Archive for the 'willingness' Category


March 25, 2014

What does it mean to do something out of love for someone, whether that love is for God, neighbor, or stranger?  (I was reading this.)  How does it differ from doing it because one is willing to do what one is called upon by God to do?

I think the coloration of the doing probably does make a difference — doing out of love of God, doing out of willingness to serve.  Maybe they are like different diplomatic portfolios.

I have been aware of doing things out of love for God and I have been aware of doing things out of willingness.  I find the second more difficult to do — it requires more detachment, more ability not to be plugged into a feedback system of any sort and instead to navigate and travel on faith.

Of course, both of these postures for doing things are different from engaging in a loving relationship as the basis for going out into the world to accomplish something.  When that kind of love gets mirrored back, there is often no willingness from the original beneficiary to switch roles.  They may even be horrified at the thought of such utilitarianism.

If loving for the sake of anything produces a coloration of motive, then maybe willingness has its place as a simpler posture with less ego involved — I don’t know, but it’s a possibility, it seems to me.


Revealing the absence or presence of willingness

March 22, 2014

I was thinking through what purpose a behavioral pattern of mine could possibly serve, and this is what I came up with.

I interact with someone.  Yesterday it was someone making something for me.  We go back and forth on materials and price and design, and then they do something I am not okay with, I protest, I am not heard, we repeat this sequence, I go silent, and then eventually I make my dissatisfaction known more unmistakably.

And then I don’t get compromising even then, I get a speech about the person’s integrity, how they know themselves to be this, that, and the other thing, so their behavior can’t possibly be a contributing factor to my dissatisfaction.

Which explains to me why I went silent during that interval between, on the one hand, protesting, while still trying to work it out, and on the other hand, letting the person know it’s not okay with me, while giving them what they want in the moment and then leaving:  there was nothing I could do that would make the situation work out for both of us.

They turned out, as I think I was surmising, not have willingness to compromise, to work together without friction or excessive self-interest.

Seeing this makes it easier for me to choose whether I want to, as they say, throw good money after bad.

I usually get, in addition to the “It can’t be anything I did, I know myself to be more wonderful than that,” some version of, “It’s your job to rein me in.”

No, it’s not.  It is written nowhere that I know that I have to substitute my energy through feedback for their energy in policing themselves.  It may well be that my unwillingness to take up this cost means the relationship won’t work out, but that’s a separate issue.  It may well be that my expectations are unrealistic, but, again, that goes to whether there will be a relationship, whether there will be subsequent interactions, not whether I am required by some objective standard to behave with them the way they want.  They are free to say and do on their end as they wish, I am free to walk away, instead of pushing back, especially after attempts to gain traction to work things out bilaterally have had no effect.

Yesterday’s episode brought home to me that my sense that the other person is not open to adjustment at their end is not inaccurate, and how the story they tell themselves about themselves makes it so unlikely that that will change.

Close but no cigar

August 16, 2013

I was talking to someone about how I had recently gone through my father’s financial records looking for particular information regarding two investments.  I eventually found the information for one in handwritten notes by my dad, the other in a very old and unusual (in his records) slip of paper.  The person who needed the information was impressed, and I was trying to explain to this other person (the someone I was talking to) why I kept at it until I found the documents.  (It took a while.)

What I was trying to communicate was that I believed the information was there, somewhere in the files — I had faith.  In this case, because I knew my father kept good records — sometimes on scraps of paper, perhaps — that he was thorough and he knew what he needed to have on hand.  That kept me looking, because I knew the information was there, would be there, that all I had to do was keep at it.  It may have taken me multiple passes through the relevant files, but indeed, it was there, it did turn out to be there.

My interlocutor responded by saying that they understood — that I pursued the search because I knew the information was there because my father kept his files in a logical manner.

It’s not that there’s no connection between logical record keeping and thoroughness, but I would say the emphasis is different.  I knew the stuff had to be there because I knew my dad knew the information would be needed and I knew he felt this stuff is important — he would have a complete set of records.  His arrangement of his records may be “logical,” although I’m not sure it stands out to me that way, but the structure of the organization only indirectly implies completeness.

I take two things from mulling this over.  First is that people see things from different angles, through their own set of lenses.  My interlocutor is heavily into logic and seeing my father as logical.  I know that.

Second, that there is a difference between articulating the idea directly and only implying it.  I think that difference can make a difference in other contexts.  Here are two:  spiritual union and human relationships.  There is a huge difference in outcome depending upon whether union itself is desired or there is just willingness to serve (regardless of whether it turns out that experiencing union is part of what serves).  In human relationships, some people think they have succeeded in only implying a commitment and can claim they never actually made it through their actual behavior.  However, what they were communicating from their heart matters, even if they did not themselves hear it or they would deny it now.  On the other hand, people have the free will to believe their own versions.  They can cling to them, too, they can remain disconnected from what is going on deep within them.  It surprises me, though, that they would prefer the version that allows them to look superficial and manipulative — I would think they’d want to unify themselves and be connected with as much as possible of what is going on inside of them.  To me it’s like having closets you’ve never opened.

But I think that’s just it:  I think some people are afraid of themselves.  When I’ve encountered them, I’ve found nothing cosmically significant of a negative sort — just garden variety pettiness, greed, selfishness, and the like, used in an attempt to assuage some fear, doubt, or insecurity.  Nothing special, nothing terrible, just human characteristics some of us make more of an effort to minimize.  I suspect being more open to minimizing has to do with learning to accept sharing and loss, which, I think, in turn, requires being strong enough from within to not be dependent on external indicia of worth.  We learn we are no better and no worse than others, and I think that makes us more generous and compassionate towards others without our having to dwell on these things on each occasion.

Flight control systems

June 29, 2013

My father was an electrical engineer by profession, worked for Bendix Corporation his whole career (it got bought by Allied and then Honeywell, so the name changed, but his place of work didn’t).  He worked in aeronautics.  He designed flight control systems for commercial and military aircraft.

That’s about the extent of what I know about what he spent his time doing.  He didn’t discuss it at home, I think largely because some of it he couldn’t, because it involved classified information.  I doubt the flight control systems for commercial aircraft actually did, but I think he dealt with the classified information issue by just having a blanket policy of not discussing his work.  And there was really no reason for him to.

But the concept of flight control systems is something helpful to me.  It helps me understand something I experience in my spiritual life.  (It was also a neat thing to learn about in the aeronautical context, and I was proud and fascinated that my father knew how to do what he did.)

My father once explained to me that what he designed allowed a pilot to steer a jumbo jet with he same ease with which the pilot steered a small plane.  My difficulty is not the same sort — mine is more like needing cross a deep gorge on a bridge without rails.  It can be done, but I can get in my own way if it’s too clear to me what I’m doing.  So I have help that just gives me what I need to know — what I need to know to do what I need to do to walk across that bridge — for all I know I’m walking across a lovely parquet floor in an expansive ballroom while I do it.

My talent is not bridge-walking, it’s trusting, it’s willingness to be guided, and it involves surrender.

When I’ve gotten to the other side, I come to know that I have crossed a gorge, when I am encouraged to learn to modulate my trust with the free will I had largely suspended.  That process leads to an understanding of what I’ve done, as if a curtain is being raised or a veil removed.  It’s kind of like the pilot deplaning and for the first time seeing how big the aircraft he was flying actually was.

I think my father’s job was something important in its own right, but I also like that what he did helps me to interpret what I do.





Teaching issue or learning issue

March 25, 2013

Teaching and learning are obviously interactive processes.  When the learning does not take place, it’s sometimes difficult to locate the source, or sources, of the problem.

Maybe it’s a matter of inadequate texts, or deficient teaching materials of other sorts, maybe it’s a matter of inapt teaching methods or teaching devices ill-suited to the learner.  Maybe we need direct modeling by the teacher of what the student needs to do.  Maybe, even, the teacher hopes they can provide, if not a teaching method tailored to the student’s learning style, some kind of short-cut to the desired goal.

But what if the problem arises out of a lack of willingness on the part of the student?  In spiritual learning, that’s necessary — willingness.  What if the element that is missing is nothing the teacher can provide?  What if all any teacher can do is to try to coach the student into enough awareness to locate their own internal learning device?

I think what we get in this case is too much external intellectual apparatus for what is essentially an internal process involving becoming as simple and innocent as a baby, and, like a baby, crying out for help.

Falls and phoenices

March 1, 2013

Is that the plural for phoenix?

I’m thinking about public figures, especially politicians, who take a fall.  Some rise up again later, and I was wondering about why some do and some don’t.  Clearly behaviors that are used after the fall make a difference — the apology (or not), the PR firm hired, the length of withdrawal from the fray, the willingness to take whatever the next step turns out to be for reinvention.

What I’ve wondered recently is whether one variable could be how much the individual truly believed they deserved their (first) success in the first place.  If they harbored misgivings about how they came to be elected or land the nomination or whatever, and then they fall from grace in a scandal, do they have the wherewithal to think of their situation in terms of, “Well, this is interesting;  I wonder what will come out of it and how this all serves my greater good”?

I wonder whether people whose house has been built, not upon sand, but with a flaw in its foundation, implode when they fall.

Do we ask them to take the fall nonetheless?  I think we give them a raincheck until they can fall safely.

If they continue to repeat the pattern, eventually they will find themselves with new teachers and classmates, as the old cohort moves on.

I’ve been getting seemingly random wrong-number phone calls, on both my cell phone and my landline, in which there is a pause followed by an automated “Goodbye!”  I’ve wondered what it might represent metaphorically, and all I can come up with is what might happen when a soul is finishing up its final incarnation and makes good on a promise to bid one of those serial “I won’t jump because my parachute is defective” folks goodbye before she does.


January 28, 2013

Brief reaction to today’s Daily Meditation:  yes, but to my understanding, that’s only one of a number of phases of spiritual development.  Making that phase into a more permanently desired state is keeping us stuck, is what I see.  It’s always only about willingness.


January 13, 2013

I don’t myself have a problem of feeling unworthy of spiritual help or transformation.  I read about unworthiness in Father Rohr’s Daily Meditations from time to time, like today’s, and it sounds to me like someone describing a place I’ve never been to on vacation.

I am quite familiar with feeling a lack of self-confidence developed from previous negative feedback from other human beings, which can morph for me into feeling deemed generally unworthy by others, but in terms of my relationship to things spiritual, it just has never in my lifetime entered into the equation.  The only feeling I can come up with to relate to a feeling of unworthiness is a knowledge that I’m no better (or worse) or special than anybody else, that we all have the same potential, and that we realize different parts or amounts of it in our different lives.

I thought it was worth bringing up because I am concerned that it is not a necessary or helpful feeling to have, and that it actually may be one of those flaws we need to remove in order to perceive without distortion.

I also want to ask, in all friendly amazement, “Where did you come up with that?!”

To me, its counter is something like, “Why not me?”, as in, “I’m nobody special but I’m nobody worse [along the axis that matters].”  Because we are talking about a particular axis — ourselves as conduits for God’s love, and for that we’re all equally well-suited.  The only thing any of us ever has which is relevant in terms of what we can bring to the party is (our) willingness.


January 5, 2013

This is about a thought I’ve been aware of for a long time but never really registered with me in my, as mother might put it, gizitsky (gut) — wasn’t a visceral understanding until this morning.  (I take that to mean I wasn’t quite ready to deal with its implications until now.)

I met someone some time ago, very briefly, and it was pretty clear to me that he literally had difficulty thinking when I was in (arm’s length) proximity to him physically.  I dealt with that as best I could, because I really did have something I felt I needed to talk to him about and I didn’t get the chance either talk about it then or to arrange another opportunity to discuss it — I just tried to get across the main idea (I thought): you’re barking up the wrong tree, I could help you find the right one, and I could use your help with something else.  I had thought he had indicated that he was interested in all that.

Leaving aside the content of the conversation I anticipated, I am at this point thinking the real significance of the attempt at conversation was to experience this drowning-out of a mental process.  Because it’s quite analogous to what happens when the ego gets in the way during meditation or some other means of accessing the divine, the forces greater than ourselves, the universe.  I can’t hear my guidance or feel my support when there’s ego-chatter and fear, doubt, and insecurity rattling around inside my mental apparatus.  I need willingness and surrender, great openness to the encounter, a clear channel.

I suspect that I needed to show to this person, and to myself, what it’s like when ego interferes with my interaction with the divine, whether it’s my ego interfering or theirs or even somebody else’s.

Just as they seemed to me to make clear when I met them that they did not want to hear what I had to say then or subsequently, I think I needed to see that I need to be free of their ego-chatter and point of view.

I think a different balance could be struck between us, but I don’t detect any willingness to do that.  So in that case, I need to do the “God is husband to the widow,” or a “woman religious,” approach to the issues in my life, and to do that, I need to interact with God without ego-chatter.

I think this approach has a lot to do with how I was drawn to use the name “Ani” (as in, nun) as a screen name.  When I stopped using it and started using my given name online, I felt I would try to make a go of being more oriented towards social interactions and less with my head up in the clouds, so to speak.  Clearly, what I’m looking for is the balance between the two that works for me, whatever that balance turns out to be.

But what I think this encounter and my experience of not being able to hear was presenting as a lesson to me was that if I am going to have to be on my own, I need to hear without interference, just as this other person wants to hear without interference.  I think it was a way of showing me the source of some of the chatter I need to set aside.  Of course, if I am with someone who has less ego-chatter, I can hear better how to relate to them — which may not be cutting a tie that seems to bind.

In this situation, I can’t hear well and I am also not receiving the resources I need some other way.

I am trying to resolve that untenable position, whether dramatically, by going all-in with one method or the other, or by rearranging the balance between the two some other way, perhaps even by receiving the gift of the chatter’s becoming muted, through something my would-be interlocutor learns to do.


Unconditional love

November 11, 2012

I’ve never quite been sure I understand the particular emotion to which people are referring when they talk of unconditional love.  Not that it doesn’t exist or even that I haven’t felt it or expressed it, just that I’m not sure which subset of “love” they’re talking about.

I don’t experience intimacy as having a subset of loneliness — for me, loneliness is related to loss, mine or somebody else’s, and how I am powerless to make up for it.  Intimacy with my husband, spiritual intimacy, even love for friends, relatives, acquaintances, when I’m loving with no reservation there’s no loneliness, in fact it leaves me feeling quite at peace with myself and the universe.

If I had to speculate, I’d say the piece that may be at issue is what we call altruism — loving regardless of outcome, feedback, efficacy, recompense, reciprocity, etc.  By itself, hitting that note provides the internal sense of balance and peace — loving fully is its own reward, provides its own reward.  When you love fully, you feel equally good as the beloved, I think.

There are all kinds of other loves, and I can still get caught up in them.  Some of them seem to help in certain situations, others seem to lead to difficulties.  I’ve wondered, having hit that note of unconditional love, whether I will express that kind of love more frequently and not get caught up in the other kinds so often.  I honestly don’t know, and to try to decide what would be preferable I think would be doctrinaire of me — I don’t know what expression of love by me serves the greater good.  Maybe it’s the altruistic kind, maybe it’s not.

For me, at the end of the day, all I ever have is my willingness — that’s my touchstone.  It’s a touchstone I can always get back to, I think, and once there, I can await what’s next.   (I am working on learning to do the waiting more patiently, which includes not predicating the patience on there being a particular outcome to the wait.)  As I’ve probably said before, I do at times get swamped by other people’s ways of navigating — people who don’t navigate through willingness.  But I can clean the decks and relocate my willingness after these encounters.