I’ve been thinking a great deal about honesty lately. I say “thinking” – “feeling” would be a better word. “Looking” might be better yet. I am learning that healing begins in honesty.
Jesus said “let your yes mean yes,” and I like to repeat that, and preach on it, but it’s fair to say my yes is almost always conditional, almost always shifting ground, and even sometimes at war with itself.
This inconsistency – this dishonesty – is taking place at a fairly deep level, a fairly hidden level. It is in the nature of inauthenticity, and reflects only fear.
This is what happens in our practice of A Course in Miracles (or any serious spiritual path or tradition). We forgive and forgive, we study and study, and then one day – like turning the corner in a forest and coming on a bear – you hit this wall. It’s no good to pretend it’s not a wall, no good to quote the course, or any other spiritual platitude. You can’t fake your way to Christ.
I am talking here about little things: subtle things: things so slight you barely notice them, and yet the whole separation is contained in their execution. I mean being asked by Chrisoula how my day was and playing up certain angles to elicit sympathy. Or writing about my morning walks without really exploring what Jung would have called their “shadow side,” a darkness of which I am perfectly aware, because I prefer thinking of myself – and would prefer to be thought of – as some kind of Thoreauvian mystic with a clear channel to the divine.
A few weeks ago I put some Chinese characters up on my website – they stood for miracle (well, maybe – I don’t speak or read Chinese so maybe they stood for jelly doughnut) – and after a week or so I thought, who am I? I’m not Chinese. I’m not a Buddhist. I’m just trying to capitalize on the whole Eastern mysticism Zen thing.
So I took it down – and replaced it with an image much more spiritually and culturally resonant – but still. We think we’re beyond being shallow or vain and then Jesus says gently, “not so much. Not yet anyway.”
I am working on putting a few books together, and while reviewing proofs came upon a line that read: “I made contact with Christ/outside of history.”
And my first response was: the hell you did.
And the my second was: Oh, Sean. You mean well but you are such a blowhard.
And then I just laughed – at the poem, at myself, at the whole welter of intention and function and brokenness and love. What else is there? Maybe I did make that contact and I forgot. Maybe I made that contact and I’m scared to consistently own up to it. It doesn’t really matter.
But I do want my yes to mean yes.
We have to be patient with ourselves. There’s nothing to be gained by reliving the spirit of crucifixion over and over. We’re beyond that now. We’re into the resurrection now – why pretend otherwise?
Being dishonest – fostering internal dissonance – is not a crime against God. No punishment awaits outside the one in which we already live: the pain of believing we are separate from God. So it’s okay in the sense of no consequences, but if we want to wake up – if we want to know inner peace and joy in a real way, a sustained way, an unchanging way – then we are going to have to look at our priorities. We are going to have to make some changes.
Really, we are going to have to figure out how to live with the single goal of truth. I think it is in the nature of a decision: I am going to live my life wanting nothing but what God gives me. That is a radical statement. And maybe I can only mouth the words but not yet mean it. Okay. I can still be honest about that, right? I can say “Okay, I’m not there yet but I want to be. I am willing to be.”
And that counts. It really does.
It counts because healing begins when we are honest and clear about the need for healing, whatever form it happens to take. This includes our capacity for self-deception. There is no other way. It all has to go on the table so that all of it can be undone.
To be honest, I know really well what you are talking about 🙂 I guess we all do. For me, the most helpful thing which makes all the difference (and I TRULY decided that it is the only way for me just a few weeks ago and immediately put it in action) was shifting my center – completely – to my heart. Not to an idea of heart or what it means. But literally, to my heart. To the center of my body. Even physically feeling being centered in heart, and not in mind (that way my head doesn’t burn so much:) and, interestingly, it makes me feel less afraid). In that experience, love can be lived and felt, at least this is how it feels for me. I did it recently after I’ve been dreaming about doing it for many years- but I resisted it because I thought that perhaps there is another way of doing it in which everything won’t change so much, a way where I will still be centered in my mind and thoughts (I am very attached to thinking process), I wanted to keep the amusement I get from playing with thoughts. But that meant keeping the pain also. Perhaps there cannot be two bosses. So, this round I decided to choose heart – all day long, not just in meditation. I really decided it (decision came from my heart:)), so although it is not perfect (my practice), I feel very good and am not self-critical (which is not typical for me, I guess it is the immediate effect of grounding self in heart). We shall see what it brings, it is unknown territory for me yet it feels like home, so simple:) Thoughts come but I let them fade into sound. I think only if it is really needed and productive, like when I write (which I love), but even then I try to write from my heart 🙂 Rest of the time, I don’t think much. It is so strange and different from what am I used to, but I really feel more connected with my heart and love and God.
Ground yourself in your heart, feeling your beautiful heart in yourself. Let your thoughts be here – when they come – but don’t try to understand them or do anything with them, just let them fade, into sound. Letting go is not so much of a effort, it is a decision. As you said:) First time it hurts to let go, beacuse we are afraid of the consequences. And the second and third. But we can do it. It’s just mind playing tricks, you don’t have to follow it, although mind leads home (as a signpost) it doesn’ take you there, Heart does. Like when you are in room with many people and looking the person you love, and all those voices around sound like foreign languages and they don’t bother you, because you are centered in your heart. Like in that music piece I sent you. Centering in the Silence of druids (heart, poetry), and accepting the (external) sound of all Creation – sound which includes birds, forest, people, wind, music, and last but not the least our thoughts and questions. I feel my thoughts as the sound of the bird in the forest or most often as a waterfall. It helps me. I hear them as I hear the waterfall. Without dividing the droplets of water, just enjoying the unisono sound of it all (without trying to analyize each droplet). I am in this woods in which all these sounds exist, thoughts being the most persistent sound (sometimes annoying, sometimes alluring, like a siren), but I don’t center myself in them. I just enjoy the walk and enjoy sweet unwordy song in my heart – Instrumental:), while perceiving beauty that surrounds me, even the scary sounds of the wolfs and the night and the unknown animals. Anyway, I hope this helps a bit, you are always so helpful for me:)
You are always helpful, Zrinka. My gratitude is vast.
The phrase “choiceless awareness” is on my mind lately (from Singh I think) – the words echoing and re-echoing – and the idea of decision, too, which is less wordy, more in the nature of a feeling, like an urge to jump into water.
Tara Singh used to say (I paraphrase) that so long as one has choices, they have not made the decision.
I, too, enjoy thought – the process, the wordiness (especially the wordiness). The first time I sat with Buddhists, the woman guiding us said we should let our thoughts pass without attaching to them. My reaction was: “not possible. My thoughts are way too interesting.”
Sometimes it seems I have not learned much since . . . 🙂
I take heart (!) from your 1) decision (this feels so essential to me now – it is time to decide somehow – and 2) bringing it into application right away. That is another element of decision, that one decides, and then it is done. It is not a decision if its application can be postponed because then the application and the decision would be separate . . .
Possibly you don’t want me to refer to James Hillman’s The Thought of the Heart . . . Lyrical complex essay I haven’t read in a decade but fished out of the basement a few weeks ago. Lovely shade of blue on the cover, the interior scratched up with my earnest notes.
Naturally I ask: what do you write?
I was going to write in closing: “I will try to center in the heart today” but then heard the voice of Yoda: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Thank you, Zrinka.
Thank you, Zrinka. That confirms something I’ve been feeling and thinking.
This is so beautiful and truly helpful, Zrinka. I have what promises to be a difficult weekend coming up, and your words are timely. It is such a practical way of, in Course speak, “Choosing again.” And I really like the idea of considering thought as a waterfall. Thank you very much for this.
Sean, thanks for interpreting the Chinese symbol. Had me wondering. And, because you and your bird-shaped hole will celebrate with me — I saw a male scarlet tanager at my birdbath yesterday. They don’t nest here so it was just a migratory glimpse, I’m certain. And my very first one. But, oh, what a gift. 🙂
I do indeed celebrate the scarlet tanager – its passing – its presence in imagination! I often feel in the presence of birds that they are bringing Heaven to me one crumb at a time. I love them so much.
Yes, Zrinka’s insights are powerful and welcome – always. Be well this weekend . . .
Thank you . . .
Wow, what an amazing poem, there are so many, many helpful insights in it:) Perhaps decision comes when we realize/accept that we cannot think our way through. When we begin to love ourselves enough to gain courage and determination to say – Enough! of this torture, fear and anxiety (it served its cause, it no longer does)– and decide to surrender guidance to something that is also ours (our heart) but – (unlike our thoughts) heart is whole and present, without our effort to make it right. It already IS. I cannot emphasize how literal I am when I say heart. It is literally feeling your heart when you breathe. Finding comfort and value of being – in simple feeling of wholeness of your heart. There is no place for our ambition in it, because there is nothing we have to/can do, our center is always doing everything by itself (After all, heart/heartbeat is basis/ground of life, always here, ground melody) Surrendering to heart is not the same as being guided by idea of charitable whim:) or idea of being someone loving and saintly. It is not an idea, it is real, it is here, now, always, our heart. The other day I heard someone explain the meaning of word radical. An interesting word. The old name for a birth chart was radical chart, meaning *origin* or *root*. Therefor radical change would be going back to the * core *origin*root*home* of our being. So many times I’ve read, that the best way to serve others is to seek the Heart of the self… What if it is so simple, that the heart is the heart? The old hermetic concept (As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul), I read abstractly but also literally – and find that the warmth and vastness of the Heart of the soul reflects in the Heart of my physical body. Our heart is so strong ∼ 36 milion beats each year, year after year, asleep or awake ∼ pumping blood through more than 60 000 miles of veins, arteries, pumping more than 6 hundred thousand gallons each year. Wow. Beautiful:) Isn’t that Love in action…
Your thoughts ARE interesting and will remain so (even if you give more space solely to your Heart), because you are a man of great knowledge and fine expression that has ability to touch others hearts. People are attracted to those who honestly express their soul and humanity because they show our way home:) It is a wonderful gift. As for my writing:), for years I worked in publishing and wrote articles about literature for Encyclopedia (of literature). I didn’t enjoy it really, because I am too watery and dispersed for commiting to structural thought, although I gained some discipline and clarity, and for that I am grateful:). Nevertheless, what I loved about it is reading literature and through it loving those who have written it, always honouring their courage to express their truth. I myself write poetry, fragments and short symbolic stories, with swans, woods, ponds, secret gardens, freebirds, stars, north wind, heart and everything:) I often combine them with my illustrations and paintings. Like fairytales or comics:) I always loved free space, emptiness, floating, even as I child I relished foremost in poetry, music, singing and comics, not so much in longer, word only narrative. I haven’t published any of my stuff, perhaps I never will, only heart will tell:)
Love to you and to dear June and Cheryl, I am so glad that something I said was helpful:)
“What if it is so simple, that the heart is the heart” . . . This resonates with spiritual practices that ask us to align with our breathing, to make contact with that inflow and outflow, shared with all life. I do sometimes think of that, at any moment, each breath – inhalation/exhalation – through the world.
Mind resists – or thought resists. I wonder if that is what thought does – resist? Thought is resistance. I don’t know. I know that when I connect to my heart – the organ, the worker (the heart of Harvey, Hillman would say) – the mind scurries to block the movement: by making it poetic, by challenging it on theological or philosophical grounds. Some insistence in the brain box that it is IT.
Robert Bly used to say that for a lot of men their bodies were basically groin and brain, with a fist sometimes thrown it for good measure. What lay inbetween was perceived as shadow. I am not as persuaded that gender-based analysis is as helpful as it was (at one time, for me) but still. I perceive the heart as the unknown, or perhaps as a desert in which forty minutes would be too frightening & depriving, let alone forty days . . .
Am I correct in imagining that your mode of composition is Croatian? I actually looked at the Croation alphabet the other day – thirty letters! I would love to read your work. I feel a real kinship with you in language, as you know. Writing fragments is wonderful – one of my favorite books is Anne Carson’s translation of Sappho, who we experience (with I think one exception) in fragments. What is not said – or goes unsaid, or unheard – informs the work as much as what is there, or what is noticed.
I had some idea you worked with flowers . . .
Thank you Zrinka . . .
The Thought of the Heart… 🙂 Haven’t read it, found it on net, started reading, already liking its glimpses! Thank you, Sean:)
Oh . . . with respect to glimpses . . . that word always makes me think of Emily Dickinson who, in her last illness, refused to be seen by a doctor . . . at last, succumbing to her siblings’ pleas (for she loved them, what a heart she had) she agreed to walk past a half-opened door so the doctor could “glimpse” her and render a diagnosis accordingly . . .
Polarity concept (male, female, heart, mind etc) reminds me of the story of Hermaphroditus, son of Hermes and Aphrodite. Very interesting archetype, s/he isymbolizes – the union*conjunction – of Venus and Mercury, heart and mind. You could say it is a representation of a symbolical meeting of animus and anima in one’s soul, where (rain) Thunder and Desert meet, result of which is bringing life*Creation in its various forms (fruits, flowers, humans, animals..). Perhaps seeing the heart as a place of a meeting with loved one…brings union of seemingly opposite principles. Hermes is the one that moves, swift, mercurial, carrying fire. He is the one who brings his awareness to her unknown. He comes to the desert not to suffer her vastness and mystery but to celebrate her beauty (venus):) and bring her to mind, and himself to her heart. In fact they serve each other, she gives him her beauty (content) an he gives her expression (form), representing her with symbols.
I write in Croatian 🙂 And I guess when I write in English, it does have a flavour of Croatian syntax 🙂 Languages are so beautiful, each brings a certain, specific sound to expression, like various instruments.Thank you for your kinship in language, perhaps some day I’ll translate some of it, but I am still very much in the process of waking to my own language and making it personal, opening myself to the form in which my words can flow in sync with my soul. I resisted writing for years (my own poetry and stories) because I felt out of touch with myself. I wasn’t real. I am only in the beginning of *feeling and seeing* the words I want to share. Like a baby learning words 🙂
Hehehe I worked with flowers, but only on paper (and of course admiring them in my garden and everywhere:)). I love them so much! I wrote a lot about flower symbolism, especially in the work of Croatian poet Matoš in whose writing *flower* is the symbol of love and divine, He always said that the scent of the flower is the scent of the soul, and that it brings us to our own soul, to our own secret garden in which mysterious unknown woman (I guess his anima:)) dwells, waiting for his return.
Lovely story about E. Dickinson and *glimpses*. It seems she was always on the *threshold* of realities, be it visible / unvisible worlds, private space / public space, inner / outer nature…
Thank you for your support:) Flowers to you and your loved ones!
Union is the oldest story, I think, sensed everywhere. Our inclination to narrative evolved I suspect roughly approximate to our sense of ourselves as separate, and so it has always owned that quality of yearning, of wanting to be one again, even at the simplest level of story teller and listener. Whitman’s great joy was discovering he was not separate and could sing it, say it, share it, and its echoes sound and resound. “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
And, at the end:
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
I think beauty – unexpected – is what allows the descent into heart from mind: the black bear when I see her unexpectedly, the owl’s wings thrumming in air, the elegant lithographic lines of the heron at dawn so still in the pond . . . For a moment the mind is wordless – grateful – and sinks or falls – and the center (the center that is everywhere) is allowed briefly to visit, to show itself (as the doctor saw Dickinson, a glimpse, in passing), as if that is how it happens for now . . .
“Thresholds” is the very word. They are everywhere, we are everywhere perched, ascent/descent forever possible.
Yes, wordiness . . . when it is flowing each line or sentence is a sort of flower (root, stem and blossom – I believe this religiously!) and the whole concatenation of them – the story, the poem, the whatever – is a field of flowers.
I always thought the scent of the soul was apples in October – preferably with wood smoke nearby – but I defer to Matoš . . .
I have been trying to remember all day the name of the librarian in Vermont I knew – a poet from Croatia (Georgia something) who was a wonderful friend and all in my confused early twenties. Her work was very quiet and rich, and she was very sad – she left in the early eighties and always struggled, watching her home from afar – it is not a political history with which I am more than nominally familiar.
Anyway . . . the European music I am lately entranced by:
And, of course, flowers to you and your loved ones as well!
Greece is simply Beautiful –in so many ways! Such wonderful music.
So many layers, so much unity and division, so much beauty and so much pain in all of the Balkans. It is remarkable.
Thank you Sean! That was raw and honest. I truly endeavor to be absolutely and completely honest. I especially like what you had to say about the smallest details that can so easily be overlooked. Living in TRUTH is not a popular choice but its the most peaceful and freeing choice ever.
On a slightly different note, I am not sure why such a big deal is made of Eastern spiritual traditions by so many in the west. On the one hand we speak of Truth and on the other we have so many of these demarcations and separations and boundaries in our minds. Makes little sense to me. Its the SPIRIT. Its like the chants – most do not understand them, but they work nevertheless. Their efficacy is still potent and healing. They just cut through the human thinking.
Thank you again. I am always inspired by what you share.
Thank you, Lavina. Yes, honesty. When we are radically honest we are teacher and student at once. It is a gift perpetually giving of itself.
Insight or awakening has evolved differently in different cultures; I don’t think one is better than another, though I think that at times – for certain students – one mode can be particularly helpful, or can compensate for a perceived lack in their home, or familiar, tradition.
For example, in the west, relationship with God has been very intellectual – Augustine and Thomas a Kempis penetrated very deeply into the self to encounter the Absolute, but the way they relayed that experience was through academicized language and logic. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but it is not everybody’s mode (it’s good to have lots of teachers and methods available) and when one attaches to it – as regrettably, in all spiritual traditions, people do – it loses its efficacy and becomes exclusionary. It defeats the very purpose it was given to serve.
In a related way – a more modern example – a lot of thinkers in the western tradition in the latter half of the twentieth century again penetrated *very* deeply into the nature of reality – I am thinking of DeLeuze, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida and so forth. But again, these are extremely difficult writers to read – very intellectual, very complex and so their accessibility is somewhat compromised.
What I am saying is that the western tradition is strong in the intellectual arena but this has developed at the expense of other modes of experiencing reality and truth and the divine. The western tradition is most hospitable to people like me, who are bookish and intellectual and wordy. People who naturally do not fit so well into that go looking elsewhere: and one can altogether appreciate the attractiveness of, say, Zen – sit here, count your breaths, chop wood, carry water, etc.
I am not suggesting that eastern traditions do not also own highly intellectual components – clearly they do (after all, I am reading Sri Aurobindo!) – but they have valued those components differently, and that difference feels welcoming.
The other significant difference between east and west that I perceive (this is getting long and pretentious, isn’t it!) is that the west has not done such a good job of mapping ways to penetrate the mystery of self and God, reality and illusion. Thus, we have an abundance of writers – like Plato, Hegel, Wittgenstein, Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Whitman, Thomas Merton (to name but a few) who write beautifully and movingly of the experience of awakening, but don’t leave much of a roadmap on *how* they got there (I am generalizing wildly here).
In other words, the western tradition is somewhat lacking in what Ken Wilber has called “the yoga,” which he defined as a “reproducible technique of transcendence.” When one longs to know “how,” the western tradition is opaque and obscure. The eastern tradition, not so much.
So in my early twenties, reading Merton and all the transcendentalists and the deconstructionists, and turning my mind a little towards awakening, I began to want to know what to do. And the Catholic church was not especially helpful, but the Vermont Zen Center was profoundly helpful. Sit this way, breathe this way, eat this food, don’t eat that. I am not saying that is necessarily good or bad, but it was certainly helpful, at that point. And I do not think I was – or am – alone in finding it so.
So, that is sort of a sketch on my thoughts in that area. As I said, it is very general, and smarter people than me have given much more thoughtful and sustained attention to the question (Wilber being a wonderful example).
Always our interest in a spiritual path or practice reflects some perceived lack and is an attempt to fill it. We can say there is no such thing as lack, and that’s fine, but if we are feeling lack, then we have to deal with it. For some students in the west, the eastern traditions have been very helpful and important in this regard. That they are all leading to the same place in the end I see simply as a grand permissiveness, that we should seek out what works, give ourselves to it whole-heartedly, and let the labels fall where they may.
Lovely question – as you are one of my lovely and insightful friends – and I thank you for your patience and tolerance of my longwindedness.
With much love!