Friday, March 7, 2008

Mystic, soothe yourself!

Our house is in turmoil at the moment. We are turning a closet/office into a laundry room/closet, and turning what had been jokingly referred to as the world's largest laundry room into an office.

Since both of these rooms were basically receptacles for whatever- doesn't- obviously- go-somewhere-else, and both had to be emptied for the transition phase, there is "stuff" everywhere. My beloved desk is in the upstairs hall, our clothes are in the guest room, and there are boxes of books, papers, fabric, and camera equipment scattered throughout the house.

The cats' favorite hiding and sleeping places no longer exist, and I am temporarily working on a table in my daughter's room, so they are at loose ends and restless, constantly jumping into boxes, disrupting electrical connections and knocking things over. This triggers the dog, who sees any unexpected cat movement -- or the sound of my computer suddenly dying -- as an opportunity to bark or chase.

In and out of this already busy picture move the various workmen who come to make the project work: the men who tear out the cabinets, the plumbers, the floor guy, the wall guys, the mudders, the painters, "sparky" the electrician, and over it all the contractor, managing this relatively small job in the midst of all his bigger jobs.

It would be easy to feel disoriented, even resentful of all the change, the intrusions, the disruption of routine. But since I am reponsible for initiating the whole thing, and it is my vision of the future that we are all working together to achieve, it would be silly to complain.

On my meal breaks from the chaos, I read Eckhart Tolle's newest book: A New Earth: Awakening to your life's purpose. Though I confess I never made it through Tolle's most famous work, The Power of Now, I have found other works of his very inspirational, and New Earth is no exception. What amuses me is that the passage I read this morning is about complaining, which seems totally appropriate for this particular stage in my life.

It began with this sage observation:

"One thing we do know. Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment."

One of Tolle's major points is that the voice in your head that is always thinking, analyzing, excusing, complaining, assessing, comparing, etc is not really you, it's your ego. YOU is that consciousness which NOTICES that voice, that which is connected to the great I AM that lives in all of us -- what I like to call "the unfathomable oneness that ignites us all."

So after saying the above Tolle continues, "Notice the voice in your head, perhaps in the very moment it complains about something, and recognize it for what it is: the voice of the ego, no more than a conditioned mind-pattern, a thought. Whenever you notice that voice, you will also realize that you are not the voice, but the one who is aware of it...Don't take the ego too seriously. When you detect egoic behavior in yourself, smile. At times you may even laugh."

So I look at my response to all this upheaval in my familiar living space, and I have to chuckle. Because the voice in my head is worried that the last blog wasn't really a blog, just a picture. Because the voice in my head wants to make excuses. Because the voice in my head feels threatened: how "good" a contemplative can she be if something as minor as a small construction project threatens her ability to contemplate? Uh-oh! Someone might notice that she doesn't always think noble thoughts!

And how can I presume to offer help, or advice, or encouragement, or wisdom to others when my own serenity is so easily disrupted -- by something completely under my control? What about all those whose lives and emotions and well-being are constantly challenged by situations NOT under their control?

It's good to be shaken up, to feel the mask slip, to remember the wise old sage is just a doll. And reassuring, once again, to remember the practice of tonglen; to take what life gives us in any given moment, and breathe in awareness of all those who struggle with these particular challenges. Breathe in the turmoil, breathe in the shaking up of ego, breathe in all the masks that slip. And breathe out the brief moments of insight and certainty, the ability to laugh at it all, to pick up and soothe a stressed out cat, to watch the candlelight flicker on the face of the buddha and know, for even a moment, that compassion and peace which the English mystic, Julian of Norwich, described so beautifully:

"...All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well"

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