The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, by John Trumbull
After last week’s post Susan wrote:
“Thank you Jeanie so much – a powerful post. Commitment to feeling our experiences, bearing our own cross and the surrender to that. I remember many years ago being very badly burned by steam on my right wrist while cooking something on the stove. I HAD to move on – there were pressing things that needed my immediate attention (it’s a long story so I’ll just give the bones of it). While I was waiting in the car later on wondering how in hell I was ever going to bear this, I also wondered how those being tortured would ever be able to withstand the pain. What went through their minds? What was it that they withstood their pain if they could? Did they surrender to that – the pain? Should I just surrender to it? I did, and the pain was GONE. I will never forget this … a true miracle …”
In a culture which idealizes competition and winning, the possibility that there could be positive side to surrender is difficult to accept. Through our ego’s dualistic, good/bad, win/lose lens, surrender is viewed in the context of a heroic battle. From this perspective it’s bad enough to lose a war, contest, or athletic event when you’ve tried your hardest, but surrendering is out of the question. Giving up is a sign of weakness. A character flaw. A failure. A shameful loss of face.
But this is not the only way of seeing surrender. Occasionally, something unexplainable happens and our perspective changes.
The indispensable condition is that you have an archetypal experience, and to have that means that you have surrendered to life. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 972
Susan’s story suggests this different way of looking at surrender. A healthy way that promotes healing. A way taught throughout history by Sages, Spirit Persons, mystics, and psychological giants like Carl Jung. A way not directed to the outer world, but to the universe within. Few of us discover this way until a time comes in our inner life when our heroic struggle to stay in control and press on regardless only increases our suffering. This happens when we’ve focused overlong on outer-world forms of success while ignoring the conflicting inner forms that our heart and soul require.
As long as we ignore the fact that our outer and inner goals are in conflict, our suffering will continue. Because all the money, fame, status, prestige, public and parental approval we’ve struggled to attain isn’t making us happy. And because admitting we’ve ‘failed’ to achieve the happiness we long for is too painful. So we do everything in our power to repress the realities of our hearts and souls, and that only exacerbates our suffering.
So what heals it? What brings the “real” solution? Surrender. To the realities of our heart and soul. To the fact that we hurt and need help. That we’re miserable. That we want to make a change but are afraid of making a terrible mistake. And to every other reality we’ve hidden behind our persona of having it all together.
A religious conversation is inevitable with the devil, since he demands it, if one does not want to surrender to him unconditionally. ~Carl Jung, Liber Novus, Page 261
But this way requires extreme caution. Because like everything else, surrender is dualistic: God’s way and the Devil’s way. There are helpful and harmful ways to surrender. And it all depends on the impulses to which you surrender.
Unhealthy surrender succumbs to powerful forces from within and without that tempt you to give up living your own life or act out in negative ways. Unhealthy surrender allows others to take responsibility for your life. You stop growing, following your passions, developing your gifts, searching for your unique destiny. Negative surrender wallows in disappointment and self-hatred. It sinks in lethargy, drowns in hopelessness. And it can cause great damage to others in the process. For example, surrendering to your ego’s hatred and revenge by being cruel to others is no solution because your ability to give and receive love is harmed in the process.
Healthy surrender is an act of courage in which you face your suffering. Positive surrender relinquishes your ego’s need to squelch your inner realities. It gives up trying to control people and situations. It stops fighting your heart’s need for feeling, compassion and understanding, your soul’s need for creativity, passion and meaning. It gives up your ego’s pursuit of unfulfilling goals in the outer world and attends to your child’s need for love and intimacy. Positive surrender frees you to live to the fullest with all the life energy you have at your disposal without wasting it on denial, escapism or self-hatred.
Healthy surrender is not a victim’s descent into lethargy. It is a warrior’s ascent to compassionate action which causes the least possible harm to others. It requires a warrior’s focus, self-discipline, and self-examination. It requires patience to consider each step carefully before taking it. Flexibility to walk a tightrope between opposites. Restraint until you acquire the wisdom to know what must be done. And accepting responsibility for the pain you cause others when you do it.
Numinosity, however, is wholly outside conscious volition, for it transports the subject into the state of rapture, which is a state of will-less surrender. ~Carl Jung, CW 8, Para 383.
I know the healing way of surrender is available, but I don’t know why it comes to some and not others. Perhaps Susan’s story provides a clue. Perhaps a commitment to feeling empathy and compassion for the pain of others is a prerequisite. Maybe we have to take the first step.
Image credits: Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull, Angels for You, White Flag, all from Wikimedia Commons. Jung Quotes: Thanks to Lewis LaFontaine.
Last night I had two dreams, my first since the presidential election. They were helpful, and I hope they might be to some of you.
Dream #4800. Monday, Nov. 14. Releasing Two Snakes.
The end of the tail of a long slender black snake is somehow attached to me. I pull it away to free it and set it on the ground. It writhes, as if in pain. I hope it’s not hurt. I back away from it cautiously.
Now there’s a large, greenish, alligator-sized snake with an unusually large head in front of me. A man I can’t see, but whose presence I sense, faces me from the other side of the snake. We need to remove it from this place of humans and return it to its natural habitat.
Pressing his left hand on the snake’s head so he can hold it down to prevent it from turning around and biting us, the man uses his right arm to lift it up. I’m pleased to have his help, impressed that he knows what he’s doing, and aware that though we are cautious, we’re not overly fearful. I trust him to know how to handle this.
Dream #4801. Monday, Nov. 14. Dancing with my Anima
I’m dancing with a woman who’s smaller than me. We’re wearing white robes and holding each other loosely and lightly. I realize with embarrassment that I’m trying to lead and not doing a very good job of it. I don’t hear music and can’t find an appropriate rhythm. I make a self-deprecating joke about how our problem is that I’m trying to lead and ask if she’ll lead instead.
We stand there for a brief moment, then she gently dips me over backwards. I smile, enjoying this unexpected move. I’d forgotten about dipping. Relaxed, I give my body to this movement, trusting her not to drop me. As I raise one leg to do the ‘dip pose’ I wonder if I’m flexible enough to do this gracefully.
Associations and Conclusions: Since the election I’ve been vacillating between trust and fear for myself and our country. Taken together, these dreams affirm that what I’ve been thinking and feeling is okay. I can trust the Self (integration of my animus and anima energies) and allow it to be in charge.
My dream ego’s interaction with the black snake says my ego is actively involved in ridding myself of some dark, unconscious, primitive and potentially problematic instinctual energy. I think this energy may be related to unconscious prejudices I’ve had about patriarchy and masculinity.
The size and color change from the black snake to the larger green one in the second dream suggests that some ‘greening’ (healthy new life) is developing in my soul. Perhaps this represents my growing trust in my animus whose help—for example, in the form of more courage to speak my mind and address fears I once ignored—I’m beginning to accept.
The dancing dream shows my habit of trying to control the dance of my life and my realization this isn’t working. When ego’s in charge I lack balance and harmony; I can’t hear the music (of my soul) and don’t know what steps to take. But I’ve reached a point of vulnerability where I trust my anima (body, instincts, physical energy, intuition, honest emotions and feelings) to lead the way in the hope of acquiring more flexibility, balance and grace in everything I do.
I don’t have any wise and learned theories about my future or the future of our country as a result of this election. I don’t know how I’ll feel this afternoon or what steps I’ll take tomorrow. I don’t know my topic for next week’s post. Until this morning I thought this one would be about synchronicities surrounding the election and Leonard Cohen’s passing.
But what I do know is that my dreams have proven to be so helpful that I trust them to guide me safely through whatever comes.
Sweet dreams, dear friends. R.I.P. Leonard Cohen. Halleleujah.
When you are in the darkness you take the next thing, and that is a dream. And you can be sure that the dream is your nearest friend; the dream is the friend of those who are not guided any more by the traditional truth and in consequence are isolated. ~Carl Jung, the Symbolic Life, CW 18, Para 674
And if you lose yourself in the crowd, in the whole of humanity, you also never arrive at yourself; just as you can get lost in your isolation, you can also get lost in utter abandonment to the crowd. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 1020
For 27 years, my spiritual practice has been dreamwork. Dreams aren’t commonly thought of as spiritual aids but they absolutely are. Carl Jung demonstrated this in The Red Book in which he recorded what he learned about himself from visions and dreams over a three year period. This formed the material and inspiration for his groundbreaking insights into the true nature of the psyche, and for his belief that acquiring self-knowledge and becoming who we truly are is our spiritual task and the privilege of a lifetime.
I wish I had understood this during the middle of my life. Throughout the 1980’s I functioned well in the outer world, juggling a home and family with college teaching. But inside I was struggling through a “dark night of the soul” crisis in which I was increasingly dissatisfied with my religion, my work, my relationships and myself.
Near the end of that decade I joined a Jungian study group. When I learned that dreams show us unknown aspects of ourselves in a visual, metaphorical, symbolic language, I began to record and work with mine. By the time I had this Big dream, I knew that taking my nocturnal dramas seriously was vital to my wellbeing.
Dream #155: “Going Against the Current.”
I’m walking downstream in a rushing river beside a rocky bank. People are shooting by on rafts and I wonder how they keep from bashing themselves against the rocks. I turn around and laboriously make my way back upstream in water up to my chin. The bottom is rough and rocky. I reach up and hold onto some thin, flimsy branches sticking out over the water. This helps, but soon there are no more and I have to go on unaided.
At the last turn I come up against thousands of people heading downstream. Friendly people press in on every side as I struggle against the current toward the place I’m supposed to be—my base camp. Sometimes I touch a head or shoulder to propel myself forward. When I reach the mouth of the river I put my palms together and gently part the people; this reminds them of Moses parting the Red Sea and they smile indulgently.
Then I’m far out in the ocean in deep water, tired and afraid. Will I make it? A younger, blond-haired woman appears, only her head showing above the water. “That was smart of you,” she says. I know she’s strong and rested and will support me if I need to float for a while. Together we head slowly to my base far away on the left shore, a place I’ve never been but know to be my destination.
In exquisitely beautiful imagery, this dream told the story of my psycho-spiritual development. It said that when I began my journey (walking) through the unconscious (water) I was still aligned with the collective (going with the flow downstream). But I had become aware of the passing of time (river) and the danger of continuing to rush mindlessly along on the path of least resistance (downstream) while ignoring my undeveloped self and unfulfilled yearnings.
Redirecting my focus to my inner world was making my journey more difficult (going upstream). The form of spiritual support (branches) I had always clung to—the heavenly spirituality of the Sky God that requires conformity to dogma—was of no further help to me (the branches disappear) and I had to continue alone.
Like the children of Israel when they crossed the Red Sea, I was leaving my slavish allegiance to the collective (crowd of people) behind, and entering the unknown: my frightening and dangerous (deep water) unconscious self (the sea). There I caught a glimpse of my anima or soul (the blond woman), the feminine half of the Self which, in Jungian language, is partner to the masculine animus or spirit. Together they form our central archetype, our God-image, symbol-maker, and connection to the Sacred. The message of this dream was that assuming my own authority and trusting myself would bring me to my true self (base camp).
Until I discovered dreamwork, no books or scriptures, no religious beliefs or sacrifices or regular church attendance, none of my ego’s hard work or good behavior, no well-intentioned thoughts or knowledge or cleverness, no psychological expert or religious authority—nothing in my life had any lasting transforming or healing power for me. But this dream from the Self did. The Self knew me. It spoke to me in the symbols of this dream which it fashioned solely for me when it knew I was ready to listen.
My Beloved knew where I’d been, what I sought, where I was going. It knew I was turning my life around beforeI did. It reassured me that replacing my old life of passionless conformity with the great adventure of exploring my unconscious self was the right choice for me. Above all, it convinced me I could trust it to tell me the truth and guide me in the direction of my heart’s desire. Eventually this knowing emboldened me to leave work for which I was ill-suited to follow my passions for writing and self-knowledge. That choice has made all the difference between a false life of meaninglessness, dissatisfaction and confusion, and the real life of increasing clarity, trust, meaning and peace I’m living now.
Contrary to popular belief, discovering and being true to who you are beneath the mask you wear, and doing it for the sake of love, is the authentic spiritual journey. What did you dream last night? What did you learn about yourself?
Photo Credit: “Going Against the Current,”Luo Quingzhen, Google Images. Salmon going upstream: unknown, Wikimedia Commons. “Danube Salmon Swimming Against the Current,” unknown, Wikimedia Commons.
My last three posts were about the psychological underpinnings of the upcoming U.S. election. In keeping with the purpose of Matrignosis, (mother-knowing), I’ve focused on the feminine principle and the importance of activating it in ourselves and society as a healthy corrective to the excesses of patriarchy. As you read this revised post which originally appeared here a year and a half ago, I hope you will examine yourself and the candidates with the aid of your right brain’s symbolic language for insights that might aid America’s advance in that direction.
A while back I wrote about a very damaging manifestation of the feminine principle sometimes called the Death Mother or Evil Queen. Often clothed in black, this force in us represents parts of our feminine sides that have been so devalued, wounded and abused by patriarchal excesses that they are repressed into the dark, unconscious regions of our psyches. There they become twisted, cold, vengeful and self-destructive.
In this post I want to bring some balance to our understanding of the feminine principle by addressing some of its positive qualities. But first, a few relevant words about alchemy and Greek mythology.
Dismissed by some left-brained literalists as pseudo-science, alchemy was, in fact, like mythology, a profoundly wise symbol system that sought to heal humanity’s dangerous tendency toward obsessive one-sidedness. Employing both languages of the brain, logic and imagination, its practitioners described their work as a lengthy process of refining and uniting the King (the masculine principle symbolized by the fiery gold light of the sun), and the Queen (the feminine principle represented by the silverywatery light of the moon) in a Sacred Marriage.
The result of their union was the creation of a rare and precious form of new life called the Philosopher’s Stone. This symbolized the fullest and maturest wisdom and consciousness of which humanity is capable. Unfortunately, we are still so far from this goal that it would be laughable were it not so depressing.
In ancient Greece the feminine principle was celebrated in three aspects of Goddess. These can be represented by colors. The Maiden (green), Mother (red), and Crone (gray orblack), represented the mysterious circle of life–birth, maturity, death and regeneration–celebrated in Lunar Mythology. These were the dominant themes of humanity’s spirituality until the sun god’s Solar Mythology about the battle between good and evil replaced it. Today, many students of psychology, anthropology, religion, spirituality, myth and alchemy personify a missing fourth aspect between the Mother and Crone as the fully empowered Queen. I associate her with the color silver.
In the outer world of work, the Silver Queen is the most visible manifestation of healthy feminine authority. We see her in socially aware leaders and authorities of all kinds; for example, enterprising founders of innovative business practices that weaken the stranglehold of one-sided logic and linearity, or bold and balanced, firm and fair champions of nurturing change in any group, movement, or organization.
Individuals (male or female) with well-developed Queen energy can be effective within the confines of the kingly Solar Mythology that still dominates our culture. However, they do not imitate, limit themselves to, or promote obsessively one-sided patriarchal values. Instead, they consistently facilitate the re-emergence of the Silver Queen’s Lunar values.
My description of these values and how they manifest in people is based on Dr. Carl Jung’s observation, borne out in traditional literature throughout history, that the feminine foundation of the psyche–aka Sophia, Anima or Soul–is the source of our nourishing and transforming energies. It is only when we disown these energies that she turns her dark face to us in the form of Death Mother.
THE SIX C’S OF THE SILVER QUEEN
As Carer, she is there for her true self and others: she feels, gives, listens, encourages, intuits, confronts, affirms. When necessary and appropriate, she sacrifices.
As Container she holds and tolerates tension, conflicts, suffering, uncertainty and change without breaking or giving up.
As Connecter she mentors, guides and networks with other people and respects other perspectives.
As Communicator she speaks her truths, listens to others’ truths, and seeks to integrate otherness.
As Cooperator she shares her knowledge and authority without greed, prejudice, envy, abuse, or expectation of reward.
As Changer she trusts the transformative process and flows with evolutionary energy.
The Silver Queen in each of us has the power to bring healing balance to all of us. May we resurrect and activate her before Death Mother and the obsessively patriarchal system that created her destroys us.
Image Credits: Alchemical Moon and Goddess of the Moon: Google Images
“The last fifty years of the twentieth century have witnessed the activation of the feminine archetype . . . Like the magma of the earth’s molten core, the feminine principle has been pushing up from below the level of our conscious lives until at last it is emerging into our awareness, manifesting itself as a call for radical change in our values and our beliefs by inviting us to reconnect with nature, soul and cosmos. As a result, our values and our understanding of ourselves and our relationship with the planet and the cosmos are changing.”~ Anne Baring, “Woman as Custodian of Life”
As an American woman who grew up in the ’50s, I’ve witnessed and experienced enormous benefits from the activation of the feminine archetype. This is why the upcoming election feels so important to me. I hear that many younger women who weren’t around in those early days consider Hillary Clinton to be just another ‘good old boy’ in a woman’s body, but I disagree. I know what she’s been through. Despite her acceptance in the ‘good old boy’ political system she’s managed to develop her feminine side to an unusual degree, and with help from Jungian Analyst, Anne Baring, I hope to convince you of this.
“In its deepest sense, what does the word ‘Feminine’ mean? As I am defining it in my book, “The Dream of the Cosmos,” it does not refer to the female sexual attractiveness that is so promoted in today’s world, nor to the qualities of caring and gentleness usually, though not exclusively identified with women, nor to the feminist agenda of the empowerment of women in a man’s world . . . . Awakening to the Feminine means becoming protective of the whole of creation; dying to all the divisive ways of looking at life and each other; being born into an utterly different vision of reality.”
“The influence of the feminine principle is responsible for our growing concern for the integrity of the life systems of the planet and the attraction to the mythic, the spiritual, the visionary, the non-rational – all of which nourish the heart and the imagination, inviting new perspectives on life, new ways of living in relationship to body, soul and spirit, generating a new understanding of the psyche. The flood of books now being written by men and women responding to the prompting of their intuition and their feelings would have been inconceivable fifty years ago.” ~Baring, “Awakening to the Feminine.”
For about 5,000 years, thevision of reality held by most of the world has been one of dominance and control.
“As this process has accelerated, nations have come to be viewed as markets to be exploited for financial gain and, if necessary, brought to their knees by financial traders, without a thought for the millions of helpless people whose livelihoods and lives may be destroyed. Politicians debate the radical cuts in expenditure needed to reduce the towering amounts of national debt, incurred through years of injudicious borrowing and promises made to the electorate in order to ensure their re-election. Decades pass as men argue the pros and cons of climate change and only a small proportion of the funds promised by governments to help protect the rain forests of the world reaches their destination. An Earth Charter, which offers an agenda for a different relationship with the planet exists, but governments and powerful corporations pay little heed to it. All this might be described as a desecration of the Anima-Mundi or Soul of the World. ~Baring, “Awakening to the Feminine.”
Baring describes a feminine vision of reality:
“A response to the Feminine asks that war and the creation of weapons of destruction are relinquished just as racism and conquests in the name of God or any other ideology need to be relinquished. If we can abandon our addiction to weapons and war, directing the trillions saved on feeding, educating and caring for the children of the world, the result will be an infinitely better world and the possibility of our own survival as a species. We need to challenge the arcane warrior ethos of governments which demands continual preparation for war, selling arms for profit and bringing devastating new weapons into being.” Baring, “Awakening to the Feminine.”
Those of us who were alive in the ’50s and ’60s—including Hillary Clinton—experienced the chaotic beginnings of this new vision. America struggled with Civil Rights demonstrations, protests against the Viet Nam War, and, with the introduction of the birth control pill, an unprecedented emancipation of women. Initially shocking to many of us, this latter development inspired a new phase of the feminist movement that resulted in greater equality for American women than ever before.
Another benefit of this new vision was improvement in the physical and educational needs of children. In the summer of 1965 I taught in the first Head Start Program in rural northwest Florida. My pre-schoolers came from impoverished families who earned a living selling their catches from the nearby lake. In some families, the older kids took turns staying home from school to take care of the youngest while their parents were fishing. A few kids came to school unwashed, with no breakfast in their bellies, wearing the urine-stained clothes they’d slept in. The Head Start program gave those and future children educational advantages they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
A final example concerns the future of our planet.
“Woman’s age-old instinct to nurture life and man’s instinct to protect and defend it, are being extended to embrace and serve the life of Earth. A planet which has taken over three and a half billion years to evolve an organ of consciousness through which the cosmos can come to know itself on this planet may be under threat; our own survival is uncertain . . . Yet, in response to the extreme peril of this situation we are beginning to recover the lost sense of relationship with a sacred earth and a sacred cosmos. We are drawing together in closer relationship with each other, working towards the goal of rescuing this planet and the lives of future generations from our unconscious and predatory habits of behavior.” ~Baring, “Woman as Custodian of Life”
These and other manifestations of the new vision accompanying the activation of the feminine archetype have been so beneficial to women of my generation that many of us are compelled to pay it forward. Next time I’ll address how Hillary has done that.
“Religion is supposed to teach us the way of love. Jesus even commanded it. Though I’m not sure that you really can order or demand love, it’s so all-important that the great spiritual teachers always do, saying with urgency, as it were, “You’ve got to love or you’ll never find your soul’s purpose. You’ll never find the deepest meaning of life itself.” Philosophically, you will never discover the Logos, the blueprint, the pattern, the template of all reality, what Jung would have called ‘the soul of the world.'” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.
Do we, the majority of us in the contemporary world, do we understand what love means? Do we feel fulfilled and spiritually satisfied in the depth of our souls? To the point that we’ve found our soul’s purpose? To the point that we can feel love for others whether they love us or not? Most of us don’t. I think that’s why our world’s in such a mess. Consider how our ideas about love for God and others develop…..
AN INFANT’S IDEA OF LOVE: You satisfy every instinctual need.
Come here right now! Feed me. Hold me close. Touch me gently. Make the hurt and hunger and loud noises go away. Smile at me. Make soothing sounds.
A CHILD’S IDEA OF LOVE: You give me what I want.
No! I won’t eat that nasty broccoli. I’ll throw up if you make me eat it. I want this toy! Don’t take it away from me! I won’t lie down. I don’t want to take a nap now. Come back here. Don’t leave me alone. Give me what I want and I’ll be good. Don’t leave me with the baby sitter. I’m afraid. Look under my bed. Did you check the closet? Just one more story and I promise I’ll go to sleep. Pleeeeeeease! Suzy’s touching me! Make her stop looking at me!! Thank you for giving me that (insert item) I wanted. You’re the best mommy/daddy/god in the whole world!
ADOLESCENT: You leave me alone.
There’s something wrong with you if you won’t let me do what I want to do. Why don’t you understand me? I was definitely born into the wrong family. I can’t wait to get out of here!!
YOUNG ADULT: I am attracted to you and you make me feel good!
If you love me you’ll always make me feel this good and I will love you forever! (Unless, of course, you stop making me feel good, in which case I’m outta here!)
I don’t feel as good as I used to. What’s happened to you? If you really loved me you’d …. (fill in the blank.) You don’t love me any more. I don’t love you any more either and its your fault: (Pick one:) A. But, I’ll stay (and make both our lives miserable because being with you is familiar and I’m afraid to change) or B. So I’m leaving (you’ll be sorry, but I know there’s someone out there who will love me.) There’s a C option too, but most of us never get to that…..
“I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.”~ C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul
MIDDLE AGE: You’re not enough for me.
Is this all there is? I’ve done everything I thought I was supposed to do and I’m still not happy.What’s wrong with my partner? Could there be something wrong with me? How can I feel better? Would it be wrong to tell the truth and act on my honest feelings? Will God punish me if I change my beliefs and break my promises?
MATURITY: Teach me to love so that I may become Love.
“Meaty spirituality must first of all teach us freedom from the self, from my own self as a reference point for everything or anything. This is the necessary Copernican Revolution wherein we change reference points. Copernicus discovered that Earth is not the center of the universe. Now we have to discover that we are not the center of any universe either. We are not finally a meaningful reference point. Although we do have to start with self at the center to build a necessary ‘ego structure,’ we then must move beyond it. The big and full world does not circle around me or you. Yet so many refuse to undergo this foundational enlightenment.’This ultimate reality, the way things work, is quite simply described as love.'” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
I’m at my desk reading the Goethe quote on my coffee mug: “Nothing is worth more than this day.” I feel the truth of this deeply, but wonder if I really understand it or can express it adequately. I want to try.
I close my eyes to feel the life in my body and follow my breath. Tiny tinglings everywhere…chest and belly rising and falling…the air conditioner fan whirring away to my left, an airplane humming overhead…the solid floor beneath my feet…the warmth of my clasped hands…the softness of my velvet robe.
I open my eyes and look out the window at the stand of bald cypress with their knotty brown trunks and newly green foliage. I watch the soft sway of their gray Spanish moss beards. I wait…for what I don’t know. I smile. It’s a relief not to need to know. A love bug lands on the window at eye level. No, wait; it’s two love bugs! My smile expands. My heart seems to expand too. I’m enjoying this tiny reminder of love. Fluttering leaves sparkle. Some show their paler sides; others are a deeper green. A dragonfly flits by. Cottony clouds with dove gray undersides sink slowly below the cypress canopy.
I rise and step outside to see if the great blue heron is still fishing across the creek. S/he’s gone, but a pair of black-feathered, yellow-legged, red-billed birds (young coots?) fly past, then abruptly make a U-turn and hurry back in the opposite direction.
I remember the brilliant cardinal that kept dropping by one day last week to peck at the picture window, either flirting with his image or trying to pass through the sky’s reflection. I Googled the symbolism of cardinals and found this: [The cardinal] “reminds us to hold ourselves with pride – not ego pride. Rather, the cardinal asks us to stand a little taller, be a bit more regal, step into our natural confidence as if we were born to lead with grace and nobility.” Good advice. But that was a few days ago. I return to this moment.
Other random thoughts intrude and I invite them to pass on so I can stay present. I realize I’m hoping to close these musings with some sort of sign or synchronicity I can share to prove how rewarding just appreciating this day can be! But nothing is showing up and I’m running out of writing space.
Wait. Something is showing up. (As I write these words a cardinal darts by…is it my cardinal?… but that isn’t what I mean.) What shows up after I’ve written the previous paragraph is an awareness of my ego’s influence over my thoughts and writing. My ego wants a sign it can use to be impressive, but my soul just wants to be! And just as I was thinking this the cardinal passed by. I guess I did receive a sign after all: ego pride! I smile and let it be. Self-knowledge is healing but self-criticism erodes my confidence and robs me of this moment. Simply being aware of everything, including my baser tendencies, is the true value of this day.
Why do I meditate? Because it slows down my monkey mind and makes me more mindful of my body. Because when I’m mindful of my body, I experience this fleeting miracle of being. Because experiencing the miracle of being—being alive, being me, having this body, this day, this comfortable place to live, my health, people who love me—fills me with love and gratitude. And when I remember love and gratitude, I remember to choose love more often that day, no matter what’s happening in my outer world. For me, that’s reason enough.
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.