I would like this to be an exchange. I will be glad to respond to any questions, concerns, or comments that you send to me, Leaf, care of THE SUN.
The wood stove generates waves of warmth as early winter winds furiously squirm under doors, and wiggle through cracks in windows and walls. Gentle music plays on the late night radio. The blue fire of intensity burns within me. My mind is busy thinking, feeling, creating. My being reverberates with awareness. I take an idea, mold it into the shape that fits the keyhole of my consciousness, and I am changed in the transition of a new opening.
I think of/feel someone that I love. A thought and feeling simultaneously exist. A series of thoughts led me to the feeling of love. I am amused by the process of how thoughts stimulate feelings and feelings stimulate thoughts I feel most exhilarated when my feelings and thoughts are simultaneously congruent.
I am growing much these days. I imagine myself ripping away the mask of insecurity that shows itself as habits, doubts, confusion, extremes. But NO . . . every attempted rip is my ego’s foolish bloating, as if my fears were weeds that could be treated instantly with that perfect herbicide will.
My difficulty is in reconciling my self-destructive self with the part of me that works/plays so hard at being whole and healthy. We all set our own definitions of healthy and destructive behavior, and these value systems partially determine what we actually do and significantly determine how we feel about our behavior. Sometimes, I think that my “impure” self keeps my awakened being from awakening. Or is the biggest obstacle to my growth my lack of self-acceptance (unwillingness to accept and enjoy the totality of my whole self)?
I believe that we are all born to awaken our beings (Abraham Maslow calls this “self actualization”) as much as possible during the moment between womb and doom that is our life. Now, does all our unhealthy stuff prevent us from being “actualized”? If so, is life a challenge to use will effectively to control our infatuation with decadent desire and pleasure? Will is the horse that leads the chariot of our selves towards that ever-craved carrot called perfection, while acceptance playfully grazes along the roadside enjoying everything there is.
Alas, though, a willful person who is not self accepting is a half being, like a man who does not know his woman self or a seeker who does not laugh. Will is a horse with blinders, whose vision is so filled with the goal that the ability to respond (response-ability) openly and spontaneously is lost (we develop a personality or morality that has a set response to any situation rather than developing our ability to let the situation determine our behavior. This is similar to our search for knowledge and wisdom. Every glimmer of information and understanding is collected as collateral in our brain’s bank for use in our constant fight against death by ignorance. Unquestionably, knowledge is useful — we don’t know what any future moment may bring. I enjoy life’s surprises when they are sweet like unexpected kisses or shooting stars, but when my car breaks down at 3am on a cold and distant highway, and I can’t tell the fuel pump from carburetor, I hurt for knowledge.).
Acceptance is a mare that appreciates every part of the trip. We may not get home fast (if at all), but we’ll enjoy the ride. With will, we only exist to get there, and we will (or die trying). Let’s corral these horse analogies. The most effective vehicle for life, the best way to awaken ourselves is to combine will with acceptance. Acceptance of both the amazing beauty and the amazing beast that we each are, joined with a will that directs us to be our healthiest selves and also helps us to discard the rigid values and concurrent punishment that we inflict upon ourselves for not meeting our expectations. Will is least effective when motivated by punishment (except the will of legal systems which force us to obey their order of rightness or else be punished).
The most productive use of will is not to alter behavior but for awareness and attitude change. We can use will to discover who we are and see our many faceted beings. We can observe how we criticize and depreciate ourselves and gradually change this to acceptance.
My self-destructive behavior is very powerful at times. Although I almost always feel very life appreciative, these self-destructive behaviors recur and persist with incredible strength. I define this as anything that I believe poisons my mind, body, or feelings even if it lusciously parades as pleasure. I feel the most pleasure from activities that are health giving and life affirming, but, so far, I always deviate to some amount of destruction.
Now pleasure (do I hear the urgency of pleas within its delightful graces?) and death are interconnected. Pleasure is more vigorously sought, and its cessation avoided, than anything else in society. This is partially because we are afraid of death, and pleasure is a distraction from our fears. As death and life are inextricably linked, reason and observation lead us to realize that a culture that is terrified of death is afraid of life. We are conditioned to avoid being open to amazing and unpredictable life. The reasons that most power-filled institutions discourage an awakening of the citizenry are apparent.
So, here we are. Afraid to live and afraid to die. If we look at ourselves with awareness, acceptance, and appreciation, we can know the part of us that is so afraid of living and of experiencing the incredible magic and power of life. We can begin to appreciate the tremendous strength that we have in our fear, anger, hurt, resentment, laziness, and craziness. There is strength in our weakness, our habits, our desires.
If we can appreciate the source of strength that we employ destructively, we reconcile our separated self. The recognition of any of our strength gives us more usable strength. When we stop beating up the part of us that is beating us up, we awaken with amazing speed (like spring mushrooms after a warm rain). For surely, it is our resistance to our whole self that takes away the joy of both life and death.
There is no way that we can be ourselves until we accept ourselves. And the person right here, right now, is us. Only when we love ourselves can we awaken our whole sleeping being.
I wish you much magic and joy in this New Year.