A Valentine Shoebox: how we belong to one another

As a kid, on Valentine’s Day I declare that I belong

My elementary school classmates and I were raised to include one another on Valentine’s Day. Without exception.  Any other day there were “popular” kids, “dumb” kids, and kids nobody wanted to be seen with on the playground. But on Valentine’s Day we shared a ritual. Each of us brought a shoe-box, decorated for the occasion, and clearly identified by name. The shoebox had a slit in the front or the top. And we each brought a Valentine addressed to every other classmate. Of course distinctions, meanings, and inferences were made. But the popular-dumb-kids-nobody-wants-to-be-seen-with dramas were muted.

There is one shoebox I remember vividly: I had covered it in a shiny gold wrapping paper and decorated it with red lacy paper hearts further adorned with cut-outs, perhaps from the Best and Company Catalogue or Good Housekeeping Magazine. I don’t remember what grade I was in or what I did or did not receive by the end of the school day.

When I unravel the significance of the memory, I can only say that somehow it stands for my 2nd or 3rd or 4th-grade declaration: 

I belong. And so do you, and you, and you….

Back then, Belonging was a holiday event. There were 364 other days of the year when it cost me to belong. Belonging meant Being Good, Being Quiet, Being Studious, avoiding my Mother’s Look. 364 other days full of exceptions of who was to be included and under what circumstances.

As an alleged grown-up, I want to foster belonging 

For family members, friends, strangers, colleagues, clients, teachers, students: I want to be a giver of Valentines every day, to slip something beautiful or appreciated or supportive into the shoebox of each life. To choose the right words or choose silence, at the right time. To act or to sit or to move this way or that way at the right moment. 

From family members, friends, strangers, colleagues, clients, teachers, students: I want to be a receiver of Valentines every day, to perceive the beauty, appreciation, or support that  is there. To see through “interruptions” and “delays” and “obstacles” and “the opportunities to do things over again.” To hear  truthful words I’d rather not hear and hear through them back to belonging.

Belonging is a healing Valentine for the 21st century epidemic of shattering events. 

Awakening or asleep, it is into one another’s  hearts that we slip messages daily.

We belong to one another.

Different and the same, particular and human, we belong to one another.

Including everyone. Everybody. Every body. Even as one binary after another softens and shows its glorious nuances, leaving us bereft of our fixed categories and stumbling over new words.

Belonging is the why and how we are here, in the world.

Belonging is the way we dignify one another’s human existence, and the Mother Earth beneath our feet.

You, and you, and you…and me.

We belong to one another and to the Big Wide World.

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Is there a situation you are struggling to include in your life? a difficult person?  Are you that difficult person, wrestling with yourself ? Does responding to the world feel like a duty or an intrusion?  Nondual healing can bring you to a new level of wholeness and freedom in your life, as you practice including more and more of who you are.  Schedule a 30-minute free consult. Let’s talk.

You are called: the intent to heal

The intent of the world to heal and the intent of your soul to heal are One Thing.

You stand still for long moments. You look ahead, yearn, envision, dream. You turn and look back, try to understand what you have learned, what it is time to lay down, what you want to carry forward and why, who you have been. You stand in the gap: who you believe you are and who you want to be.

Let me just speak plainly here. To live each day is to create, create your unique human life all over again: to fulfill the intent of your soul and the intent of the world. In your body, in your neighborhood, in this wacky and whacked-out and still Essentially Good 21st century.

We each start out by picking right up on the instructions that seem to be included – as transmitted by our families, schools, places of worship or culture.

We are assigned identities. By skin color. According to our genitalia, our neighborhood, our accent and religious belief. We are given materials and tools and skills to work with: gifts and limitations. We might not like them. They might not suit us. We may retreat into a small part of ourselves in response to trauma: dissociated, frozen, distant. We may be drawn heartfully by the genuine, desirously by the glitter of the false.

Yet each of us stands drenched beneath an unending waterfall of the formless – call it Spirit, God, Reality, Goodness – that wants nothing more than to come into being through us. 

You will be called by your name,  
you will be seated in your place, 
you will be given what is yours.
No one touches what is meant for another. 
No kingdom touches its neighbor by so much as a hairsbreadth.” 

(Ben Azzai, Yoma 38 a-b) 

Something has been calling you since you were born. Calling you into your reason for being: your name. Drawing you forward against the odds your family or tribe or the wider society laid out for you. With the body and the temperament that you have. Grasping the guidebook of others’ expectations and your own idealizations. Reminding you…through a stranger’s smile, a friend’s nod, a teacher’s acknowledgement, a child’s touch. Gifting you with life experiences both sour and sweet: what is yours.

We are pulled forward by our soul knowledge of the Totality of who we are, a soul knowledge of the Goodness of which we are made, and a soul intent to heal and awaken.

The world itself heals and awakens with our participation, not in spite of us!

The body of the world needs you. It desires, for its own healing, nothing more than that you are seated in your place, in the Totality of who you are. The power of the world to heal and awaken depends on the Totality of each of us and all. Together we are the body of the world.

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Nondual healing can help you find that place that no one else can touch, that place reserved for you alone, where your soul’s intent and the world’s intent for you are One Thing. The winter season is a wonderful time to do this deep listening to yourself. Schedule a 30-minute free consult. Let’s talk.

Giving thanks, offering healing: in practice

Offering our thanks is healing itself, for our own hearts, and the world’s Great Heart

Dear Readers ….

May this day find us each and every one with an abundance of blessings received and equally abundant impulses to pay them forward.

May we feast on a bounty of kindness for our troubled world and our own aching hearts.

May we breathe life into ancient wisdom stories, take instruction from them, and welcome opportunities to join hands with strangers within and without.

May we resolve to understand where we have come from, on whose tribal shoulders we stand, on whose tribal lands and graves our lives are built, and pursue paths to Truths and Reconciliations for the healing of human sorrows.

May we summon our will and our willingness to participate in the ways our Mother Earth reveals she is healing Herself.

May we yield to the solace of Mystery, our incapacity to understand and make meaning.

May we grant ourselves and one another permission – whether to recoil in incredulity or numbness or shed tears as we cry out to the Mystery,  in hurt, in love, in anger, in grief, in fear, in relief.

May we pursue and accept responsibility for the power to do and be good with which we have been gifted by the Mystery.

 

An invitation to practice: 

Contemplate your yearning for personal healing and for healing in the world, and how they are irrevocably one, like the palm and back of your hand. Journal a bit, or let a poem write itself through you. Leonard Cohen’s beautiful lyrics and melody in Come Healing help me sink into this contemplation.

Take a walk – around your own block or in a favorite setting. Be attentive to your environment, and pocket with thanks a few natural objects that capture your attention – twigs, stones, moss, dried plant stalks, broken open nutshells.

Back home, lay your found objects down, and gather bits of broken pottery or glass, a bead or two, yarn or twine, clay or duct tape for threading and binding them together.

Sit quietly as you infuse the items with your healing intentions and compose an offering with these found natural and household items.

Give yourself uninterrupted time to be leisurely, and make arrangement with your family/housemates as necessary. (Any animals in your home are likely to sniff you out in this activity to join their energies with yours!)

Choose any altar – in your own home or in a place in your town or countryside in need of healing, or in the hands of a friend or colleague in need: place your offering in any one of these gracious laps of the great Mystery.

Photos and words of reflection on your experience are welcome!

 

This practice will yield fruit, whether you are able to set aside a block of time to follow all the steps from beginning to end, or whether you do it in stages. If the latter, take time to reconnect with your healing intentions at each step – and follow and trust your own process as it shifts and deepens,  becomes more specific, or changes direction.

Note: This practice is adapted with gratitude from a healing ceremony that two of my healing colleagues and I channeled/designed for A Society  of Souls’ biannual gathering in July, 2018.

 

P.S. I have been peering into the “dark light” these last number of months, while a life of practice’s blog has gone dark. Thank you, dear readers, who have in one way or another blown on the embers, letting me know you missed it! Look for posts to appear twice a month.

 

In good hands with Healing Presence

Recent weeks have been a strange and compelling time for me. I have been called on to think deeply about behaviors that contribute to Healing Presence. At the same time to ever more deeply explore early childhood experiences of emotional absence. This dual preoccupation has freshly illuminated the gift in the wound that is my calling in life.

 

Putting myself in good hands

I can see now that I have devoted myself professionally to being “the good hands” in which I want to place myself whenever I seek health care or disease (medical) care. Being those “good hands” comes down to a felt quality of relationship that engenders trust and a sense of being met, seen, and cared for.

 

This is how I define Healing Presence, a particular application of living life as an imperfect and vulnerable human being. 

Healing Presence looms large in my professional foreground. Peer into my personal background and I find a profound absence of being  met, seen, and emotionally cared for early in  life.  The gift in the wound. The lotus rising from the mud. A calling. Or, as the Jewish sages have taught, God has created the cure even before the disease.

Countless times I have sat with a client holding for her the foreground and background of her life work that she cannot yet see, as she heartfully yearns to be able to grasp what is just inside and right in front of her.

Just as I could not see that while I was trying to salve, and solve, my early life difficulties with emotional absence, I was in the same moments perpetuating it. There are large swaths of my life where I have been in absentia. In vain my daughters have asked me about certain family events of life-altering significance to them: I have no memory to illumine their own search for meaning or understanding.

 

Healing Presence in the face of absence from life

Until very recently, I could not answer my own question: Where was I at those moments? Now I understand that my attention was focused not on what was in front of me – and them. I was, unawares, scanning entire universes for danger, mustering and deploying armies of defenders, all skills I began to apprentice before I had even the earliest language skills. Developmentally, a supremely young part of me was in charge.

The ongoing psycho-spiritual work of allowing these patterns to appear, of feeling utter loneliness, and unwinding embedded physiological patterns brings me back to Healing Presence. Because I do not entrust myself and this work lightly to anyone. And I have been fortunate to have been in the best of hands with friends, role models, teachers, and practitioners who have helped me to heal and awaken.

 

Here are some of the qualities and behaviors of Healing Presence I look for in the company I keep – in life and in the treatment room

We click. I have been met, seen, cared for unconditionally enough, if imperfectly. I feel a quality of relationship that engenders my trust. I sense that we can develop a partnership that serves my needs and desires and honors her expertise and viewpoint. So if a conflict develops around a course of action or treatment, it can be a productive one.

Each of my professional helpers…

  • listens to me deeply, non-judgmentally, with curiosity and nuance.
  • trusts that I am an expert on my own life.
  • trusts my body-mind-spirit’s innate wisdom, uniqueness, and capacity to heal.
  • accepts and responds to my story, language, and emotions (or lack thereof) as the foundation for our work. She is then free to validate, encourage, reframe, educate, or challenge me. To articulate, clarify, question, counsel, and illuminate. To partner, lead, or follow willingly as appropriate.
  • is comfortable with silence, tears, guffaws.
  • presents herself as a professional, grounded in ethics and respect for the limits of her scope of practice.
  • offers a fertile mix of critical thinking and humility, which discourages her from coming to premature conclusions, and encourages her to make good use of her knowledge and to embrace what cannot be known.

I take these qualities and behaviors as the fruits of  my practitioner’s own life of practice. Most often her practice is not going to be precisely my practice, and that does not matter. I may or may not learn deeply about or embrace the language or practices of her path or discipline over the time we work together towards my healing and awakening.

That we can walk together is essential, each of us knowledgable, wise and limited in our own ways: gifted by our own wounds, answering our respective callings. This is when I know I am in good hands.

These are the good hands I aspire to be.

 


AN INVITATION:

If you are looking to place yourself in good hands, in a partnership dedicated to your healing and awakening…

OR if you are a practitioner who wants to explore and deepen your own Healing Presence with your clients or patients…

LET’S TALK…. be in touch.

We can schedule a half-hour conversation (no charge)


IF you are interested in a peer-reviewed article on Healing Presence, this is a good place to start.


Banner photo: original painting by Sheri Hoeger, A Touch of Hands

 

A healing-awakening crisis? Listen for the Source-Song

From time to time, I have to listen up: my sense of being a secure “self” living “my” life unravels and dissolves as ink in water: a healing-awakening crisis.

An encounter with realities of daily life at unexplored levels. An encounter with tangles deep in my psyche. Like the outer world as we near the solstice, a time of maximum darkness.

In this current version, my mind has a mind of its own, spinning scenarios of one disaster after another in which no part of my life survives unscathed. No cues. No script. No landmarks. A profound stimulus to my prayer life, which languishes in “better times.”

 

I listen now for “the small Blue Deer.”*  Her song, as I learned it, ordered the forces and forms of creation.

In her native language, she Is Kauyumari. She first entered my life through the music and art of her Wixaritari (Huichol) people, a small indigenous tribe living in the Sierra Madre mountains of central northwest Mexico. In the story as I heard it, the small Blue Deer sang out her mysterious song to draw all the gods near to their Source: “form and essence, light and dark, fullness and emptiness.”* Drawn together as they followed her song, the gods, who had lived “each to his own”* – spinning from one creative/sustaining/destructive act to another, much as my mind is doing this very day – settled into their places – “conscious, mysterious, and free.”* Order followed, an order where each of the gods took on the role they were meant to play.

I am grateful for Kauyumari’s calming, warming and alchemical fire as the somewhat arbitrary end of the year approaches.

 

I go quiet, go within, listen for her song within, the one that carries “all that is, and all that was, and all that will ever be.”*

It’s about really getting that I have a within. That I am not spread out all over the universe, yet have a place in it that is mine alone. Whatever it is I am here for, no one else can do/be it.

I find myself resisting a path I have taken in recent years of engaging in some well-crafted, structured self-assessment, and planning ahead. My email box is filled with hashtags for creative alignment and inspiration. I cheer their creators and subscribers along – there are so many wonderful doors to walk through. But for myself, I cringe at each new arrival, shiny with promise.

Instead I gather information about parts of my life – and my being – that I have ignored – how I have made certain choices, and how did they work out? What have been my patterns of choices? Did they bring me some of what I hoped? What about unexpected consequences?

I crave quiet.

I listen to my own voices. Some wise. Some foolish, aka human.

I am intent on discovering and claiming what wisdom I have integrated. Taken in. Digested. I am intent on discovering and claiming – even as I cringe from them – my limitations and even shame.

And I listen for the echoes of the Source-song within my voices,

even within the deep loneliness that I cannot solve. 


 

*Language in quotes are lyrics from “The Blue Deer Is,” on the CD My God is a Tree, produced by Joby Baker and Scott Sheerin  (2007).

The banner photo of the Blue Deer is a yarn painting I purchased through the Huichol Art Project, under the auspices of the Blue Deer Center, founded by Huichol elder and Plant Spirit Medicine healer Eliot Cowan.

Collision averted and other miracles of the season

Collision averted today, one miracle in a season of miracles. 

Just in time I saw the dull gray sedan coming up on my right as I was about to make a left turn. On a dull gray day, when my mind was preoccupied with irritating matters. One of those near-misses I have experienced countless times behind the wheel, and that I imagine happens hundreds of times a day in crowded parking lots and on heavily-trafficked highways. I send my thanks heaven-ward, as it were, and move on uninjured and unimpeded to my next errand.

 

I am not much given to contemplating the miraculous, but this is the first day of Chanukah.

And the “Chanukah Story” that I grew up with was the miracle of the oil. The Israelites reclaimed the Holy Temple from the Greeks some 1800 years ago. In preparing to rededicate the space for worship, a single day’s worth of pure oil was found to burn in the re-kindled menorah. Instead, the oil lasted for eight days.

According to certain mystical teachings of the sages, miracles emanate from a level of creative power that precedes time and space, where delight infuses the divine urge to create. In some prayers we call upon this level, using the name “slow to anger.”

 

Since we are made in the image of God, this got me thinking about how we humans manifest miracles

I was standing in a long check-out line a couple of days ago. The woman behind me smiled and shook her head. Because she had just reunited with a dear high-school classmate, the woman in front of me. Their reunion may have been a miracle of divine origin. The way the two of them shared their delight with me, a stranger between them, and lifted my down-in-the-dumps spirits was of their very human origin.

 

But the miracle that has become foundational in my life story is about my mom towards the end of hers.

Mom was genteel. She had her views about what it meant to live “like a lady.” She was intensely private when it came to her emotions, her troubles, and her business. She always had a social circle of friends. In fact, she twice made the effort to cultivate a new circle of younger friends as her own peers died one by one. Still, she was not one to reach out to strangers or to others who appeared much different.

But on my last visit with her in the nursing home where she spent the last three months of her life, I was wheeling her through the diningroom on our way back to her room, when she asked me to stop next to a small table. A woman sat alone and downcast over her meal. My mother reached over, patted her hand and said sweetly, “How are you tonight, dear?” They exchanged a few words, and we went on our way, the woman clearly nourished and uplifted: a small miracle of human origin.

I was stunned at mom’s uncharacteristic behavior, and since then have drawn from it deep inspiration. Just a few weeks before dying at age 97 she was growing and changing.

At the end of life, another season of miracles.

 

May you be blessed to see the miracles around you, and to enact your own.

Morning has broken, I swim up to waking

Morning. Light hits my eyelids. As I swim up to waking, I mistakenly believe I am alone in the Universe.

I grew up believing that if there was something I wanted to see happen in the world, it was on me to bring it about: me alone. Years of adulthood roll on by before I even grok that this is a burden and a messianic imagining.  More years before I understand this to be an actual impossibility. Going it alone is just not possible.

We are irrevocably linked to one another and held together in God or Reality. Nor can God go it alone. She needs our arms and legs, our hands and voices.

 

Morning has broken

by Sara Eisenberg

 

I wake to find myself

wearing a tattered garment.

During sleep it has become

my skin, no seams,

the barest of hemmed edges

 

gilded with holes,

some gaping

where the garment hangs

on me,

by turns sad, reluctant, fearful as

light strikes

the fabric.

 

Such is the effort of waking as

if burdened by breath and pulse.

 

Once showered, properly

dressed for weather and agenda,

no one but You knows the undergarment.

Even I forget as the day goes on.

It doesn’t exactly chafe like a hair-shirt

but hums low, occasionally growls

and gives off a whiff of – Bear,

 

persists because You are in the holes and tatters

and persists because it makes a difference that I breathe and pulse

and slog and soar and walk tenderly and blindly

in this reluctant body,

and because it makes a difference that I know You are in the tatters and holes.

 

Still, I long to

lie still,

because there is One who longs

to wake into a world frayed yet made

whole.


 

Banner photo: Crooked Sky, Cold wax and oil, by Jude Lobe. Hillsborough Gallery of Art, Hillsborough, North Carolina

Election Day and the Color Line, One Year Later

I have found myself jittery and anxious the past few days – and concluded it was anniversary jitters, as we approached Election Day 2017, a one-year marker of sorts. Not unlike the anniversary of more personal traumas – say the death of many loved ones during the month of March. Related feelings of grief that wash over me in the spring sometimes take me unawares. There was no way to be unaware Election Day was immanent and the color line accentuated.

 

I have also been dreaming, vividly.

For which I am grateful: these dreams have been instructing me about shifts in how I perceive and make meaning. It is during sleep that our neurons are pruned and our learning is consolidated.

To all appearances we were eight white women of various generations seated around a table in a well-appointed middle-class livingroom. The table had been set for lunch with a starchy cloth and full place settings. We had just finished lunch. Our mostly-empty plates sat in front of us.

My mother was sitting not directly next to me, a woman between her age and mine sitting between us. Mom was quiet, though it was a setting in which she could be at home.

Greg C., pastor and executive director at a local spiritual wellness center, came into the room, greeted each of us as he went around the table, and then left. I knew Greg lived a life of practice, although different from mine. He had his own deep and truthful way of listening to text and life.

Then the youngish woman sitting across from me told her story. Of how, at a young age, she was separated from her family at the auction block. How she  was sold with her mom, “but of course the sons went with their fathers when they were lucky.” She filled in  details. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Around the table every woman, including my mom, was crying.

 

Abruptly I woke up.

It is the day after Election Day. I have not yet seen the results of the campaign for governor of Virginia that, after some months of focus on local bread and butter issues – transportation gridlock, affordable housing – had turned acrimonious with an influx of campaign bucks from all quarters of the nation, and inflammatory rhetoric about confederate monuments and laws regulating women’s wombs.

 

Step up to the color line and listen.

I look at how my mother grew up on one side of the color line. How I grew up on one side of the color line – during both our generations the line reinforced by Jim Crow. How my kids grew up on one side of a color line just barely fractured by the civil rights movement. How my grandchildren are growing up on one side of a color line stretched but not breached by Obama’s eight years as President and Commander in Chief.

Whichever side of the color line we grew up on, it’s long past time for each of us to listen prayerfully to generations of stories of the color line. To live inside one another’s stories, as the women in this dream. To weep together. To guard these stories as treasured truthfulness. To take in what it means “to pass” – as a woman of color, as a human being, as a democracy. To wrestle what it could mean to rebuild a democracy founded on knowledge of our shared and deeply flawed history.

 

One story at a time.

When we don’t recognize our own stories, they are powerful unthought knowns that steer our perceptions – and our votes.

It takes courage to risk the telling, humility to risk the listening. As we allow one another’s stories to live, to take up a square in our quilt, we birth one another into our full sorrowing humanity. That’s when we stop “passing” as humans.

Who knows what we might create together out of such broken-heartedness, how we might bend, bend with the long arc of the moral universe.

 

AN INVITATION TO PRACTICE…if you are ready have your heart broken open

This week, whose story are you prepared to invite – without burdening the teller with your desire to understand?

This week, whose story are you prepared to receive?


Banner photo taken at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, October, 2016

 

 

How to wake up in the middle of waking up

This morning I woke up in the middle of waking up.

I realized that I was making a series of definitive statements to myself, declarations about the state of my body and my relationship with the world. I was reconstructing my very identity for the day! The questions to which the statements appear to be answers were either understood, implied, or went by too fast to be noticed.

I have a bit of a headache. That’s unusual. That pain in my left arm that I got up to take care of in the middle of the night doesn’t hurt. The St. John’s Wort Oil I rubbed in must have worked.  My sinuses are less congested. That osteopathic treatment yesterday helped. I have a whole day to finish those two essays for my homework assignment. The uninterrupted hours are nervous-making. I’ve worked the Kabbalistic Universes to death figuring out how they relate to personal and social identity. What I’ve got is far too complicated. I just want to give this group what they need to know now. I want to leave out a bunch of the usual stuff but I’m afraid of over-simplifying it. That other piece – on my relationship with the unknown: I’ve hardly thought about it. The house is really cold this morning.

Then the cat jumped up on me, having noticed I was stirring. She roused me to get her breakfast, ending this bit of waking up in the middle of waking up.

I regularly sleep through this process in the morning when I wake from sleep. What is really going on here?! 

I am reconstituting a self that I recognize, and a life that I recognize. I am naming and rating various body sensations, and in the process making judgments about actions I’ve taken – in this case in the prior twenty-our hours. I am translating certain sensations into recognizable anxieties so readily that I now suspect that I have paired them habitually: only this white wine pairs with that fish. There’s a thing I have to get done, and it has to meet certain standards – of usefulness and clarity that are good enough, close enough to perfection. I am naming an anxiety that sets up my relationship for the whole day – this thing I gotta do, I don’t know how I’m gonna get it done. All this brings alive muscle memory, posture, ways of sitting/sitting out and walking towards/away that shape how I move through life.

There are a whole lot of unthought knowns operating here.

They underlie the process I have described, and they love statements. Subject. Object. Definitiveness indicated by the period at the end. Period. Distinctions. Judgments. Interpretations. And every one of them sets me up to go about my day assuming them to be reality.

I didn’t stop to question the validity of any of it. I didn’t stop to question what I was including or leaving out. I didn’t stop to question the meaning I assigned to a sensation or the judgement I paired with a thought.

Question? Introduce something curvy to slow my speedy process?

I didn’t pause to let in more information or to allow for possibility, until it occurred to me I’d better get right to the computer before these insights could sink unexamined back into unconsciousness.

Then I went into the kitchen and fed the cat.


Read more on other ways of Not Knowing: https://alifeofpractice.com/daily-practices/i-dont-knows-small-life-stopping-and-life-giving/

 

“I don’t knows” small, life-stopping, and life-giving

The small I don’t know

“I don’t know” surely ranks as among the most difficult phrases for many of us to utter. Our families and culture indoctrinate us, implicitly or explicitly, in one or another story of the associated dangers. Test anxiety, performance anxiety, terror of public speaking are some of the common ways this shows up in our lives: the unknown is an enemy.

I grew up shaped by an absolute certainty that personal calamity would result from not knowing. My very existence depended on knowing. Knowing what was in family members’ minds and hearts but was taboo to speak. Knowing when I was needed where and for what without being told. Knowing the right answer. Knowing with precision. Anticipating what I needed to know and maintaining a constant state of readiness. Exhausting. No wonder I had bags under my eyes even as a kid.

Eventually I found that when I could let go of the certainty of calamity, I was not an irredeemable failure. Instead I might learn something about myself, another human being, or the world. Being open to learning and possibility sometimes serves me as inspiration, other times as aspiration. It is a practice that I have at different times pursued cheerfully, doggedly, grumbling to myself.

And if I don’t garner new information, I have the chance to practice something else: patience, and humility.

 

The life-stopping I don’t know 

Being recalled for a mammogram. Knowing a loved one is in harm’s way. A sudden loss of security, health, relationship, function. I find this I don’t know mixed with bargaining prayers, grief, courage, urgency, helplessness, trust, terror. The very quality of time and space shifts. It seems odd if the sun is shining and the weather perfect.

I may have to mobilize my inner resources and outer supports. I may spend a lot of my energies figuring out what is the next right thing to do. I may need to weep or howl or break plates.

Yet somehow the quality of persistence pervades such times. The persistence of sunrise and sunset, sleeping and waking, breath.

 

…somehow becomes the life-giving I don’t know

The small I don’t knows have been swallowed by the mother of “I Don’t Knows” – which I can only call Mystery. I can make no sense of my life, of the world, of Life. My sense-making mechanisms don’t function normally. It’s not exactly that I lose my senses, my mind, and the defenses that I built upon them.

They are just not the right tool for this I Don’t Know.

 

What does seem to work is this: I rest my head up against the unknown

This unknown is so solid that as I do this, I can actually rest. I am comforted. I relax, physically. There is nothing for me to figure out. I do not need to listen in the way I’ve thought of listening. I do not need to open my heart or even be concerned about whether it is open or closed. There is neither pattern nor meaning to seek out. An open mouth. No words. Neither are words precluded nor actions hindered. Just my head resting up against the unknown, on the shoulder of a rock-solid friendship.