Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Inquiry and Ego

There are moments when I feel my ego rear its ugly head, where my self-protective armor amasses itself, almost unwittingly, seemingly beyond my control.  And then, there's that moment when I sheepishly disarm myself.  Unfortunately, some time passes between these two events, most often.

I realize that in my own life, in my own mind, I provide myself with an endless feedback loop and inquiry into the practice that is my daily life. I am hugely fallible; I over-share; I think things one day that the next I roll my eyes at;  I have to self-correct on a regular basis.  And I continually process and learn.   I wish I could be "right" at some moment.  But, most often, when I think I am, I fall on my face the next day.

My professional inquiry this week has been a mirror of this process, and part of a larger feedback loop that I am providing for colleagues--feedback on performance that (in theory) will be used to deepen and develop more responsive pedagogies to support participants' learning.  And when I hit walls (aka resistance from others), I feel my own ego surface (in the form of "why can't you just take these observations in the generative spirit in which they are being offered?")  And I feel myself succumbing to the same sort of "I'm right/ you're wrong" stance I'm trying to disrupt.  An a-ha moment, indeed.  And one that is not new to me professionally (which makes my knee-jerk, hurt feelings, keep-a-smile- on-the-outside reaction seem even sillier).  This is not my first rodeo; this is not my first experience with "Hey you might want to consider..." that is met with body language that communicates, "Who the f--- are you to tell me what to do?"

From Pema Chodron (who always has the words I need):  Classifications of good and bad come from lack of maitri. We say that something is good if it makes us feel secure and it's bad if it makes us feel insecure. That way we get into hating people who make us feel insecure and hating all kinds of religions or nationalities that make us feel insecure. And we like those who give us ground under our feet.

What I'm learning this week, is that I want to be able to both support people (and myself) in feeling the ground under their feet, even if what I'm sharing brings out insecurities in them (and me), and I am learning that experiences that do not necessarily feel warm and fuzzy, are worth softening into.

When we feel resentful or judgmental, it hurts us and it hurts others. But if we look into it we might see that behind the resentment there is fear and behind the fear there is a tremendous softness. There is a very big heart and a huge mind—a very awake, basic state of being. To experience this we begin to make a journey, the journey of unconditional friendliness toward the self that we already are.  --Pema Chodron

It's a challenging journey; I'd like to continue on this journey without hurting myself or hurting others.  Going to have to keep practicing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Lot To Learn

There is a regular character in my life, who I have named, "the yelling man" (This is not a very creative name, but is apt).   Most evenings (at least those I've been privy to),  around 9 p.m., the yelling man walks down the street near my house and yells loudly at an unknown character (who, from the yelling man's body language, would be walking on the other side of the street if said unknown character actually existed).   This evening, while walking home from dinner with a friend, the yelling man was letting it be known that unknown character "had a lot to learn" followed by a series of expletives, references to karma being a bitch, etc., etc.  It's pretty much a verbatim rendition of previous rants I've heard him offer to the world.  Tonight, though, after looking for the millionth time for the "unknown character" to whom he was speaking, it struck me:  This is an internal monologue made public. [NOTE:  This interpretation could be argued, but since I'm the one with first hand observational data, I will ask you to go with me here.]

I've had a slightly more gentle internal monologue of my own:  one where I realize, that, I both have a lot to learn, and that I'm constantly learning.  I won't call it "progress," (that seems like a silly word in this context) but I will acknowledge that my thinking is getting a lot more spacious.

I've focused for so long on restructuring, reconfiguring, expanding understandings of the narrative arc of my life, that I overlooked the simple fact that I was still operating within the narrative frame that I've been born into, that society has offered me regularly.  Chogyam Trungpa (from his talk "Loneliness, Relationships, and Ruling Your World") says:
"As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel we deserve resolution.  However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution."

Hm.  Yes.  All of that clinging and grasping and trying to rewrite a narrative in order to head toward some resolution that seems palatable?  Yes.  That's been me.  All of my attempts to figure out how to get myself back to a "comfortable" state  (or at least one that seems comfortable) overlooks the very very basic fact that none of these attempts in the past have ever led to anything but temporary comfort, or, as Chogyam Trungpa says more eloquently:  "Scrambling for security has never brought anything but momentary joy."

I'm down with some momentary distractions as much as the next person.  But I've been wrestling around with the temporality inherent in these momentary distractions.  Fun is fun, but it's not an "answer" (as if there was only one) nor is it "contentment"  (something everyone, including myself, is ultimately looking for in some really interesting places and ways).

And then, "We don't deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that.  We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity."
Theoretically paradox and ambiguity are two of my favorite things.  In practice, well, it's a practice to hold space for these states.  I'll gladly continue this practice.  I don't want to cheat myself out of a life of ambiguity.  This requires more than just a shift in my belief in narrative structure.  Shift happens?  (I know, I know, I couldn't resist).

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Returning again and again

...And again.

One of my favorite lines of Buddy Wakefield's is from his poem "Information Man":  "Even at your fucking worst, you are incredible.  So return to yourself, even if you're already there, because no matter where you go, or how hard you try, or what you do, the only person you're ever gonna get to be, and I know it--thank god--is you."

How often do we mistake ourselves and our reality for our mind's imagination of our reality?  How many distractions do we seek out?  I've thought a lot about refuge of late, and the fact that most often we seek refuge in the way we want things to be instead of the way they are.  And in the past weeks?  I've been afforded the luxury, the absolute embarrassment of riches, of finding refuge in the way things are.

I've found refuge in the past weeks in the spaces that have been present all along, but that require me to be able to get my mind and body in the same space so that I can actually see what is afforded me.  I had to get quiet and still enough--to fight my (instinctual) flight response--to be able to see where I am.

This journey to remain still was punctuated by a singular, but not isolated, experience of reconnecting with a best friend--of the past and now the present.  The simplicity of walking alongside someone who knew me in striped tube socks with chlorine streaked hair as the partner in crime who read every book in the school library in elementary school--and was right beside me in the quest.  A friend who knew me again as someone who couldn't quite wrap her head around the small midwestern town that she was plonked into as a teenager (when I showed up in Birkenstocks and flowing skirts in the world of blue eye shadow and permed hair).  And someone who has lived a parallel life all along--and sought out the tough answers all along as well.  For many this might be par for the course, but for military brats, this is not.  The connections and good-byes are recurrent, and the idea that paths will cross again?  Slim to none.  This latest reconnection was not a dwelling or worshipping of the past, but the recognition of the past that has shaped who we are.  It's so rare to be able to celebrate who we are and where we come from in this world.   So often we get trapped in the longing for the past or the constant stories, but sometimes it's so liberating to say, "whoa, we lived through all of that and learned a shit lot."  [Note:  I've determined that "shit lot" or "fuck lot" are phrases that should be used sparingly, but regularly.  I think they communicate quite a bit.]

So, here's to imagination and reality merging.  Here's to the embarrassment of riches we find when we truly inhabit the spaces we stand in.   Here's to no more second-guessing, to moving through, to not clinging, but to knowing who and what is important to make time for.  And breathing through the rest.