This is another of my images from the graffiti-covered walls of Fort Worden's bunkers. I shifted the colors and added the bird (who is probably quite unnecessary) but the rest of the image is just as I found it.
I keep thinking of that Milan Kundera title, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" when I look at this image. It seems to me to have a joyful exuberance to it, and it reminds me both of Paddington Bear in his little matching hat and raincoat (don't worry if you can't see it!) and of Pooh, following his own footsteps in the Hundred Acre Wood. (Get it? Un -BEAR-able?)
I've never read the Kundera book, but I do love that title. So what do YOU think of when you think of "the unbearable lightness of being?" To me it speaks of that longing for gravitas, for importance, to be thought valuable, to be taken seriously -- and I think that's because, while doing Centering Prayer this morning, I found myself confronting my competitive nature.
I was thinking back on a conversation that had happened at the dinner table last night, after our daughter called to tell us she was safely in Mongolia, and, from the distance of a few hours, I could see that some part of me had seen an opportunity to impress a visitor at the table, and I allowed that part of me to take over the conversation, selling myself instead of listening to what the visitor was really trying to say.
What is it in us -- or is it just in me? -- that can't be content to just listen, to invite confidences, but has to strut onto center stage and hammer its worth into the audience? Why am I not content to just float happily on the sidelines, or find foolish delight in tracking my own footsteps? Why does the heaviness of doing always seem to overcome the lightness of being? And how -- if I am to learn coaching -- will I ever learn to create a light, safe space for others to expand into if I insist on jumping into that space with my own leaden feet?
The good news I'm taking home from my classwork, and from my reading in The Heart Aroused this morning, is that these kinds of struggles -- if and when I am conscious of them -- can inform and ignite my work. Whyte tells a wonderful story of an ancient Chinese master potter who was attempting to create a new glaze for his porcelain vases. "Every day he experimented with the chemistry of the glazes he applied, but still he could not achieve the beauty he desired and imagined was possible in the glaze. Finally, having tried everything, he decided his meaningful life was over and walked into the molten heat of a fully fired kiln. When his assistants opened up the kiln and took out the vases, they found the glaze on the vases the most exquisite they had ever encountered. The master himself had disappeared into his creations.
Work is the very fire where we are baked to perfection," says Whyte. "and like the master of the fire itself, we add the essential ingredient and fulfillment when we walk into the flames ourselves and fuel the transformation of ordinary, everyday forms into the exquisite and the rare."
I have to hope that in unmasking my own demons I can become more effective at helping others unmask theirs. But some of those demons are so ugly, it's hard not to want to run away from them. I need to cultivate the light and welcoming feeling of this little lavender creature as the demons leave their dark sticky tracks across my psyche. Perhaps I need a refresher course on Centering Prayer's Practice of the Welcoming Prayer...