THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE NEWSLETTER – JULY 2014
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
2. THIS IS THE TRUE RIDE
3. WHAT THE BUDDHA NEVER SAID
4. IF THERE IS NO SELF, THEN WHO’S SITTING HERE?
5. TO BE OR NOT TO BE: HAMLET’S SOLILOQUY TRANSLATED
6. WHERE REASON ENDS AND FAITH BEGINS
7. HOW TO FIND YOURSELF
8. WHAT IS YOUR STORYTELLER DOING?
9. THIS MONTH’S LINKS
QUOTES OF THE MONTH – WEI WU WEI, LEONARD COHEN & SUNADA
“Why are you unhappy? Because 99.9 percent of everything you think, and of everything you do, is for yourself — and there isn’t one.”
“Only one thing
made him happy
and now that
it was gone
made him happy.”
“If there is no self, then who’s sitting here?”
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
July Greetings, Dear Friends…
This month seems as good as any for focusing on not focusing on self, so let’s start by pretending that might be possible.
How could there not be a self when a self seems to be the only apparatus we have for experiencing?
This goes beyond PARADOX and even seems to reach the plateau of OXYMORON, defined by Wikipedia as:
– A figure of speech made up of two or more words that seem to be opposite to each other…You can have words that look opposite, but are right. For example, a “warm freezer” could be right. A freezer could be warm if it was turned off or left open. But words that really are opposite to each other, would be words that just cannot be put together. For example, a “round square” could not happen because squares are not round.
Does this force us to conclude that saying we have both a ‘self’and a ‘non-self’is an oxymoron and could not happen because ‘selves’are not ‘non-selves’?
Or are there ways to recognize and utilize our ‘selves’and ‘non-selves’as part of our human existence? As Hamlet put it:
“To be, or not to be, that is the question…“
When old Father William ran across Hamlet’s soliloquy almost sixty years ago, the meaning seemed to be about purely physical struggles with life and death, good and evil, etc. In 2014 I now find it teasing me about my identity. Am I a ‘self’or a ‘non-self’? Can I really choose ‘not being’as well as ‘being’? Or both? Do I really have to choose? And how do I do the choosing if I want to? Are the options truly limited to ‘life or death’?
For myself at 76, I see my vision of ‘self’and ‘no self’duality as a mistake in perception; all truly is One. What form that Infinity takes is still way beyond my rational comprehension, but I do feel it more frequently as I spend more time in solitude. Aging has helped this immensely, but so did being in the world full-on in earlier years. The peace I experience now could not have come to me sooner; I needed all my years and experiences to be here now. Desiderata makes continually deepening sense to me, especially the line, “Whether or not it’s clear to you, the Universe is unfolding as it should…”
So what would be the nature of my advice to my younger ‘self’ over those first 65 years?
– Approval/Support rather than judgment;
– Permission/Freedom rather than restriction;
– Experience/Consequences rather than safety.
While these are not what I did for my kids much of the time, delightfully I see my children doing them for my grandchildren – way to go, kids!
From this maturity it’s clear the youthful me could not have heard guidance that didn’t include approval, permission and experience. Of course, if you’d asked me then, I would have said, “Don’t bullshit me – tell me the truth!” That was how unclearly I saw my ‘self’ from 10 to 65.
But these last ten+ years, which coincide with closing my importantly busy consulting career, have allowed me a greater acceptance of who I am and what life is. The frontiers of scientific, spiritual and emotional exploration confirm these, at least for me.
To accept being a tiny particle participating in an infinite universe seems more than enough now. Such peace is a wonderful state for this ‘self’ and ‘non-self’, and We are grateful.
The remainder of this newsletter is about exploring these kinds of questions, and the pieces that follow have helped me do that…
2. THIS IS THE TRUE RIDE suggests we “dance the wild dance of no hope”, but this does not need to be depressing if we agree “Impermanence is life’s only promise to us…”
3. WHAT THE BUDDHA NEVER SAID is another fascinating perspective on the ‘self/no self’conundrum from what seems to be the Buddha’s own view;
4. IF THERE IS NO SELF, THEN WHO’S SITTING HERE? Sunada writes “The Buddha’s teaching of no-self is about letting go. Let go of our stories, or in short, our egos…And paradoxically, I’m finding that the more I take in the idea of no-self, the more I’m becoming who I really am.”
5. TO BE OR NOT TO BE: HAMLET’S SOLILOQUY TRANSLATED brings us into Western culture, and, while not quoting John 3:3, gives a connection to “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Perhaps moving from ‘self’to ‘no self’is just another way of being ‘born again.’
6. WHERE REASON ENDS AND FAITH BEGINS introduces the “boggle threshold: the level above which the mind boggles when faced with some new fact or report or idea… FAITH asks people to consider that the evidence of their senses is wrong…”
7. HOW TO FIND YOURSELF – “Put yourself on cruise control and go into limbo for a year…I mean forget about success for a while, get yourself an ordinary job, an ordinary place to live, and live without worrying about what Americans call, in uppercase, the Future.”
8. WHAT IS YOUR STORYTELLER DOING? “As I got into the shower, awareness kicked in and saw what the storyteller was doing…I could see that this is how wars are started, and I didn’t want to allow that level of unconsciousness to take me over!”
I hope these Musings and the accompanying articles help you along your path as they help me…
Much love, FW
2. THIS IS THE TRUE RIDE
BY JENNIFER WELWOOD
My friends, let’s grow up.
Let’s stop pretending we don’t know the deal here.
Or if we truly haven’t noticed, let’s wake up and notice.
Look: Everything that can be lost, will be lost.
It’s simple —how could we have missed it for so long?
Let’s grieve our losses fully, like ripe human beings,
But please, let’s not be so shocked by them.
Let’s not act so betrayed,
As though life had broken her secret promise to us.
Impermanence is life’s only promise to us,
And she keeps it with ruthless impeccability.
To a child she seems cruel, but she is only wild,
And her compassion exquisitely precise:
Brilliantly penetrating, luminous with truth,
She strips away the unreal to show us the real.
This is the true ride —let’s give ourselves to it!
Let’s stop making deals for a safe passage:
There isn’t one anyway, and the cost is too high.
We are not children anymore.
The true human adult gives everything for what cannot be lost.
Let’s dance the wild dance of no hope!
3. WHAT THE BUDDHA NEVER SAID
THANISSARO BHIKKHU, TRICYCLE MAGAZINE, SPRING 2014
“There is no self.”
“Nope, never said that, either.”
— The Buddha —
The Buddha was careful to classify questions according to how they should be answered, based on how helpful they were to gaining awakening. Some questions deserved a categorical answer, that is, one that holds true across the board. Some he answered analytically, redefining or refining the terms before answering. Some required counter-questioning, to clarify the issue in the questioner’s mind. But if the question was an obstacle on the path, the Buddha put it aside.
When Vacchagotta the wanderer asked him point-blank whether or not there is a self, the Buddha remained silent, which means that the question has no helpful answer. As he later explained to Ananda, to respond either yes or no to this question would be to side with opposite extremes of wrong view (Samyutta Nikaya 44.10). Some have argued that the Buddha didn’t answer with “no”because Vacchagotta wouldn’t have understood the answer. But there’s another passage where the Buddha advises all the monks to avoid getting involved in questions such as “What am I?”“Do I exist?”“Do I not exist?”because they lead to answers like “I have a self”and “I have no self,”both of which are a “thicket of views, a writhing of views, a contortion of views”that get in the way of awakening (Majjhima Nikaya 2).
So how did we get the idea that the Buddha said that there is no self?
4. IF THERE IS NO SELF, THEN WHO’S SITTING HERE?
BY SUNADA TAKAGI, MARCH 31, 2009
Does the Buddhist idea of “no self”strike you as bizarre or outrageous? Sunada has been reflecting on this difficult concept, and shares her thoughts on it so far. It isn’t just an obscure philosophical point for mental gymnasts, she says. Paradoxically, she thinks the ideas can help us in a very real way toward finding and becoming more of who we really are.
If I asked you who you are, what would you say? Many people might begin by telling me what they do for work –teacher, software engineer, accountant. But no, I’d say. That’s the work you do, not who you are. If you changed or lost your job, that identity would disappear. So who are you really?
OK, then next you might tell me something about your family and your people –perhaps you’re a mother or father, a person of African descent, an American citizen, and so on. But no, that’s you in relation to others. So who are YOU, independent of them?
So then you might bring up your personality or values –an introvert, a romantic, or that you have a deep love of beauty. But I’d say these are descriptors of ways you behave or what motivates you. They aren’t who you are.
The thing is, we can continue this exercise forever, but we’ll never find anything we can nail down as “who we are.”That’s because everything we come up with is superficial and impermanent. There really isn’t anything we can point to within ourselves that we can confidently say is a core essence that will never change.
Let me be clear that this idea isn’t saying we don’t exist. If we walked into a wall, our bodies would bump against it and we’d feel pain. Yes we exist! Instead, what it’s really saying is that we’re constantly changing beings, always in flux. We’re not permanent, fixed entities. We’re more like rivers. If you stood on a bank and watched a river, the water molecules passing by now would be different from what passed by a moment ago. So then how can we say it’s the same river? Giving it a fixed name and identity is just a convention that humans came up with so we can talk about it. The whole idea is a fiction.
At this point, you might argue that there are core aspects of our character that don’t seem to change over our lifetimes. OK, now we’re getting into some tricky territory. The problem is that as soon as we attach labels and concepts onto something, our egos kick in and start objectifying it, nailing it down, and spinning off stories to make something permanent out of it. And that’s what can get us into trouble.
Let me illustrate with an example of my own. Some of the traits that emerged very early in my life were my hard-working and self-motivated nature, and that I enjoyed accomplishing goals I set for myself. The various labels I took on included “high achiever,”“Type A personality,”“motivated by excellence.”
But labels are traps. With every one of them comes a whole string of stories, assumptions, and beliefs. And for the most part, they don’t match with reality. I took my labels to mean I should go after a high-paying, high-status professional job, become part of a “respectable”(i.e. conventional) community …you get the idea. But more than that, I felt I had to do my absolute best at everything I did. I was driven to excel at everything I took on because it made my ego feel good.
Many of you know my life story, so I’ll keep it short here —but basically, my house of cards came tumbling down hard in my thirties. I had so taken in my own stories of what being excellent meant that I wasn’t seeing any of the signs around me that were telling me otherwise. My physical health collapsed and I fell into a depression. Then on top of that, 9/11 happened, which among other things, pretty much closed the door on my career.
So what did the idea of “no self”have to teach me about all this? First and foremost, drop the stories. In any given moment when I’m faced with a choice, look at what I’m bringing to the table RIGHT NOW. Not my concepts of who I think I am or should be, but the full, raw potential of what I have in this present moment. Of course, this doesn’t mean I disregard everything from my past. I have all that I’ve learned from my life experiences, all the skills and knowledge that I’ve acquired, and all my personal strengths and talents. But the real question is, how are those things actually manifesting in me right now, and how do they apply to the situation at hand? It’s not about the degrees I have, or the idea that I strive toward excellence, or that I want to succeed. Those are my stories. What’s really present for me right now, and what’s the most positive choice I can make based on that?
The Buddha’s teaching of no-self is about letting go. Let go of our stories, or in short, our egos. Our egos think those stories bring us security, but in reality they act more like ill-fitting glasses that distort our vision. But at the same time, the teaching isn’t telling us to be passive and let the winds blow us around. It’s about being so completely immersed in and open to the present moment that we know clearly and fully what the situation is –including our own strengths and weaknesses. With that clarity of vision, we can choose to flow more in harmony with the way things really are by confidently relying on our known strengths, rather than fighting to hold up our version of a fool’s paradise.
This is where the practice of mindfulness is vitally important. At some point in our practice, we begin to let go of our grasping to uphold “me”as something opposed to “the world out there.”We start subtly shifting away from being dualistically MINDFUL OF various things to sensing that we are just awareness itself, inseparable from our surroundings. We stand naked just as we are, the pure potential present in us right now, and flow intimately with the world as it is. That’s the real gift of mindfulness —to feel so confident and in harmony with the world that we can trust and let go of our lives to it.
Back to that notion of character traits that don’t change much –yes, I still have many of those qualities that keep me motivated to do my best at everything I do. But my way of thinking about them has really changed. I now know I’m at my best when I stand back and let the world around me augment what talents and skills I have. I suppose it’s sort of like sailing. Rather than me doing a lot of rowing, I’m learning how to harness the wind so it propels me toward where I want to go.
So if there is no self, then who’s sitting here? I guess the answer is a growing, changing being. In my case, this being also wants to grow toward becoming wiser and more open-hearted, and so every moment, I try to make the best choice I can to point myself in that direction. Where am I going? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Because the more I make positive choices, the more strongly the flow of my life seems to move in the direction I aspire toward.
I find the Buddha’s teachings profoundly optimistic and hopeful, because it says that we can change, and we can choose how. And paradoxically, I’m finding that the more I take in the idea of no-self, the more I’m becoming who I really am.
Sunada not only teaches the online meditation courses at Wildmind, she runs her own business, Mindful Purpose Life Coaching, through which she coaches people toward finding their inner wisdom and confidence. You can read about her explorations of mindfulness in her Mindful Living Blog or follow her on Twitter.
5. TO BE OR NOT TO BE: HAMLET’S SOLILOQUY TRANSLATED
BY NO SWEAT SHAKESPEARE, WWW.NOSWEATSHAKESPEARE.COM/
To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would these Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveler returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia. Nymph, in all thy Orisons
Be thou all my sins remembered.
The question for him was whether to continue to exist or not –whether it was more noble to suffer the slings and arrows of an unbearable situation, or to declare war on the sea of troubles that afflict one, and by opposing them, end them. To die. He pondered the prospect. To sleep –as simple as that. And with that sleep we end the heartaches and the thousand natural miseries that human beings have to endure. It’s an end that we would all ardently hope for. To die. To sleep. To sleep. Perhaps to dream. Yes, that was the problem, because in that sleep of death the dreams we might have when we have shed this mortal body must make us pause. That’s the consideration that creates the calamity of such a long life. Because, who would tolerate the whips and scorns of time; the tyrant’s offences against us; the contempt of proud men; the pain of rejected love; the insolence of officious authority; and the advantage that the worst people take of the best, when one could just release oneself with a naked blade? Who would carry this load, sweating and grunting under the burden of a weary life if it weren’t for the dread of the after life –that unexplored country from whose border no traveler returns? That’s the thing that confounds us and makes us put up with those evils that we know rather than hurry to others that we don’t know about. So thinking about it makes cowards of us all, and it follows that the first impulse to end our life is obscured by reflecting on it. And great and important plans are diluted to the point where we don’t do anything.
6. WHERE REASON ENDS AND FAITH BEGINS
BY T.M. LUHRMANN, THE NEW YORK TIMES, JULY 26, 2014
STANFORD, Calif. —NOT long ago, I was at an event in which many people, most of them professors, were arguing for the existence of things that many of their colleagues did not believe in. Someone gave a talk in which he explained that he knew that U.F.O.s existed even though all the best evidence for them turned out to be false. Others spoke sympathetically about shamanic healing, reincarnation and near-death visions. But then a woman described her research on what it was like to be dead, which she had based on reports from mediums who claimed to have had the dead speak through them. She cited, as evidence of the benevolence in the afterlife, an Anglican priest, Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, who wrote a book attacking spiritualism while alive but who, she said, recanted the book after his death in 1914. The group stared at her in disbelief. This, they felt, was flabby-minded.
In a delightful account of the British Society for Psychical Research (a remarkable group in its turn of-the-last-century heyday, and whose presidents have included William James, Nobel laureates and fellows of the Royal Society), Renée Haynes, a writer and historian who died in 1994, introduced the concept of the “boggle threshold”: “the level above which the mind boggles when faced with some new fact or report or idea.”Haynes herself was fine, she wrote, with telepathy; hesitant about reincarnation; but appalled that a woman had flown across the Atlantic to have her torn “aura”repaired by a guru expert in invisible mending.
We all have these boggle lines. Praying in an ancient language you don’t understand is fine; praying in tongues (not a human language, but thought to be a spiritual one) anathema. A god who has a human son whom he allows to be killed is natural; a god with eight arms and a lusty sexual appetite is weird. You believe in the Holy Spirit, but you draw the line at exorcism. You take for granted that Christ will come again to earth, but riding on a white horse and wearing a robe dipped in blood? That’s obviously a prophet’s besotted fantasy.
One could explain these distinctions as simply the product of local culture —the church you grew up in, the familiar rhythms of your family’s life. For better and for worse, it is pretty basic to humans to understand themselves as different from other humans because of what they do and what they hold dear.
But I think that the boggle line also tells us something about belief. We each of us have what we could call a belief continuum, with taken-for-granted obvious truths at one end (in August, it does not snow in New York City) and whacked-out possibilities at the other (the tooth fairy, a Cubs triumph in the World Series). When we draw a line between the plausible and the ridiculous —our boggle line —I think we become more confident about the beliefs on the plausible side of the line. You are, the boggle line tells you, a sensible, reasonable person. You do not believe in that. So a belief in this —well, a sensible person would take that seriously.
We know already that asserting one kind of belief shapes one’s willingness to commit to another. Benoit Monin, a professor of organizational behavior and psychology at Stanford, and his colleagues have found that when people do something that affirms their lack of prejudice, like disagreeing with blatant racism or expressing willingness, in a laboratory experiment, to hire a black person instead of a white one, that reasonable moral action seems to license them later to express views that seem racist. Seeing yourself as morally reasonable might allow you to make morally risky choices.
So perhaps rejecting the extreme position (I don’t believe in that) might make a less extreme, but still uncertain, commitment seem more plausible. Indeed, you can make a case that this is why heresy is so important. “What people do not believe is often more clearly articulated than what they do believe,”the sociologist Lester R. Kurtz wrote in 1983, “and it is through battles with heresies and heretics that orthodoxy is most sharply delineated.”The sociologists would explain that if this is true, it is because people unite most profoundly in opposition to a common enemy.
It might also be because God is unknowable. We see through a glass darkly. Thus Augustine’s echoing cry, at the start of his “Confessions”: “Tell me of thy compassion, O Lord my God, what thou art to me. ‘Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.’So speak that I may hear … Hide not thy face from me.”The long tradition of spiritual literature is full of intense uncertainty about the true nature of a being that can neither be seen nor heard in the ordinary way.
FAITH asks people to consider that the evidence of their senses is wrong. In various ways, and in varying degrees, faith asks that people believe that their minds are not always private; that persons are not always visible; that unseen presences should alter your emotions and direct your behavior; that reality is good and justice triumphant. These are fantastic claims, and the fact of their improbability is not lost on those who accept them.
Many people come to their religious commitments slowly, carefully and deliberatively, as if the attitude they take toward life itself depends upon their judgment. Many struggle, at one point or another, particularly in a pluralistic, science-sophisticated society, with the despair that it all might be a sham. Most people, whatever their religious persuasion, assume that there are decent human beings with good intentions who interpreted the evidence differently and who are wrong.
If faith is a conjecture, or, as Soren Kierkegaard framed it, a leap into the unknown, perhaps being clear about what is foolish makes people feel safer about where that leap might land them.
Gods are invisible, the future is inscrutable, and much of life is bushwhacking over uneven terrain. In the face of your own uncertainty, being precise about what you don’t believe in can shore up your confidence in what you do. This is a point worth remembering this summer —a silly season when many of us will become newly aware of what we deem ridiculous: bikinis on the out-of-shape, brick-pink sunburns on un-sunscreened cheeks, perhaps even dogs on surfboards —and, thus, of what really matters to us in the end.
T. M. Luhrmann is a professor of anthropology at Stanford University and a contributing opinion writer.
7. HOW TO FIND YOURSELF
BY MARIA POPOVA, BRAINPICKINGS WEEKLY, JULY 20, 2014
At the age of twenty-one, artist and writer James Harmon chanced upon a copy of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and found himself mesmerized. Rilke’s elegant exploration of the deepest human concerns —love, fear, art, doubt, sex —prompted young Harmon to wonder what the best advice to young people might be a century after Rilke —something that stood as an antidote to the “toxic cloud of tepid-broth wisdom”found in books “with the shelf life of a banana”that the contemporary publishing world peddled, so he reached out to some of the most “outspoken provocateurs, funky philosophers, cunning cultural critics, social gadflies, cyberpunks, raconteurs, radical academics, literary outlaws, and obscure but wildly talented poets.”For the next decade, he dedicated himself to this labor-of-love project, released in 2002 as Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two (public library) —a compendium of sensitive, no-bullshit, luminous, life-tested letters of advice, including Martha Nussbaum on learning not to despise your inner world, Judith Butler on doubting love, and more contributions from such cultural icons as Mark Helprin, Lynda Barry, Katharine Hepburn, Cindy Sherman, George Saunders, Bette Davis, and William S. Burroughs.
One of the most refreshing letters in the anthology comes from the American novelist, essayist, and journalist Florence King (b. 1936). Her message —about deconditioning our compulsion for instant success, cultivating the building blocks of self-esteem, and learning what it really means to be present with ourselves —runs boldly against the grain of our culturally-entrenched convention with a kind of Cheryl Strayed brutal, poetic honesty and applies just as poignantly to recent college graduates as it does to anyone, at any stage of life, looking to rediscover their inner center.
But adding to the timelessness of King’s advice is a peculiar kind of timeliness —anyone who has ever tussled with the stereotypical millennial in the workplace or the classroom would instantly see what wonders King’s counsel could do for the generation typified as entitled, impatient, devoid of humility, and allergic to hard work.
When I was getting ready to graduate from college in 1957, I was fed up and ready to drop from exhaustion, but still my mind kept telling me, “Hurry, hurry, hurry.”I felt I had to do something, go on to the next step, whatever it was —career, graduate school, as long as it was important.
This is an American disease. Put yourself on cruise control and go into limbo for a year. I’m not talking about a neo-grand tour; don’t bop around Europe, you’ll just get in trouble. Nor am I talking about what your parents’generation called “dropping out.”I mean forget about success for a while, get yourself an ordinary job, an ordinary place to live, and live without worrying about what Americans call, in uppercase, the Future.
Go somewhere different, but stay away from big cities. If you’re from a place you call “godforsaken,”go to a small city in another part of the country…
Get a dead-end job —they’re plentiful now because nobody wants them. Tell your employer the truth: that you’ll be around only a year or so, but promise to work hard. Keep your promise. Little triumphs are the pennies of self-esteem. If you do well in such a job and make yourself indispensable to somebody, you will realize Robert E. Lee’s farewell words to his men after the surrender at Appomattox: “You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from a knowledge of duty faithfully performed.”
Live alone, even at a financial sacrifice. If you have a roommate, the whole college uproar will just start all over again. Get a one-room apartment, or simply a room in the home of a nice widow. Get to know her. She’s dying to tell somebody the story of her life, so listen.
Have a radio for emergency news, but no TV. Read, read, read. When you don’t have to worry about passing exams on them, subjects you studied in school suddenly become interesting. Read my “desert island book,”the one I’d want with me if I were shipwrecked: The Prodigal Women by Nancy Hale, a novel published in 1942. Girls will love it, and boys will learn more about women from it than anything I know of.
Stay chaste during your limbo year. Sex ruins reflection and self-knowledge; you’re so busy analyzing the other person that you never get around to analyzing yourself.
What I am recommending is traditionally called “finding yourself.”The difference is, there is no bohemian excess here, none of the “experiencing everything”that comprises nostalgia de la boúe. It’s productive, constructive goofing-off. The widow will remember you ever afterward as “the nice boy/girl who used to live here,”and your employer will shake his head wondering and say, “By God, I wish I could find more like that!”
Take My Advice is a magnificent read in its 79-letter entirety. Complement it with another equally enchanting riff on the Rilke classic, Anna Deavere Smith’s Letters to a Young Artist.
8. WHAT IS YOUR STORYTELLER DOING?
BY MARY O’MALLEY, AWAKIN.ORG, JULY 21, 2014
At 8:28 AM I slipped into the pool at my gym for my half hour swim. There was a water aerobics class that began at 9:00, which left just enough time for me to complete my swim. At around 8:55 a number of people had jumped into the first lane and were chatting before the class. I was in the second lane and a man was in the third. At 8:56 I started my last lap which takes a little over a minute. After I had made the final turn, just a few strokes before I ran into her, I noticed a woman who had come under the floating lane barriers and was standing right in the middle of my lane. These lanes are big enough for two people to do laps, so she could easily have stood at the side of the lane to let me pass. But because she was in the middle, there was barely enough room to squeeze by her, and as I did, she hit me with her arm.
Can you imagine what my storyteller was doing? It was affronted. Anger came roaring through me, accompanied with the feeling of being right and making her wrong! The stories in my head were saying: “The class starts at 9:00! This is my lane until 9:00. How dare she!”As I got into the shower, awareness kicked in and saw what the storyteller was doing. […] I could see that this is how wars are started, and I didn’t want to allow that level of unconsciousness to take me over! I could also recognize that many times in my life I had played the role of the woman in my lane and felt great compassion for that part of me. And finally my heart opened to the woman. I don’t know what caused her to act as she did, but I didn’t have to put her out of my heart!
There are 3 reason why I wanted to share this with you:
First: We have this strange idea that peace will come when we get rid of the parts we don’t like and hold onto the ones we do! That only brings continual struggle inside. Instead, awakening is about getting to know all the various parts of our storyteller. The more you can see its fears, judgments and despairs, the more you don’t take it personally. And when something very deep has been triggered, its visit will become much shorter, and rather than you getting caught in more struggle, it will wake up the wondrous healing of your own heart (both for yourself and for others!).
Second: In this world that is so aligned with the good/bad, right/wrong view of the world that is at the heart of each of our storytellers, there is nothing inside of you to be ashamed of! We all have these parts. We are just very good at pretending that we don’t –both to ourselves and to others! And these parts deserve kindness just like you do when you have had a difficult day.
Third: The core flavor of my childhood was invasion, and so my storyteller was built with a huge amount of fear about being overtaken by life. I have, over the years, brought my attention to this part to the extent that it is very quiet most of the time. But there evidently was still some vestige of this old fear, so life put me in a situation to bring it up –not to disturb me, or punish me –but so I could see it more clearly without identifying with it and bring it into the healing of my heart.
So the next time you are caught in reaction, become curious about what your storyteller is doing. Life is giving you these situations so you can see more clearly and thus unhook more cleanly from the storyteller’s world of judgment and fear.
9. THIS MONTH’S LINKS:
THE NEW YORKER OPENED ITS ARCHIVE – START HERE…
SEYIT UYGUR’S VIDEO OF THE FASCINATING PROCESS OF EBRU ART…
LOVE IN FILM: RELATIONSHIPS FOR LIFE
TWO ANONYMOUS ART STUDENTS GIVE WEEKLY GIFTS…
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