Passion's Shapes and Sides
"Underneath all the wanting and grasping, underneath the need to understand is what we have called "the body of fear." At the root of suffering is a small heart, frightened to be here, afraid to trust the river of change, to let go in this changing world."
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry,
Jack Kornfield, p. 213
(This is an essential book! Mouseover link to purchase!)
I remember an interesting moment with a friend of mine. We were discussing a mutual friend, and she mentioned that the mutual friend was really concerned about something or other, was making herself sick over it, that there was this big, deep problem. She asked me how I saw the situation. I replied, "Yeah, I do remember her saying something about that, but I didn't really listen, and I don't much care."
My friend, I think, had a moment there of not really liking me. She was incensed at what she saw as my unfeeling and uncaring attitude. I said, "And now you're upsetting yourself over my reaction to a situation that's not about you. I don't care because the situation, while is seems critical, isn't all that important. Knowing her, the next time she's here, she'll be miserable about something else."
There's an old joke about this new psychiatrist who rides up in the elevator each morning with an older, practiced psychiatrist. At night they ride down together. For months, the young guy notices that the older psychiatrist seems unruffled, whereas he feels like he's been through the mill. Finally he speaks up, "How do you look so fresh at night having seen clients and heard all of their terrible tales?" The older psychiatrist says, "Who listens?"
OK, I'm being flip here. And yes, I do listen. I'm noted, in fact, for my memory. Many are the times that a client comes in and says something, and I say, "But six months ago you said the opposite." Annoys the heck out of them.
I'm not trying to be smart when I do this. I'm trying to point out the inconsistencies of life, due to time and change.
One of the more interesting lessons of life is learning to swim in a sea of change. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus reminded us that you can never step into the same river twice. Many people fervently don't want to hear this. Acceptance of this would require doing away with two things:
1 - the belief that we can control the world by making it stay the same,
2 - the belief that we know anything at all.
Or, as it has been put - wisdom is being, not knowing.
Our topic - living life more passionately - is actually a walk into "not knowing." I'm struck by the truth of this, as expressed in Dar's article last week. Clearly, she went to her Come Alive with a theme - ME emerging. Two words. What you'll notice is missing is any reference at all to what would emerge. Now, she did set as a goal to be more open and available to the people around her - when she felt the pull to do what she "always" did and retreat, she came forward.
Now, think about that. Dar had a belief that she was shy and withdrawn in groups. Had she decided, (as many do) that there was nothing she could do to have a different experience, she'd have been right. She'd have confirmed for herself her own isolation.
Now, as we said last week, Dar can't change her nature. None of us can. She always has within her a part of her that wants to pull back. What she can change, if she chooses to, moment by moment, is whether she pulls back this time.
This is why I didn't particularly take my client's distress seriously. I laugh a lot about my dramas, and I work to teach others to laugh at theirs. You see, this person had a pattern of making every situation awful. That's the baseline, non-changeable part. What I see, however, and what all of you know, if you look, is that all situations change minute by minute. Something happens, boom, it's awful. Until the next awful thing comes along. Then the first is forgotten, the new thing comes "front and centre."
(I once said to a client, "So, imagine you're having the worst fight ever with your partner. Huge crisis, deep feelings. Now, Ed McMahon shows up at the door and hands you a cheque for 6 million. How do you feel? What happened to the fight?")
Thus, it seems that she is forever trapped in a relentlessly awful life. But stepping back, we see a river of experience flowing by. Nothing is the same. Experience upon experience. Each experience neutral. Until she grabs one and "awfulizes" it.
Now the opposite of this would be to simply be with each experience as it emerges, and to choose what, if anything, to do with it. This was Dar's experience at the Come Alive. She stayed open and curious and put herself out there, into situations she might "normally" have avoided. By doing so, with an open mind and heart, she discovered an entirely different experience, one she judges to be more open and freeing. SHE emerging.
I know people are resisting change, resisting not knowing, when they universalize. "He always treats me . . ." She never want to . . . " "Everyone thinks I'm . . ." They want me to buy into their belief that there is no choice. In truth, there is always choice. If we choose . . .
It's not that nothing is happening and everything is the same. The question is, what are we willing to notice? Our lack of passion for life, our lack of passion in loving, is about our pre-judgement (prejudice) that nothing will ever change. As soon as we allow for change to be possible, voila, change is all over the place.
This sort of choiceful looking occurs all the time, if we will but open our eyes and pay attention. I remembered that our loving friend Jennifer wrote the following:
I was watching the sky tonight as I drove home and the beauty brought tears to my eyes. The clouds were at all different levels and the sun was setting...vibrant blue sky with big puffy and layered clouds of dark and light purple and pink and orange and...ahhhh, glorious indeed! I was also noticing my thoughts...ranging from scaring myself to creating immense peace and joy...this is real living...a slice of life as a dear soul once described to me. I felt like I was expanding into the sky. I don't think I ever created that experience for myself before.
If you look. If you look. If you look.