Loneliness

Loneliness
Many of you, I am sure, have experienced loneliness even when you are with others.

It is that something deep in you is not met, not seen, not answered by the one you are with, leading to a feeling of sorrow, emptiness or disappointment. The whole matchmaking and dating industry is founded on this deep-seated need and unfounded hope. We look to the outer world and to outer relationships to fill that inner void. There is a lot to be said about this all too human condition. The sociologist would say, well of course the human is a social animal. The psychologist would say, well of course how we are in our relationships determines our happiness. Both of these worldviews offer a partial answer only.

Energy is an interesting thing. Have you ever noticed that when you seek solace or comfort from a specific relationship, it starts to evade you? I am not talking about the heady days of the honeymoon period in any relationship. Those are the special days in the early phase of some love relationship in which you are blessedly exempt from the realities of the nuts and bolts of the daily grind. No, we are talking about the nuts and bolts part. The part when you are trying to figure out how to make this relationship work, or questioning whether it can work at all in the long haul.

The reason I am moved to write about this topic is because it is so pervasive….and not dependent on whether or not a person is in relationship – which is interesting, because it blows our whole myth of the meaning of loneliness right out of the water. There are a number of problems with trying to ‘fix’ loneliness by looking to your significant other to fill the void. The first and most important reason is that they can never measure up, because the void cannot be filled by another person. And the more dissatisfied we become by their apparent lack, the more they are pushed away by that dissatisfaction. If you have ever been on the receiving end of that energy, it has a sucking feeling, and you just want to get away from it, as if something is trying to glom on to you. So the dynamic bounces back and forth between disappointment on the one end of the equation, and evasion and recoil on the other.

The other interesting thing to observe is that when you experience loneliness – and we all do, as it seems to be part of our human condition – your energy is contracted. If you simply start to observe how you are energetically throughout your day, you will notice that you are in either a contracted or expanded state, or are in the process of moving from one to the other. If you can begin to observe how your energy shifts, including the when and the why, it will start to show you a lot about yourself. In fact everything in the universe is in a state of contraction or expansion, or is moving from one state to the other. Day into night, hot into cold, big into small, small into big, war into peace etc., whether we are talking about the climate, the economy, international relations or the health of our relationship.

However humans have the unique opportunity to become conscious. This ability to become conscious is the mysterious third that can take us out of the ping-ponging of our dualistic tendencies. When the soul turns away from its tendency to look outside to the outer world (things, possessions) and to outer relationships to meet its deep need and longing, and begins to turn inward towards the spirit, a new life begins. The influx of the spirit washes the soul clean and the bridal chamber is thus prepared. This can feel like a painful process, but ultimately it is the only one that matters. This is the sacred marriage that Jung and the Gnostics have referred to.

 As I was meditating on this condition, a red cardinal flew up to a branch just outside my window, as if to say, “I am here with you’. The call and response; I had to smile.

As the soul turns towards spirit with its longing for union, a state of fruitful, creative, pregnant expansion can begin. This is not for the young or the faint-hearted. They will have to continue to journey and seek in the outer world, in what my father used to call the school of hard knocks. I guess this blog addresses itself to the bruised warriors who have taken their knocks and seen the futility. This is not to advocate an abandoning of the world or relationships, but rather it advocates a relationship with spirit, which will in turn guide your life, if you can listen. Get ready to open into a whole new way of being in the world. You will feel it in your heart.

From Rumi:

Imagine the time the particle you are returns where it came from!

The family darling comes home. Wine without being contained in cups, is handed around.

A red glint appears in a granite outcrop, and suddenly the whole cliff turns to ruby.

At dawn, I walked with a monk on his way to the monastery.

“We do the same work,” I told him. “We suffer the same.”

He gave me a bowl.

And I saw:

The soul has this shape

Shams and actual sunlight,

help me now,

being in the middle of being partly in my self,

and partly outside.

Watch a remarkable artist and composer: Eleni Karaindrou

Family Karma:

Family Karma

Why are some of our most challenging relationships with family members? “Aren’t family members supposed to love and support you? Aren’t they the ones who are supposed to understand you the best and be there for you through thick and thin?” This was a question from a young person in my acquaintance who has constant heartache and struggle with a member of her family.

“Supposed to”…..this was at the crux of the issue. The myth of family is probably one of the most fundamental myths of our western society. Norman Rockwell epitomized this myth in his many paintings of the ideal American family. In truth, these paintings are very idealistic and portray the hopes of a generation that wanted to return to a better (romanticized) life after the ravages of two world wars. Interestingly, Rockwell himself suffered from depression and was treated by the famous therapist Erik Erikson. Erikson is reported to have told him that he did paintings of happiness but did not live it.

It is true that some families seem, on the outside, to convey this illusion of togetherness and to maintain this front. Just think of all those Christmas letters you receive that list all the wonderful accomplishments of their family members and conveniently omit all the real life struggles. I do believe, however, that some of them actually are genuine and authentic family units, made up of sane and healthy individuals who all sincerely care for and support each other, but they are not in the majority. The simple reason is that the health of that family depends on the health of the individuals in that unit.

There are often weak links in one or two of these members, which affect the whole. It is perhaps that their wounding has been greater, or they had fewer resources available to them to negotiate a rebound. However, all of us carry wounds that perhaps originated in this lifetime, or perhaps in previous lifetimes. Sometimes they seem to be more connected to the wounds of our parents, who in turn, could only parent out of who they were.

Jung has referred to the biblical reference of ‘the sins of the father being passed down to the son” as meaning that which is unconscious, and not handled or dealt with in a conscious way, then affects the child in a negative way. We can all see this more easily in others than we can in ourselves. Most of us can think of families where the wounding or dysfunction of the parent has impacted the children in a negative way.

The child is in the psychic field of the parent and simply absorbs their unconscious content as if it were his or her own. On the psychic level, boundaries are not nearly as discrete as they are on the physical plane where we can clearly see the outline of our human shapes. On that level, it is a field of energy and we interpenetrate one another. The child does not know that what he or she is picking up originates in his or her parent’s psyche, but just assumes that these are his/her feelings.

Karma is a concept I have used here because I personally believe that what we are living in this lifetime connects to our soul needs. I have always intuitively felt the ‘rightness’ of the principle of reincarnation. The eastern religions embrace this notion, as did the early Gnostics. Christ also taught this in the parable of the sower of seeds. He said that we reap what we sow. This is essentially the philosophy of karma, which fits hand and glove with the philosophy of reincarnation.

Some people have interpreted the notion of karma as punishment for wrong-doing in the past, and that if you are suffering in some way, you deserve it. This is simplistic thinking that is caught in the dualism of right and wrong, good and evil. Disease (emotional or physical) is multi-causal. On the soul level, it is more about the growth into consciousness and the transformation of the darkness into light. The lotus flower, which has long been a symbol of enlightenment, epitomizes this transformation. The dark roots extend down into the black mud at the bottom of the watery depths, and then raise that energy into the opening of the beautiful lotus flower that floats on the surface of the water, absorbing the sun’s rays.

Our human bodies parallel the lotus flower. We have a chakra system in the body – the lowest of which is the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine, and the crown chakra at the top of the head. As we transform our consciousness and our karma, we transform that which is painful, chaotic and mucky into the beautiful light of consciousness. At that point, the karma that we have come into this life with is no longer as heavy or painful. We come into a peace and acceptance of our path.

So in returning to my young person and her struggles with the difficult family member, I try to convey this message. “But WHY?” she cries. “WHY is this happening to ME?” Of course, we can analyze family dynamics, and the roots of problems and issues in the lives of her parents and how that affected her early environment. That may have shed some light of understanding, but it doesn’t seem to satisfy her.

Her child self still wants what it wants and balks at the notion that perhaps she chose this family dynamic on some level as she was coming into this life. She is not sure she can buy into the notion that her soul might have chosen this very situation for her own growth. I can see that this takes a certain level of maturity and acceptance. She is still invested in being angry and blaming the other. The problem with that is that although this allows her to let off steam, she remains stuck. It doesn’t really change anything.

When we can accept what is on our plate as our karma, then we can enter into a more creative, transformative orientation in our life. Then the work begins. We begin to nourish and protect the deep soul seed within and discover who we most deeply are. I remember one of my teachers at university once said, “If you can’t make a work or art, Be One.” Taking responsibility for your life and responding to what is on your plate in front of you with a desire for consciousness, is to live in an artful way.

Rumi:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and attend them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, still,
treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Welcome difficulty.
Learn the alchemy the True Human Beings know:
the moment you accept what troubles
you’ve been given, the door opens.

Welcome difficulty as a familiar comrade.
Joke with torment
brought by the Friend.

Sorrows are the rags of old clothes
and jackets that serve to cover,
and then are taken off.
That undressing, and the beautiful,
naked body underneath,
is the sweetness that comes after grief.

Listen to Joshua Bell or Maria Callas perform O Mio Babbino Caro, Oh my darling child, they are both divine.

The Value Of Suffering:

When Things Don’t Work Out the Way You Think They Should – or – The Value Of Suffering:

“It sucks!” This was the valuation of a young person recently who was commenting on a life situation she was finding particularly difficult. I had to agree. But the part she was missing, was the lesson or learning that was embedded in the experience. When someone is suffering, the last thing they usually want to contemplate is the deeper meaning or learning that is inherent in the situation for them.

As a caring adult dealing with a younger person, there is always the difficult choice of how to respond. All of us, young or old, have to face this challenge in our lives. So often we ask ourselves, “Why is this happening? Is there any purpose or meaning in this seemingly fruitless suffering?” And of course, it is particularly difficult for the young to extract meaning from experience. It is still difficult as an adult.

And yet, paradoxically, it is these difficult experiences that force personal growth. Who stretches and develops their character when they don’t have to? When everything seems to be going swimmingly, why change a thing? Clearly you are blessed and doing things right!

However, when life’s circumstances confront you, challenge you, create obstacles and problems for you, you suffer. We all do. It feels like life is hitting you over the head with a 2 by 4. Then the more intelligent of our species are forced to ask themselves a question. And it is this question that separates the deep women from the ditzy girls, and the strong men from the silly boys.

The question of introspection goes something like this: “What is this really all about?” Or, “what is really going on here?” Or, “What am I supposed to ‘get’ from all of this, if my life has any meaning or purpose?” Some question like that will begin to formulate in your mind. And this is the question that becomes Ariadne’s thread – the thread which, if followed, will lead you on your journey.

Because the real truth is that if you are not asking yourself some version of this question, you are either still in the honeymoon phase or you feeling like a victim. If you are feeling like a victim, go back and read the The-Snake-Pit. Or maybe you are just not too intelligent – but then you probably wouldn’t be reading this anyway!

So if you have read this far, there is some part of you that recognizes that there just might be a value or purpose in your suffering. Of course all of this rests on a foundation of awareness in the deeper meaning and purpose of Life itself. If you haven’t already intuitively come to grasp this truth, this will probably not make much sense. Jung said, “I don’t believe in God – I know God.” If some inner core of you does not know this Truth already, you won’t find this of much value.

For those who do, Rumi tells a wonderful tale of the suffering of the chickpea boiling in the pot, complaining miserably as Life (or the Friend) treats him so cruelly:
Chickpea to Cook *
A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot where it’s being boiled.”Why are you doing this to me?”
The cook knocks him down with the ladle.
“Don’t you try to jump out. You think I’m torturing you. I’m giving you flavor, so you can mix with spices and rice and be the lovely vitality of a human being. Remember when you drank rain in the garden. That was for this.”

Grace first. Sexual pleasure, then a boiling new life begins, and the Friend has something good to eat. Eventually the chickpea will say to the cook, “Boil me some more. Hit me with the skimming spoon. I can’t do this by myself. I’m like an elephant that dreams of gardens back in Hindustan and doesn’t pay attention to his driver. You’re my cook, my driver, my way into existence. I love your cooking.”

The cook says,  “I was once like you, fresh from the ground. Then I boiled in time, and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings.My animal soul grew powerful. I controlled it with practices, and boiled some more, and boiled once beyond that, and became your teacher.”

Listen to this poem read by: Robert Bly and Coleman Barks