maybe they even try to resist the energy or tussle with it, or maybe they become frightened by it.  In any case, they interact with it instead of letting it pass through them.  Without a really well developed capacity for removing the ego from that encounter, the person becomes sucked into a cycle of succumbing to short-term pleasure and long-term pain.  To get out of that dynamic, one has to remove one’s “hang-ups” and learn detachment, and those are helpful things in their own right.  That’s why in Al-Anon, the program for relatives and friends of alcoholics, one sometimes hears gratitude expressed for having gone on the journey of growth that the alcoholism of another has impelled them to go on — it can be a painful means to a very helpful result.

My point is that I think addiction may actually be the result of a spiritual encounter that went awry, not because there was anything wrong with what was encountered, but because of the person’s state of mind.  In that respect, I agree with the Daily Meditation, it’s just that I think there is no surprise that people who fall into addiction have a keen spiritual sense — it’s what got them into the situation in the first place — it was keen but not keen enough.  I also don’t think it was “aimed in the wrong direction” so much as it was unable to process safely what it encountered.  I have the impression that the strand of belief that Jesus dealt with something spiritually on the behalf of others may arise out of some notion of protecting people from this pitfall.  But I think in the end we all need to develop all the tools, including those that would allow us to extricate ourselves on our own (with spiritual help) from this particular pitfall.  Trying to deal with how people do get seriously stuck in this pitfall should not be confused conceptually with roping off the pitfall and putting up permanent detour signs.  Otherwise we end up with the bogeyman under the bed, with the part of the map labeled “There be monsters here,” when in fact there is no bogeyman or monster, only an energy difficult to process.  And then we have the very real problem of having created the idea that there is a bogeyman.

Volume

April 24, 2014

I very much appreciated Richard Rohr’s reminder this morning that “Without all the inner voices of resistance and control, it is amazing how much you can get done and not get tired.”  That’s in today’s Daily Meditation.

Gita and I have talked about this, too — couldn’t do it without “letting go” and “turning it over.”

Now, I am perfectly prepared to believe that I could do this better.  I put up resistance (like a kid pushing the spinach to the side of their plate), I fret, I get ahead of myself, I try to get other people to act in a way to prevent a future problem (like trying to get them to correct, before it is filed, a tax return that has mistakes in it).

I think I see two additional issues, in addition to “letting go” and “turning it over,” but, as I said, I am prepared to discover the issue lies with me.

One is volume.

I just end up with too many things on my plate as a result of being open to and able to do caretaking.  The inflow can feel as if it exceeds my processor’s capacity.

The second is society’s (unreasonable) demands.

The two kind of intertwine.

I once heard someone say that she thought of the nursing home in which her mother lived as being like “one big alcoholic.”  She meant that the institution could be as difficult to deal with as a human alcoholic, and with similar patterns of behavior.  I’ve felt similarly about other institutions, including schools, hospitals, social services, the justice system.  Whether it’s damaging behavior by the institution to a loved one or demands from the institution on me (as a caretaker), it can feel as if what I am called upon to do exceeds the amount of energy I can give it without too much damage to myself.

It’s no secret that patients in hospitals and nursing homes who have caretakers of their own weighing in as case managers do better, get better care, etc.

So where to draw the line between detachment and involvement?

It’s not just the wisdom of knowing the difference between what we can change and what we can’t, it’s also putting a boundary on how much of ourselves we can deploy without too much depletion.  Inflow from prayer and meditation certainly helps, but I think outflow can exceed inflow if care is not taken.  On the other hand, there is an instinct or desire to try to prevent or ameliorate suffering of others.  Part of that is wrapped up in trying to avoid pain — something we are encouraged to do by our norms and our survival instinct.  I think there is also a part of helping others in some situations that is from pressure from social norms more directly, regardless of where we think we should be drawing lines and regardless of inner guidance about where to observe boundaries, of what’s ours to do and what’s not.

My sense is that we have with our current social organization shifted around responsibility like a hot potato or like a shell in a game in which something is being hidden beneath one of a number of inverted cups.  Some techniques we seem to me to use to do this include, for example, narrowly defining our piece of the project and expecting others to do more;  littering, on the justification that one little piece won’t hurt;  setting systems up in such a way that requires a person without authority or control to have responsibility.

I don’t know if human free will can “clog up the plumbing” of the system of human interaction and society, or whether it’s the case that any system we devise can work, so long as those who have to use it interface adequately with divine help.  But I admit that sometimes I think we have developed a system that doesn’t work, especially for the long run.

For me, the questions are relevant to the issue of how much better a situation can be expected to go — because I am often hearing from others that things could be better if I just _______.  I have run through a fair number of _______, and I am here to say they do not necessarily work as advertized.  Maybe this is why 12-step programs refrain from advice and why the most general helpful source I found after Willy died was actually Al-Anon, the program for family and friends of alcoholics, although Willy was not a qualifier of mine.

At any rate, I conclude for now that working on my part of the equation, so long as I do it gently, can’t hurt, but that I should also be wary of assuming that optimizing my own part will result in things going better in other ways.

“Country Roads”

April 11, 2014

I am well aware not everybody enjoys John Denver’s music.  I had some college suitemates freshman year who couldn’t bridge their John Denver / Bob Dylan divide, so for the second semester I gave up my single in the suite to share the suite’s lone double with the John Denver maven, just to keep the peace.

I like both Denver and Dylan, it depends what I’m in the mood for.

But I really like this duet performance of Denver’s “Country Roads,” because there seems to me to be such a joyful energy being generated between the two performers — I don’t think my enjoyment is particularly about the song itself, I think the song has become a vehicle for something even more satisfying, and that’s what I’m enjoying.

Anyway, the video makes me smile.

Solar energy

April 3, 2014

I have questions about all those solar panels up on roofs — like how much they increase the cost of re-roofing.  My back roof is hard enough to re-shingle — it requires finesse, because like many things in an old house, it is not all squared-off and perfectly seated.  I would be hesitant to venture out into complicating re-roofing further.

So I was quite proud of myself for buying a garden decoration that included a small solar cell and a lamp.

Only it didn’t work.  We could get it to go on once, but that was it.  Apparently one of its wires was cut as it went from one piece of the decoration to another.

So I returned it.

And stuck a Buddha statue I already owned out there instead.

I’ll leave the interpretation to others.

Which tradition?

January 20, 2014

Richard Rohr talks about delving deep through one’s spiritual tradition, citing the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa as sources.

My sense is that the only bedrock guidelines are, open your heart and listen.  If that process leads to going with a particular current religious tradition, that’s one thing.  But if it leads elsewhere, that’s something else.

So, too, with the notion of the happy mystic Father Rohr has written about.  To me that sounds like a human interpretation, the idea that mystics will give external evidence of happiness.  Maybe the “physics” of being a mystic do necessarily produce what we perceive as happiness, but I am open to the possibility that they don’t, that there are varieties of mystic experience and that the tradition he refers to is just one of many.  To me, the issue is what serves the greater good in a particular situation, what puzzle piece fits.  It’s a logical possibility that a grumpy mystic might.  Not every partially enlightened person fulfills the same function, is doing the same job.  And I’m not sure that the completely enlightened people hang out here, I think to be incarnated we have to accept having some kind of flaw.  Even the happy mystics.

As to what religious tradition has worked for me, in terms of spiritual union, I believe it is a much older one, one which most people no longer use today, and I believe that for me that reflects that I am helping someone from the past resolve an attempted spiritual union that went awry in a complicated way.

Which leads me to a spiritual story.  It’s about someone who thinks they are getting someone else’s dreams.  Today we might think of it in terms of getting someone else’s email and wanting to forward the messages on to the correct recipient, who would know how to respond to them.  It was clear to this second person in the story that the first person was getting her stuff because he had too much of her energy incorporated within him.  If you’re impersonating someone, you get their messages.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t want her to take her energy back, just the messages.  He didn’t understand that it doesn’t work that way.

They interacted, she got the messages, did what they indicated needed to be done, stuff which he didn’t know how to do (and he knew that he didn’t).  Then the universe found a way to keep the problem from recurring.

All the rest was irrelevant detail, in the great scheme of things.  She could see that, even if she didn’t like some of the detail, and eventually she made peace with the fact that he had his own interpretation of what had happened.

For her it was a little like overpaying to recover needed information stored on a stolen computer, a computer that was now in the hands of someone who really thought it was theirs.

No one ever told her she was getting a pleasurable or easy role in the story.  It’s being of service that brings inner peace, not necessarily the particulars of what that service entails.  And within the confines of the story, she complained heartily.  It’s just that she could also see (after the fact) that it was only a spiritual story and that she was being of service by playing her role within it.

“This is your life”

January 7, 2014

Some people invite a “mirror” into their lives, perhaps unwittingly.  They may think they have merely coerced someone into helping them out, but when that person turns out to be one of these “mirrors,” they may find themselves like someone who has inadvertently ordered cooked internal organs from a menu written in another language:  they are treated to a “This is your life” scenario in which the mirror plays a role they previously played.  As liberals are quick to say about Congressman Paul Ryan about his attitude towards (dismantling) entitlements, after he allegedly financed a college education on Social Security Survivor’s Benefits (I’m not saying all this is true, I’m just referencing a paradigm using a popular example that people at least think is true), people sometimes have a really negative reaction to seeing the same scenario from a different perspective.  I think we think this is because the person has unresolved issues; in Rep. Ryan’s case, we might think he never dealt with his vulnerability and the randomness of losses that put one at the mercy of others’ helpfulness.  So people who are being mirrored, not for their present situation, but to revisit an old scenario from another perspective, they may be horrified and want to play the other role differently from the way it was played for them:  they may decline to be helpful where someone was kind to them, they may decline to take a chance on someone when someone took a chance on them, they may even become morally outraged at someone wondering whether there’s a sexual component to a relationship when they actually were involved in something similar — some sort of sexual relationship, or quasi-sexual relationship, or the dangled possibility thereof —  in their own past.  If a mirror has kept her perspective, she remembers that the person she is mirroring has free will and may opt not to play the role in the way it was played for the other person.  Her need is to handle the “energy” of the situation so that she is not shattered, especially if that energy goes back over many instantiations of the same patterns over many past lives.  As they say, “Don’t shoot the messenger;”  this is a case of “Don’t shatter a mirror [just because you asked for one and then decided you don’t want it after the fact].”  A mirror has to be careful not to accept somebody else’s stuff — “Your stuff, not mine,” she needs to model.  “If you don’t want a mirror, fine;” because if a person wants a mirror but tries to use it in a way that will shatter it, the relationship that included the mirroring will change, in some way or another — the energy has to go somewhere.  If the person being mirrored deflects it away, the energy goes somewhere.  A mirror does not owe it to anyone to take that energy as a direct hit on herself.  A mirror who is aware that others have been shattered trying to work with this lineage in the past will be careful to stay at a safe angle so as not to repeat the debacle.  Chances are, the person being mirrored does not see the situation at all from the perspective from which the mirror sees it.  It helps if the mirror doesn’t expect them to, but if they ask for an explanation, she may try to provide one.  It’s hard to find a secular cultural vocabulary in which to express such an explanation.

Blogs and postings

December 10, 2013

I saw a reference, in a newsletter I received by snail mail, to a blog by a woman who has a child with disabilities.  I went to have a look, read half a dozen or so posts, and posted this myself as a comment:

I discovered this blog today, and there are so many things I could say, in addition to “Yes!” But what I wanted to mention is what I guess has been my version of “no points for style.” (My apologies if I should have put this comment elsewhere.)
I screamed my way through a premature labor — too early in the pregnancy to have taken the labor class and no pain meds allowed for a premature birth. (The baby died shortly after birth, and I have to say that at least I didn’t have to wonder if meds contributed to that.) As I have attempted to be a widowed parent to two (adopted) children who have struggled mightily since their father’s death, I have thought that I feel as though sometimes I get through it by metaphorically screaming my way through it, like that painful labor. Someone I go to occasionally for guidance uses the metaphor of birthing for why I am finding my situation so hard, and that acknowledgement that it is that painful, and that just getting through it is enough, helps me a lot.

And then I read the Daily Meditation by Richard Rohr for today:

The Freedom of Not Knowing

Meditation 32 of 52

Prayer is largely just being silent: holding the tension instead of even talking it through, offering the moment instead of fixing it by words and ideas, loving reality as it is instead of understanding it fully. Prayer is commonly a willingness to say “I don’t know.” We must not push the river, we must just trust that we are already in the river, and God is the certain flow and current.

That may be impractical, but the way of faith is not the way of efficiency. So much of life is just a matter of listening and waiting, and enjoying the expansiveness that comes from such willingness to hold. It is like carrying and growing a baby: women wait and trust and hopefully eat good food, and the baby is born.

I sometimes feel as if I am in an energy stream, kind of like being under a waterfall, and the energy flows through me and comes out one way;  and the people I come into contact with have the same energy flowing through them, too, and it comes out another way through them.

Finding balance

November 27, 2013

I am aware that there are plenty of people who are more spiritually adept than I, clearer than I in trying to explain how someone with one foot in the spiritual realm sees the material world, more perceptive than I in the seeing itself, more effective at working with damaged people who have an aversion to faith and belief.  But with all due respect to Jackson Browne, I do sometimes think I see a reason I am alive (that’s in reference to “For a Dancer,” towards the end, the part about how there may be a reason we’re alive but we’ll never know — I love the song, though, it is so evocative, I can ride its waves to see so many things).

I see myself as figuring out how, in a sense, to walk and chew gum at the same time, to rub my stomach and pat my head simultaneously, while at the same time, adding in the third piece of having a conversation.  The first two activities are maintaining a spiritual connection while living in the material world, the “conversation” part is talking about it without losing my coordination and failing at the primary activities.

And then there’s the piece about keeping my balance.  That can be a balance between taking care of others and taking care of myself, between focusing on their needs and paying enough attention to my own.  It can also be about finding a helpful balance between having a message worth expressing to others and spending energy on making that expression effective.

There is a balance that needs to be struck, I think.  The irony is not lost on me that some of the people with the best bully pulpits have fundamentally flawed messages, from my point of view.  It’s as if the universe requires through its impersonal laws that we find a balance between attending to the messenger and attending to the message.

People have tried, consciously or not, all different ways and ratios for combining these elements.  For me, this life has been about letting go of the version of collaboration.  I really thought the most effective way of combining medium and message would be for one person to develop the delivery apparatus and for the other to develop the content.  But it doesn’t seem to work out, the delivery person tends to try to do both, in my multiple experiences of trying to collaborate.  Even when the delivery person pays some attention to the message-gatherer, they tend to distort the message that has been gathered through an inability to really see it.

I spent some time thinking this constituted some sort of failure to get something important and necessary to work, but now I don’t see it that way.  I figure instead that that way of trying to arrange things doesn’t work for a good reason.  (Trying to resolve the issue by having the message person spend more time on developing a delivery system just doesn’t work, it changes the person so much that they lose their ability to really see the message.)  The reason I see is that people need to come to discern the message themselves, not hear it from someone else.  If we can facilitate this process, maybe that’s something we should do, but that facilitation is more effective when it is indirect, I think.  I’ll invoke Jackson Browne again:  sometimes words are not enough (see “Late for Sky”).

I’m aware that this interpretation includes an assumption that the correct explanation is not that I am doing something wrong, which, interestingly, is often my first go-to explanation.  But this understanding about why collaboration isn’t the answer comes from that deeper place within, and it’s tied to the understanding that however interconnected we are, “in the end there is one dance [we] do alone,” even if that dance isn’t, in my opinion, the dance of death but rather the dance of enlightenment.