Posted by: innerpilgrimage | June 5, 2011

Daily Reader

      I love books.

      I have recently been a gleaner and skimmer of books, a gatherer of ideas. Like a woman with a large wicker basket gathering flowers in a large garden to collect and display the multicolored blooms all around my home, I collect the blossoms of ideas from the bushes and vining plants that are books into my basket-mind. Then I display those flower-ideas in my life-house, as best I can. I still have withering and dying and rotting flower-ideas all around my life-house, but I am learning to replace them with fresh flower-ideas. I hold on to those rotting flower-ideas because I remember in my emotions and my mind how useful they were to me once . . . when they were fresh and made my life-house a more pleasant place to be–even when it was a wretched season in my life.
      I recently worked with a book entitled Soultypes: Finding the Spiritual Path That is Right for You by Sandra Krebs Hirsh and Jane A.G. Kise. After taking a free Meyers-Briggs test online, I searched the book and found that it was pretty accurate in terms of how I work my personal spiritual journey. It also answered the recent question of why I have been so frustrated with my journey. I had been so deeply involved in my primary means of finding enlightenment that I had gone fully out of balance and lost momentum. However, I knew within me that to enrich my spiritual journey, I had to get out of my comfort zone of spiritual seeking.
      My standard soul-searching involves reading as much as possible and developing my own deeply personal journey from it. It’s a solitary walk most of the time, with a goal of deepening my understanding of the mysteries. However, when I am out of balance so much that I cannot conceive of getting one more bit of information into my brain? It’s time to shift gears from sitting in my tower like a Medieval book transcriptionist and illuminator, finding meditative peace in transcribing the words and inspiration in interpreting them into painted scenes around the calligraphed words. In modern life, I was so deeply moved by Geneen Roth’s Lost and Found that many quotes, excerpts, and idea translations ended up in my personal journal. That book moved me and spoke to me beyond its words, a deep understanding of my relationship with having and not-having, of wanting and not-wanting. Of my struggle to define myself as what I have and do, which is the antithesis of living a deeply intuitive, inspired life (as she hypothesized and used personal experience to illustrate). I did the same with David Richo’s The Five Things We Cannot Change.
      Despite my intense connection with these two writers’ styles, I have in my current library another of Geneen Roth’s books (which directly applies to my food addiction) and David Richo’s book on synchronicity . . . and I cannot do more than sample them before I am exhausted and have to put them down.
      To go from a slow, intense read of two authors whose words brought me to a much deeper understanding of my journey into an inability to do more than dally with their words? That was anathema for me. I could not abide that the words which, only six months before, would be so compelling that I would be deeply in meditative contemplation with my journal at my side–enjoying the fruits of intense and rapid progress. Now, I feel like I’m mired in thick mud to my knees, and every effort to get anything but more stuck in that mental morass only served as a humbling (and sometimes humiliating) lesson.
      Happily, I was granted a reprieve in Soultypes, a glimmer of hope. For a person whose journey is about balance, I have gone so out of balance by using my stronger means of inspiration and information gathering that it’s exhausted. It’s like having one arm in a full cast and the other being worked out daily, beyond its normal functioning capacity. I’ve overworked the strong side, and now it’s exhausted. It’s time to cut the atrophied arm from its cast and slowly and deliberately bring it up. It may feel like I’ve slid back far (since I perceive I cannot nearly do what I was able to when my stronger attribute was functioning at optimum ability), but it’s simply a shift. I can grow that weaker side by using it and being infinitely patient with it. However, I want to drop into that high-functioning immediately, and that expectation that I can get immediate intense results from the atrophied weakness is just my inflated ego.
      Right now, small bites of inspired inspiration are right on track as I enter “the now”, that gap of silence between doing where being rests. In other words, I practice the art of being present completely, of being mindful in the moment. And that doesn’t really sit with me, because I consider it to be a lighter approach which does not delve deep into the mysteries. The thing is, it can go deep into it if I can let go. Letting go of “the way I do things” is difficult, since it is seated in my weaker attributes.
      Anyway, to gentle myself and heal that overextended part of me, I have realized the stack of daily readers (two program, one not) is probably my best option. Instead of expanding my consciousness on a broad scale, I actually am encouraged to take a lesson just for today to practice. Something which seems light and trivial to my cosmic-consciousness-seeking self (ego, ego, ego . . . I felt it even as I wrote that!) I judge these “light and trivial” messages which can balance the journey because I prefer to consider Dante’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, then the Mountain of Heaven. To enter into the depth of mystery of St. John of the Cross’s poem about the Dark Night of the Soul. I’ve been walking the intuitive realm of darkness too long, and the dawn has come. Closing my eyes does not change that it’s time to experience what is here–the noise, color, and wonder of what I can perceive and experience with my physical senses (even as I try to reject them so I can have only intense inner experiences, which is NOT part of the path I am on).
      Okay, I’ve expressed the duality–I prefer the introspective to the experiential. Moving on to the daily readers.
      So, I found this book, Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach yesterday. Now, I am a used-book aficionado (fauncy-schmauncy word for “junkie” or avid collector), especially when I source them from places which benefit the community. So, I found this book at the Friends of the Library bookstore, bought it, and have done my traditional “read my birthday, my family’s birthdays, my anniversary, and random holidays throughout the year”. In doing that with this book, I realized the author has broken down each month into a part of a year-long inspired journey. I can see how the whole book, taken day-by-day, allows for the small daily course changes which make deep and lasting changes. But that’s pretty hard to stomach, seeing as I like catastrophic change. I prefer the Tower’s spiritual explosion of illuminating insight and inspiration to the Hermit’s slow and steady path of learning through an experiential journey. I learn best getting bruised and beaten, despite the balanced desire to take the slow journey forward by living and experiencing the moment.
      Wayne Dyer talks about it in his gift-basket reader, Getting into the Gap: Making Conscious Contact with God Through Meditation. What I drew from that was his jeu de mot (only applicable in English, though), that the word SILENT is an anagram for LISTEN, and those are deeply interconnected. He also does the same for SILENCE and LICENSE, coming to the conclusion that meditation is a license to enter silence, where we can listen when we are silent. Yeah, my chattering monkey mind hates that one and rebels against a slow and steady walk through paradise of everyday experiential living. It’s much easier to drop the chattering monkey mind onto its head from a great height and daze it into submission so I can get inspiration and keep going. Anyway, reading that brought me to Sarah Ban Breathnach’s daily reader, which I skimmed. On January 17, there was a quote which resonated and gave me a deep insight into the purpose and practice of meditation, of the true art of slowing down enough to enter the silence (as opposed to getting bored and falling asleep or picking up something from my ever-growing “to do” lists):
      “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes–ah, that is where the art resides.” — Artur Schnabel, 19th/20th Century Austrian piano virtuoso and musical child prodigy
      That is the most artfully beautiful analogy of meditation I’ve seen yet. See, life and the “doing” is about the notes. It’s the art of the gap (the silence between the notes) that separates a master musician from a lifelong student of music. The art of the gap, meditation, requires the kind of practiced observation that a master musician does. First, we learn the technical aspects. In piano playing, it’s getting the notes in order. In meditation, it’s learning how to sit and breathe and focus. Next, we practice daily until it’s so much a part of us that we don’t have to focus on the technique (or notes, in music). Last, we refine it. In music, it becomes the art of fine-tuning when the notes “sound right”, when the notes-plus-pauses uplift us wholly. In meditation, it becomes the art of fine-tuning the mind to accept silence and all that it implies (the journey into unity, into the infinite void, into becoming nothingness by losing one’s sense of mental and physical borders), where the process of “losing ourselves” is not a fear-inducing thought but a hope-inducing one. To lose one’s self means that one can access the possibilities and use the power of synchronicity, of possibility beyond the limited–though expansive–imagination, to manifest things we could not even dream of within our limited observations. Artus Schnabel was an artist who used “the gap” that Wayne Dyer talks about, who used the silence of BEing between the DOing of playing notes to bring an audience (including himself) to a deeply spiritual place in the process of a performance.
      My monkey-mind doesn’t like that, either. It insists the notes are where the miracle resides and that Artur Schnabel was probably a compulsive nut, anyway. Which my inner monkey-mind would, of course, be an (inflated-ego) authority on . . . seeing as it’s the source of my addiction. But Artur Schnabel knew what he was talking about, and my spirit understands this. It really is the meditative walk and the slow process of learning to ignore that stupid chattering monkey-mind until the chatter is tuned out and all that’s left is the gentle footfalls on the slow journey.
      I intuitively know this, and I suppose I’ve known this for a long time. I love getting my yearly “Day at a Glance” type calendars, excited that I can learn a new origami shape or a new word or be inspired by a new quote or generally do something slowly on a daily path. Despite being the weaker (ie. less-used) of my spiritual learning attributes, I am still drawn to practice it. Of course, seeing as I still like to drop that monkey on its head to shut it up and avoid the inner conflict while I’m learning things like life purposes and how to connect evolution with “enoughness”, part of the journey is the trial-and-error of silencing that monkey-mind by letting it argue its rightness until it finally exhausts itself into silence.
      A daily reader is a slow walk through a year, each day being a footfall I am conscious of. I find that I do like them, even if they don’t delve into the mystical eternal questions but help teach the practice of everyday life.
      Perhaps that is the lesson I am to learn in this cycle–to connect evolution with “enoughness”. Evolution is about changing my thoughts today so I am in the habit of changing my destiny of negative thinking and negative practice; “enoughness” is experiencing today as it is while practicing contentment and joy in today. While “enoughness” might not seem connected with evolution, it is. I am seeking to evolve into a person who is mindful, spiritual, able to give from abundance manifested through that mindful spirituality. Even if it may appear to be a shallow practice which doesn’t delve into the deep mysteries of life and death and nothingness and everythingness . . . the practice of “enoughness” means I am mindful and aware of every moment I can be aware of today. “Enoughness” is the practice of meditation on having everything the mind, body, and soul needs right here and right now–of entering into the spiritual silence and BEing instead of DOing. “Enoughness” means I stand and observe what is all around me and take only what I need to sate the mind, body, and spirit. Everything else can be given away, because the future cannot be planned-for. I may not wake up tomorrow, so how does hoarding anything (possessions, information, spiritual understandings) serve me? When I wake up tomorrow, I will either have what will sate me, or I won’t. If I do not, then I turn to others. I’ve had my basic requirements met every day so far–even if my expectations of what they should be like go unmet. If I hoarded, I did so out of fear my needs would go unmet; if I rejected, I did so out of a desire for approval or because I did not trust anyone would be willing to help me meet my needs.
      In the David Richo book, Unexpected Miracles: The Gift of Synchronicity and How to Open It, on Page 114 is a table with a list of givens and how an adult approaches it and how a child approaches it. Now, I think that it might be better reversed, since children tend to not have pre-installed rules on how life goes, but since we like to see restricted thinking as immature (childish) and open-mindedness as mature (adult-like), this is a silly point of non-contention based on a lot of paradox theory. It makes sense to most people who would read this, and it took a depth of consideration and experiential understanding (from talking to adults and talking to children–finding that children are more open to the possibilities than adults are). Anyway, David Richo, in this table, dealt with a given that threw me.
      The given, itself, is that sometimes we will be faced with more than we can handle. Okay, fine, I think. Since I believe that I will never have more to face than I can handle, I’m good.
      Imagine my surprise when I realized that thinking I am not given more than I can handle is a limiting rule. That, in reality, I am sometimes overwhelmed, as expressed through experience. It may be a perception that I’m overwhelmed, but it also can be a reality that I cannot do something without asking for assistance. The “adult” reaction is to accept that sometimes I do get more than I can handle. Happily, there are solutions to this–asking for help, seeking advice from sources (in this case, I got the advice to work on my mindfulness and meditation, to practice my weaker Myers-Briggs extroverted sensing in order to get back onto a more balanced spiritual journey), and generally opening up to the idea that I am limited.
      Again, the monkey-mind hates that. To accept my mind’s and body’s limitations means that I can’t control a damned thing. Since that monkey-mind is so deeply invested in control (through manipulation of others instead of simply asking for help–knowing that a rejection is not personal and only means I proceed to ask someone else for that help) that it doesn’t like having to face off with suffering rejection–which it takes personally–and the potential to have to live one more moment without getting a core requirement to body or mind survival met. It fears being hungry for anything, and it wants a feast . . . even a feast of intense spiritual insight. My monkey-mind also whispers that once I figure out the synchronicity thing, I can manifest a perfect life filled with money and plastic surgery (to gain approval for my physical form) and whatnot. My Higher Self has to sigh patiently, because synchronicity doesn’t work that way. As long as I am striving to define myself by what I DO and what I HAVE, I can’t touch it. Synchronicity is not about asking God for the pony and expecting it to be sitting outside my door tomorrow with a big pink ribbon on it. Synchronicity is understanding that I don’t need a pony, but if one comes into my life? That’s nice.
      In my adult life, my “pony” is money, is being out of debt, is being well-liked, is being able to eat sweets and snack foods (which make me feel ill!) without the resulting obesity and chemical-related mental and physical imbalances. I have a choice when it comes to junk food: Accept the momentary pleasure of it passing through my mouth will bear results I don’t want to live with, or accept that I can enjoy foods which result in a healthy body weight and a chemically-balanced brain and body. I like the taste of my high-fiber cereal and carrots for their subtle sweetnesses, despite others disliking them for not having the intense taste. And I’m not going to lie . . . I love good chocolate and will eat it. I just don’t eat bad chocolate any more, because I eat it by the pound, fantasizing the moment when it magically becomes good chocolate. Well, choosing the good chocolate costs less and it saves me from a stomach ache and the crazies–because I only eat a couple of ounces of good chocolate (even if it’s more expensive per ounce on first examination) instead of binge on a pound or more of crap chocolate. I get the experience I want from the chocolate, too, when I opt for quality and realistic expectation over quantity and magical thinking.
      But yes, I still like my “junk” food. I just actually am willing to pay for less quantity of what I LIKE instead of suffer through bulk-consuming what I don’t like because I’m thinking I’m saving money and will magically get the same taste and texture while inflating my ego by being clever enough to save quite a lot per ounce. If I rejected it altogether, I am indulging my inflated-ego martyr and will be binging in rebellion because “I deserve it, dammit!”
      There’s a balance in my eating–accepting that I can live with small quantities of quality “junk” food even as I eat high-fiber cereal and organic carrots. And often, the subtle sweetness of the carrots and the high-fiber cereal can make the desire for the intense sweetness of the chocolate simply . . . not be.
      So can it be with my spiritual “diet”. I’ve been binging on intense spiritual experiences, and I’ve gotten to the point I can’t taste them any more. I find no delight, no pleasure. I have become frustrated by the experience. So, perhaps it is time to try the more modest spiritual fare, the slow-and-steady and the tried-and-true. I know tomorrow, I will feel better overall–just like I do when I opt for the cereal and carrots instead of the same quantity of intense flavor and sweetness even the bulk chocolate provided (though it never sated me). I am magically-thinking that the only way to real enlightenment is to have intense spiritual experiences in quantity. In truth, like buying the more-expensive-by-the-pound spiritual experiences, I can find satiety in smaller portions.
      Balance in all things is my path, and apparently I get to learn that my abstinence is a good example of how to proceed as I feed my spiritual self and mental self. It’s a good lesson–a hard-won, drop-the-chattering-inner-monkey-on-its-head kind of lesson I prefer.
      The result, however, is that I’ve learned that sometimes the monkey has to stay conscious in order to get real progress going, and that conflict is something I cannot change . . . even within.
      I simply can change how I approach and handle it.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food and approval addict. After missing meetings here-and-there, dropping from three meetings each week to one per week (either OA or SLAA), I’ve found that I am at my best with three meetings per week–two OA, one SLAA. Yes, I skipped those meetings in order to live life and to self-care. On the last two Sunday afternoons, I chose to nourish my relationship with my family. I chose experiential living over intense small-group-related HOW study and life-altering revelations from people who deal with the same weaknesses I do. On Friday, I stayed home and slept because my body was exhausted due to circumstances outside of my control (I sometimes don’t sleep well, and the strange leaps and dives in temperature where I live has made it hard for me to get restful sleep). I’m still tired today, but I’m going because the desire to sleep is less than the core requirement to get into the social situation a meeting provides.
      It’s curious that my addiction expressed itself in extremes, but I suppose that’s because I developed extreme coping mechanisms. Feast or famine. Intense interaction or isolation. Giant, loud party or complete and silent solitude. Between those worlds rests heaven, and the art of walking around the center instead of sprinting back-and-forth from one extreme to another (and calling it balance) has served me well. Despite being unpleasant, I am learning that my path requires me to trust that I will fall and land safely, fall and land safely . . . reflected in the often-overlooked and generally taken-for-granted ability of walking. I still have that available to me, and I am grateful that I do have the teacher that is the act of walking itself–for each step is a leap of faith that the ground will not disappear out from under me, will be solid, will stop the falling-forward I do mindlessly every day. The practice, now, is to become mindful of it, and to take something which seems so mundane and let it be as it is–mundane and divine in its very nature.


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