Friday, October 19, 2007

Taking up Space, Folding over

I will always be grateful to my sister's ex-partner, Kate, who told me, "Amy, you can take up space."

It wasn't that she was giving me permission--it was that her comment alerted me to the way that, until then, I'd been shrinking from living the fullness of myself. Before Kate mentioned it, I hadn't realized the way I'd been moving through life, hugging the walls of each room I "found myself" in, self-conscious and self-censoring, afraid to show up and shine. But after she said it, ouch.

Joseph Campbell used to say that we're having expereiences all the time that hint at our hungers. He insisted that we learn to listen for them, learn to recognize them. This was one of mine. As a Leo, with most of my planets in the 10th and 11th houses, I am designed to shine. Perversely, that "hunger" of mine made it acutely painful to risk shining, the very thing I was "talented" with. I've noticed fate does this alot, crippling us with the very thing with which it blesses us.

I have found it helpful to do as auhor Gregg Levoy suggests in his wonderful book, "Callings," resurrecting "the sort of basic inquisitiveness we had as children, that we usually directed outward, the curiosity that had us down on our knees staring into puddles looking for upside-down worlds, pulling seeds apart to figure out how a tree could possibly fit in there, asking why, why, why." Getting to the bottom of our "why" distracts us from self-consciuosness with fascination. We become so intrigued with the world that we are literally propelled, by our interests, out of ourselves.

The tree inside the seed becomes a metaphor for the truth that we are each encoded for something special and meaningful. Something that, because of us, will be bettered. And that something lures us forward, out of our self absorption into a love affair with the world--through our own particular lens of interest.

What I mean, emphatically, is that each of us is programmed for something that he or she will experience as "great"; a great, personal work. It does not matter whether this great work will add up to being a great parent or a great president, whether we will, ultimatley patent the cure for cancer or decoding the mystery of the perfect golf swing. What does matter is that the things we do fascinate and engages us, that our activities make us feel alive and aligned with our best self, that they lead us, through our love of them. to express, fully and richly, who we really are.

In order to discover that "something", we must turn our attention inward. And we must open our inner eye to the symbolic meaning of things that happen around us. "Everything is archetypal," says Caroline Myss (and Karl Jung, and Joseph Campbell and many others). "Every single thing has meaning." We must develop an inner "poet" scanning the world around us for metaphor and symbolism. This facility for finding meaning in everything, imbues our lives with mystery, magic and faith. Faith that there is an ordering, organizing principle to our lives, that our intuition is a conversation between the inner and outer selves: Between God and the individual soul.

We must also develop a practice of discernment. One way to do this is practice. And a challening practice one might try is this: DO THE SAME THING THE SAME WAY EVERY DAY FOR ONE YEAR.

One of my spiritual teachers tried it. For an entire year, whenever Joseph entered his home, he'd carefully remove his shoes, first the right, then the left, and place them in the exact same place on the floor. Every day. For a year.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever done," he laughed. The single act of mindfulness, of attention to this one little detail, brought a cascade of insight that left him reeling. One night he'd be so filled with resentment, resisting the practice, he'd kick off his shoes, oh, just anywhere. Another day, he'd defiantly leave them reversed, left then right. Why? Who was he resisting? He'd invented the exercise. He'd assigned it to himself. Who was he resisting?

For my own practice, he suggested I try translating one of the estoteric books I was struggling with into "good writing". Six years later, I have yet to get to it.

"The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives," writes Annie Dillard. And, it seems, that I am spending my life resisting guidance, not finding the time to do my work, not exercising, not doing yoga, not giving up caffeine. I am also spending my life asking questions, pursuing knowledge, reading and listening and learning. And while I am uncomfortable with the quantum leaps my ego keeps planning for me--BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR! LEAD SEMINARS! MOVE TO EUROPE! BUY A HOUSE IN SAN FRANCISCO!--I make my way. Slow and steady, making my way.

Years ago, when I visited her home in Providence--perhaps on the same visit that Kate granted me that permission to take up space--my sister took me out to the garden where she showed me the iris, folded over and tied face to knees, with their own leaves. "We do this to turn the energy back into the roots," she explained. "When we fold them in, they use the energy to strenghten themselves for winter and next season's growth."

This reminds me of the forward bend, my favorite yoga pose. Done sitting or standing, the pose--reaching hands to toes, folded in the middle like an iris, feels the same way, turning the energy back to center, forcing us to look inward.

It helps to have questions to focus our inward gaze where we want it to land. More than the crazy-making questions like, What do I do with my life? What is my purpose/the meaning of life? we must choose our guiding questions with care:

I found these from Sam Keen, at a seminar at Wisdom University last spring.

1) How can I serve others?
2) How can I be the most authentic?
3) How can I/we balance ecology and economy vs. how can we make the most money?

Tony Robbins offers these, which Ive carried around in my planner for years.

1) What am I most proud of in my life?
2) Who do I love?
3) Who loves me?
4) What am I most happy about in my life?
5) What excites me?
6) What am I looking forward to today? This week? This year?

And finally, from Oprah Winfrey, "Everyday, I get on my knees and ask God, 'How can I help you today?'"

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Amy,
Your post this morning gave me goose bumps and chills! Amazing writing and girl, you DO shine! In A Course for Miracles they say there are no accidents, everything unfolds just the way it is supposed to. I suppose I could use that as an excuse to not move forward, but I choose to try (often not successful at all...another story) but try to do my part in creating and living my purpose and the rest seems to fall into place and take care of itself.

Whatever you're working on -- get it out there -- your words are inspirational and poetic. What a wonderful gift you have--there are no accidents...thank you for today's wonderful creation
~cindy