This is a book I’ve had on my Kindle for well over a year, purchased in a thrill of finding Paul K. Chappell on social media after years of lightly asking around, something like, “Well, he’s a soldier with an interesting multiracial background, had a talk on Book TV after the Iraq War, focusing on peace, but not in a hippy dippy way?” I’d done a few searches and couldn’t remember his full name, instead coming up with someone else. So I’d, once in a while, remember to send out a searchlight again.
I’ve been surprised that more in my circle aren’t familiar with him, when his voice on matters of peace, in the world and in ourselves, seems so unique and needed. It was a YouTube shared on Facebook, from a friend from Hungary, living in South Africa, who I met in a virtual world, that finally gave me the missing piece. All I’d needed was the K!
Our minds are complex and amazing; a million times in a row, relinquishing anxieties to trust for a clearer way to emerge, works just fine. But there are matters one whittles away at for such long periods of time that the process moves into the background, becoming automatic, less unexamined. Then, like a withdrawal from the bank for a gym one doesn’t go to, it can be easy miss a crucial next step and get trapped on the surface level, failing to reexamine, to ask, “Is this (situation, memory, value, desire) even true anymore?” Energies have been eeking out for along time, to ‘somewhere’.
It is important to tell our stories, and to receive deep validation for doing the best we could at the time. There are few sentences more healing than, “It’s not your fault” or, “That must have been so hard for you all that time, to ___ .” Even one person witnessing personal, often secret, struggles, can give disproportionately magical permission for them to heal, which is part of what humans are to one another.
And I understand this because of what it was like to separate from a partner of many years… reliving the whys and wherefores, answering to crowds of imaginary people in my mind. I found it hard to give the two of us as characters much tenderness, categorizing our mistakes as short-sighted and preventable, with an underlying subtext of blame that leaned slightly more his way than mine. I would stop the looping by sheer will until, going along one day I would realize, “When did THAT come back?”
We all want to do better going forward, and to find value in situations we’ve come to know well at such high costs; it is irresistible to come up with a script about it all, and to work that script until shines light on all our best angles. So the first step is self-compassion.
Then what to answer others, for instance my son, when he asked to know more. One hesitates to teach what they are still going through. I began to just describe our way of thinking at the beginning, the plans and visions behind our decisions, the intricate calculations. But also, the values at the core of what we know in retrospect was our expanding too fast. With distance I could see how thoughtful and careful we actually tried to be, banking on the energy of our mutual desires and visions.
I felt… impressed with us, even as I listened to myself describe where we went wrong. And I felt impressed to admit to all those areas. A joyful feeling bubbled up as I described things such as the condition of our house when we bought it – how we put every cent and second in, learning by doing, installing the often complimented kitchen for almost nothing, taking down the horrendous mirrored wall and murals from the 80’s Miami Vice aesthetic. I began to smile a lot.
Eventually, I found myself speaking of us with great affection and compassion, laughing a little. It had been so long since I’d been able to do that. Then I realized: I had forgiven us, without knowing that to be the case. Somewhere along the way there had come softening.
The truth was, is, that I love those two people with their ambitious and energetic dreams. I love their ideals, their well-intended hearts, so deeply. What filled my being was a sense of expansion and, just “Thank You.” “Thank You, Thank You… Thank You, Thank You, Thank You”.
On the way to school, bored by the current list of podcasts on my i-Pad, my son opened Kindle to read aloud from whatever happened to appear. In this case, it was Gabrielle Bernstein’s book The Universe Has Your Back. Gabrielle is pretty new to me and at first struck me as overly perky — as though she was me 15 or so years ago, before big challenges to manifestation and faith teachings.
This initial impression reflected underlying cynicism way more my issue than hers. Gabby is indeed energetic and fast-talking in a way that I am when off-kilter, which does not mean she is off-kilter too. 🙂
My son began to read a portion of the book that describes Gabby’s friend Lance’s story of coming to terms with feelings of (in his case intellectual) inadequacy, but it was hard for him to take seriously. The chapter is written in an “On my summer vacation we went to the beach…” style that frustrated him during school years in which he wanted to be more daring but was corrected for things like decorating his titles or going on tangents.
Although his take was funny, I heard myself make an important distinction.
There are differences between teachers and coaches, which doesn’t mean no overlap. The relationship with a teacher is an intimate one. The idea is to be taught something you don’t know, to be shown something you haven’t seen, to take on a new way of seeing, imbibe a new way of being.
With a coach, you may already know what they are telling you, but they stir and push you to bring what is known and needed to the forefront, so that you can enact. They help midwife what is ready to be born. This too can be a very powerful role, but it is far more straight forward, outward, obvious.
“Lance” seems generic and vague because he is meant to be. He is a template, not supposed to take you out of or away from yourself the way that say, a work of ‘literature’ does. In another chapter, Gabby describes a copy-editor that continually neglected to send in an invoice, and I laughed with relief because her copy-editor was figuratively, me. Too many specifics about this woman and I may not have been able to project myself into her story and actually take the bolder initiative I eventually did.
I’m someone reading a few books at a time, almost always a spiritual motivational book, which might sit right next to a historical biography, next to some obscure Buddhist text or book of poetry. Each has its place and benefit.
This turned out to be a productive and therapeutic process, although it took me about 17 days instead of 10 or 11, and although I’m not an Actor by profession. Indeed, I’m always hard pressed to answer when asked what my profession is, since career has always appeared for me embedded within ever-changing contexts of opportunities and interests that arise, often in contrast to whatever it is I am seeking. In the last decade, career has centered around research and writing, but even then, not in a straightforward way.
(me acting, sort of)
I took the Actor’s Challenge as an ‘artistic activity’ challenge and found the format of the program – which includes a central question (this time about ‘power’) every day, meditation, timed and un-timed writings, creative expression, physical activity, and giving – deeply satisfying. I’ve participated in and facilitated online retreat type programs before, and this measured against those very well in terms of inspiring long-term habit formation.
What has happened in my country is complex. Many are facing the reality that blind spots and complacency are sometimes not just shocking, but dangerous. The truly tender-hearted, who may have voted or not voted, who may have stood on one side or another but not taken seriously the threat of latent bigotry that is coming to the surface in the wake of (this) change, will now either close their eyes and pray or open their eyes and pray, and act.
“There are no enlightened persons, only enlightened activity,” saidSuzuki Roshi.
The feeling of brush, paint, paper… stirs comfort, ease.
Then Prisma makes the image shareable, muting colors that were too bright or didn’t mix as well, highlighting stroke detail… even imposing a few things I might have added with greater skill, or if I’d be using my preferred medium of oil. Acrylics dry so fast!
I never know what I am thinking until I see it out in the world. My mind is full of trees, dancers, angels, women in elegant rags…
It is some insight of, not getting rid of attachment and aversion, but genuinely accepting both in a light and open way. To see through ‘the game’ could mean to play it deeper, or could mean moving on.
At the bookstore cafe’, moving through the line, when the feeling of someone noticing me presents itself. Not looking, but I see – he is dressed far too well for the bookstore. I am disheveled. He lingers, asks about the book I’d purchased … a children’s book, delightful, titled Goodnight Yoga: A Pose-By-Pose Bedtime Story. I look away, but he draws me back, saying he has a son, 6 years old… wonders whether he might like the same.
(Illustrations in the book are by Sarah Jane Hinder)
A few nights ago, I was struck with energy of a sort that could be called inspiration, yet didn’t feel particularly special. Rather, it hit like a practical nudge, to write a list.
Probably, this was a build up that started with a question posed during a Brahma Kuhmaris meditation workshop last weekend, about a figure in one’s life who displays admired qualities. I had chosen someone, yet in that choosing had also fathomed others who would fall into that category, then teachers in general, and spiritual friends who have graced my life.
As I began to write the list, a flood of other lists and figures began to appear. A teacher category was soon at 50, then over the next few days, grew to an honest 100. I say ‘honest’ because there were some figures who arose that were not quite teachers, but friends and influencers none the less, and then there was also a darker side of those categories… thankfully, much smaller. A separate ‘friends’ list then formed, grew, and branched into other figures who were ‘neutral-positive’ or neutral-negative due to lingering misunderstanding or discomfort. Then came another list – those on the edges with whom I’d like to be closer.
But it was the teacher list that kept growing, because behind each teacher, were other teachers, and those I’d spent deep lifetimes or love affairs with in books, or who had shown up in various guises or dreams along the way. When I reached that territory – the dream and vision territory – another wave came through. Now, it wasn’t just teachers, but lessons and stories. So I began another list, branching even more.
I have tried to intentionally write out insight stories and dreamy moments before, but they have usually waited for some context to float up, if to be shared. This was different.
Dreams and stories that I hadn’t thought about for very long, began to pour out onto the page, big ones next to little ones next to what had felt at the time to be side thoughts, numbering into the hundreds. I thought about how hard it had been at the end of last year, to write out even ‘100 accomplishments’, and how in contrast, this had all seemed to just appear.
So tired, I kept trying to go to sleep. As soon as my eyes would close, more would come up that I didn’t want to risk losing, so I’d write them, releasing a whole ‘nother wave.
Eventually, I remembered Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk about inspiration and muses, and assured myself that whatever was going on could be continued the next day.
And it was, but only sort of. Rather than adding much to the list, this time my hand went to the list of teachers, writing a word or two about what I felt to have learned from each, whatever came forward strongly. From one – spontaneity, from another – confidence, another the question ofsuchness. With some I had first experiences; some imparted or deepened feelings, evoked emotion, or pushed me over edges at crucial times. Some were not people, but ‘events’.
I made no effort not to repeat myself, yet there were no repetitions; each role was entirely unique and yet, when I would stop writing and see the whole, each also easily flowed easily into another, each other. Longsightedness was also there… to see that there might be more, or a different way of seeing time that I might move into… more comfortable clothes.
It was like staring into a living, loving, mirror. Just openness to openness.
I’m not sure who the teacher was, who first exposed me to the concept of Indra’s Net, but to convey the way this practice unfolded, one would benefit from visualizing:
FAR AWAY IN THE HEAVENLY ABODE OF THE GREAT GOD INDRA, THERE IS A WONDERFUL NET WHICH HAS BEEN HUNG BY SOME CUNNING ARTIFICER IN SUCH A MANNER THAT IT STRETCHES OUT INFINITELY IN ALL DIRECTIONS.
IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE EXTRAVAGANT TASTES OF DEITIES, THE ARTIFICER HAS HUNG A SINGLE GLITTERING JEWEL IN EACH “EYE” OF THE NET, AND SINCE THE NET ITSELF IS INFINITE IN DIMENSION, THE JEWELS ARE INFINITE IN NUMBER. THERE HANG THE JEWELS, GLITTERING “LIKE” STARS IN THE FIRST MAGNITUDE, A WONDERFUL SIGHT TO BEHOLD.
IF WE NOW ARBITRARILY SELECT ONE OF THESE JEWELS FOR INSPECTION AND LOOK CLOSELY AT IT, WE WILL DISCOVER THAT IN ITS POLISHED SURFACE THERE ARE REFLECTED ALL THE OTHER JEWELS IN THE NET, INFINITE IN NUMBER.
NOT ONLY THAT, BUT EACH OF THE JEWELS REFLECTED IN THIS ONE JEWEL IS ALSO REFLECTING ALL THE OTHER JEWELS, SO THAT THERE IS AN INFINITE REFLECTING PROCESS OCCURRING. –Wikipedia Indra’s Net
Coming out from a pleasant nap… the last fifteen minutes an interesting spontaneous meditation about ‘world’ and ‘body’, and how I often function as though body is in a separate world from mind, even while not believing that.