On not knowing what to do

On not knowing what to do

Well, there’s a nice image for you! Some of you might recognize it as two cards from the OH deck, a radically improvisational way of generating images. The deck has 88 “frames,” words, and 88 impressionistic images, many of them much less friendly than this one today is. It’s definitely not all sweetness and light. Using a device like this, or a poem, can be a writing prompt or deepener, as it was today for me. It can also be a way to start off a group because everyone will take a very different meaning from them. Reality is individually constituted. 

What I see today, as the writing’ll suggest is that there’s a world of pain out there. The Tower of Babble comes to mind.

Yes sometimes there’s a space inside in which communication happens. Is that true?

I have a story that we don’t yet know how to respond to these times. Sir David Attenborough made a speech today at the UN Climate Conference today about the condition we’re in. It came, and so far it seems it  will go without making much of a wave.

Why so little response?

It seems that it’s very hard for us to know now, how to respond to messages. We used to know, in an earlier time, in a seemingly easier world. We used to have our categories all neatly packaged. This goes here, that goes there.

But that’s no longer the case. Now we don’t know how to respond as we witness the world that doesn’t know how to respond either.

We’re like the fishes who don’t know they’re in the water. We’re learning to swim in a medium that we haven’t  recognized yet. Many people have pointed to it but it doesn’t have a name, at least one that’s stuck. (The evolutionary present?) If we’re over 50 or so, we can perhaps remember a time when we could feel that our small part was a part in a story that we understood, an agreed upon story. We were part of a bigger venture.

Now . . . not so much.

And this is terribly painful for many of us. We feel the underlying malaise and we see its effects on the people we love who cope bravely with it. And we don’t know what to do. Perhaps this dimension has always been there and we’re just waking up to something like a universal compassion for each other, caught in this fractured existence. It could be that a natural Boddhisatva-like impulse of witnessing this, wanting to gather the others in and work together, is rising, rising everywhere but only seen by some. We don’t have a way to note it and signal it yet. Seeing this may be part of seeing that we’re caught up in a deep – or high – “Tower of Babel. “Not just that they are so caught up, the George H. Bushs a and the Justin Trudeaus but that we are too.

In that sense our illusion might be instructive.

But sitting here this morning I’m also noticing that I’ve been talking about things. Talking about my experience rather than from it.

What’s happening right here as I sit on my ergonomically ruinous couch, pen in hand? There’s the sound of the too-loud fridge and I hear too  what I think is the hot water for the radiators, gurgling as it circulates in the bowels of the small building. My stomach is full and my body still, at peace for now with this unknowing.

I was just in touch with the daughter of one of my oldest friends, and he’s in my mind as I sit here. This Nameless Friend is an almost-recluse who’s been living in the woods up north most of his life, estranged from almost everyone. No one in his original family has seen him in a long time and neither have I. His daughter and he are out of touch. He’s in my mind now,  part of my story and I want to see him.

But right now he could be a metaphor for how we all are, alone and speaking a language only we fully understand. Not sure exactly how the twists of fate, providence and free will brought us to here.

So I’m sitting with a feeling or an imagination that I often have, that there’s something important that we’re each looking for, or if not looking for, intuiting, that we usually can’t touch together. We feel part of it in our highest, and often in our darkest hours too, but usually we forget it, caught up as we are in the minutiae of living.

Caught up in making ourselves understood in the modern Tower of Babble – a full time job that many of us do as we continue with everything else. If there’s a saving grace, it’s that we recognize sometimes we’re in this together.

If you enjoyed, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below and tell us about it.

If you want to explore in depth with others, join a committed group starting soon. I think of it as a Soul Camino . . . a three-month personal exploration you”ll undertake with a committed group of others.

I’ll be hosting at least two drop-in groups throughout December  to practice Presence.  I think this process has a lot to commend it as a way to gain insight and relief from the effects the modern Tower of Babble. Come try it out. The times and links are on the page.

Let me know if I can help you with my guiding practice, which largely consists of deep listening so that what you’re wanting can come more to the surface. You can also choose a free discovery session for 30 minutes, or the time you want. Longer times are offered on a Gift basis. Please let me know the amount of time you’re interested in when you book.


How to get from breakfast to lunch without losing your mind

How to get from breakfast to lunch without losing your mind

The world is well on its way to waking up.

If it doesn’t blow itself up first, which it’s also well on its way to doing. It’s the best of times, the worst of times.

But do we have to choose, good reader? Old Aristotle suggested no: “The mark of the truly educated is being able to entertain an idea without accepting it.”

But how do we do that?

I’m not talking about abstract notions of truth here. It’s about getting from breakfast to lunch without losing your mind.

This hopped-up world just begs us to take positions. It screams at us that we’re right and they’re wrong. (Or for masochistic contrarians,  I’m wrong and they’re right.) It presents us an epic drama of good guys and bad guys and provides you with a full set of stickers to paste on the other. Many of the stickers you wouldn’t want your mother  to read! Mighty magnets seem buried in the poles of every argument to pull us to one side or the other.

Well, my truth is I’m not doing it!

I’m not playing.

And I don’t want to (as we say in Canada) just take my hockey puck and go home.

I want a different game!

So bring on the differences! Because you know we have them. Deep down, any two of us see the world differently. We may see the color red the same (though who knows). But for sure we don’t see the core human issues at the heart of our lives the same way. We each come stamped with a unique edition of being human  that came through our family and our culture and our biology and the fluttering of butterfly wings in the Amazon.

Maybe the simplest language to understand this is this: We each have an embodied story through which we understand the world. Our stories are very different, much more different than a common language would have us believe. They’re unique! We each are shaped into a one-of-a-kind understanding of the world by it. From the inside it’s experienced as a story that is our identity. The stories are truly different.

But we share the fact of being one-of-a-kind.

And that’s as important as the uniqueness. It’s as Mary Lou Kownaci says: Engrave this upon your heart: there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you heard their story. I hear in this that to understand another’s story is to recognize that it’s also our  story.

Our unique stories are also universal. And the more truthfully they’re expressed, the more unique they are and the more universal.

Each time I step back a little, I see that my story has a deeper meaning than the one I self-servingly tell. And what I see/think/feel/imagine/know is that the deeper story still lives. Not only is it not complete, it’s not been told yet. And as Mary Lou suggests, it’s not my deeper story only. We’re all in the same existential position. Our  story has a further meaning for us that can come in a growth step or a series of them. It doesn’t require a step because that would mean it makes demands. Which would mean that it has a preference. (I imagine the Great Artist and Architect of Freedom has more fun things to do than worry about whether the universe is turning out the right way down here.)

But “it” makes no demands and has no preferences. It leaves next steps completely up to dumb me. It simply shows me what justice and beauty would look like if I wanted them.

It just shows me my heart’s desire and leaves me to it.

I hate that! Talk about having you by the short and curlies, if you’ll pardon the expression.

Now I/you/we are in trouble because we hold onto our cover story for dear life. We think it is our dear life, so occupied are we – or at least so intent is the world we live in – with keeping that cover story fresh and in good shape.

Even as we prepare for a final examination that only has one question in it. And the final exam question has nothing to do with the cover story.

How can we study for a damn exam like that?

My own strategy, or rather my unstrategy, is to minimize my natural preference for one story over another by exploring them with others. If I prefer one version, what I get is a fancy improvement on the cover story. (But only every time.) If I refrain from preferring, I see a little more of the real story. It’s humbling. But sometimes we see it’s a bigger story than we thought.  It’s fully mine and fully yours and fully ours.

As Ram Dass said, paraphrasing the third Zen patriarch,”The great way is not difficult,” and here he pauses for the punch line, “for those who have no preference.”

Good luck!

Together with the excellent Vihra Dincheva, we hold drop-in sessions on second and fourth Thursday’s. You can read about UNPLANNING, aka WE-SPACE Open Space here. If you’re on my mailing list you’ll get the link and extra goodies. I’m doing a registration-only Small-group Intensive starting the end of October. It’s for a deeper practice than can be available with a drop-in.  Please apply to join us!

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