“Living a life sentence by sentence,
learning that every one of them matters,
is a fine rehearsal for retirement because you know so deeply
that the quality of life is a matter of paying attention.”
– Jane Rule
Nearly every morning I write three pages in my journal.
For a little while I gave it up, thinking I probably had enough rites and routines. But somehow life doesn’t feel quite right if I ignore it too long.
Sometimes I try writing with my left hand, painfully struggling to be legible, a reminder to be open and keep a beginner mind.
Most of the time when I am writing, I am barely able to keep up with where my thoughts are going. But at the same time, the physicality of writing helps constrain and focus those very words that thought they were leading, words, which are now being corralled and held and slowed by the pen.
So, although the pen is no longer the servant, it is not the master either.
They are, at the least, equal – a marriage of mind and matter.
This alchemy…this material manifestation of my morning’s written thoughts made visible on paper, and now, transcribed and tapped onto a screen which will then be magically published for anyone in the cyber sphere to read, is a rather heady transformation. That my words can be added to other brains (like yours, dear reader) to be mixed into someone else’s alphabet soup of words and thoughts and ideas is rather, well, crazy.
But crazy in a good way (that is also a little bit fearsome).
Because I feel the responsibility of adding to this universal cyber-soup.
A responsibility that goes beyond who might read this, but also, to myself; a reminder to be accountable for not only what I say, but for what I think.
Still, I also continually remind myself that we are not our thoughts and that I am not me. (You see how I’m all over the map with this stuff? It’s called grappling. I am grappling with this stuff. But please bear with me…).
Someone recently told me a story about their friend’s six-year old. He had been swimming in a cold lake and was standing on the beach, shivering uncontrollably. “You’re cold, ” said the parent.
“No. I’m not cold,” said the boy, “just my body is.”
As adults, I think we often forget this truth; that we are consciousness housed in bodies.
So that, although my mind informs my body and my body informs my mind, out beyond the body/mind complex or ‘me’ is the “I” of ourselves; our very own narrator and observer.
‘I’ observe ‘me’.
The ‘I’ is the timeless and infinite aspect of consciousness that is expansive and limitless and is only temporarily constrained and housed within this perceived solitude called ‘me’.
Then, of course, I wonder what to do with these thoughts, cuz they’re kind of BIG. I can only come to one conclusion: that is, to recognize the transient quality of this life and to therefore endeavour to float more lightly in my very own little life boat.
Consciousness/intelligence/love is what holds all of us in one unified field. And as much as I want to identify only with what is good in the world, I know that I have to include the full range of humanity.
We are all capable of unleashing the power of the good and the beautiful but equally adept at spewing forth the bad and the ugly.
My duty and responsibility is to nourish the good in myself, but to to always do so with a forgiving attitude. It is about progress, not perfection.
Progress for me means to inhabit the best I can of my humanity; to be honest and kind with myself and others.
On the days when I feel the fog of sadness enveloping me, then all I must do is to work on being patient and kind to myself. This is very simple but it ain’t easy. There is a tendency to be pissed off at my ‘weakness’, the kind of ugly self-talk that I would never heap upon a friend.
I try to practise observing those dark thoughts. I tell myself to notice those old words, to observe them and let them go and and move on to try something a little more positive. I get to be my own field study on how to be a kinder and more compassionate being.
With my ongoing homework in Colleen 101, I learn to then take that same hard-won empathy so that I can be kinder to the other people that cross my path.
Because how can I possibly be nice to anyone else if I can’t even provide some fundamental kindness to myself, especially when I’m already feeling a little down and out?
I think this would be easier if we were wearing great big sandwich boards that read:
Go Slow. Be Kind. Work in Progress.
For now, let’s pretend we are wearing those placards.
Meanwhile, I promise to keep doing my homework.