Saturday, June 18, 2011

Follow Your Heart

Yeah, that doesn’t work. At least not for me.

There was an issue I’d been mulling (read: twisting, turning, obsessing over) for a while, trying to see how best to proceed. As so often happens, no clear vision was presenting itself in a nice, neat package. (I’ve noticed that obsessing rarely results in clear visions or neat packages, which makes me wonder why I do it so often…) Lists of pros and cons weren’t helping, and trying to see from different view points was just leading right back to the (annoying multitude of paradoxical) elements that I already knew.

So I decided on a regimen of yoga, meditation and a mantra of letting go as a way out of the morass of my own over-thinking. Letting go of expectation, of the desire for things to be one way or another, of all the coulds and shoulds that were milling around in my head.

It was pretty much an epic fail.

I did actually succeed in letting go of a lot of those expectations and desires; so good so far. And as expectations fell away, a clear course of action began to present itself, a path that had the benefit of being both reasonable to my head and clear (though difficult) to my heart. I could follow my heart, because I (finally) knew what it was telling me.

Only it didn’t work out that way. Head and heart were on board, but I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe. Really. It felt like a 50 lb. weight was sitting on my chest, my shoulders were hurting from pulling inward and I had a coughing fit every time I tried to take a deep breath. And painful, in case I didn’t get that across already. So, do I consider visiting a doctor like any reasonable, sane person might? Nah, I know this reaction of old: it’s what happens every time I try to move down the wrong path.

Well, damn.

All that thinking and obsessing? Yeah, toss it out the window; totally useless. And the whole “follow your heart” thing?  Well, it might be useful if my heart weren’t so very adept at running, hiding, avoiding, and disappearing under a cloud of fear. If I followed my heart more often, I’d end up under a nice big rock, all alone in the darkness. No, the only clear path for me is to follow my instinct, my gut, the promptings of the Spirit – call it what you will, it is the only guide that ever gets me where I need to go. It’s the baseline of every little rock and pebble of spiritual growth that I’ve ever thrown at the stone walls of my ego.

So, I did a 180 and headed in the other direction. I know beyond question that it’s the right one because as soon as I turned that way all that physical pain I’d been carrying for days disappeared. I could breathe again, and a calm peace washed over me – again, a known reaction, but in this case to being where I’m supposed to be.

I don’t really know where I’m headed or why I’m going there. I don’t know if I’m supposed to stay on this path for a day or a week or a lifetime. But then again, it doesn’t matter: all that matters is that this is where I’m supposed to be right now.  And I can breathe easy again.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Things Fall Apart

Will the center hold? That's a question that has been much on my mind of late, in a desperate, damn-I-hope-so kind of way. Because things have been falling apart, and I have a vested interest in seeing that the center does, indeed, hold. I've been lost before, drifting, with no center, no mooring, and no reason to want to find one. The unbearable lightness of being, Milan Kundera calls it, when there is just not enough substance to give you an anchor in this world. No center. I've been there, and it's not pretty; I don't want to go back, but it creeps closer when things fall apart.

And things do fall apart. Cars break down, appliances stop working, houses need repair, families tear apart, relationships founder. Things fall apart, and we begin to wonder, what will be left standing? Will the center, at least a single burning beacon of light at the center, hold?

As I lay in bed one night, worn out but unable to sleep, I suddenly realized that in every direction I looked things were falling apart. Just at that moment, I heard a giant crash - part of my closet had just (I kid you not) fallen apart. It was like a cosmic exclamation point to my realization. Great, at least the universe has a sense of humor. I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry, but hey, when in doubt, laugh.

My question is, what new truth is all this falling apart bringing to me? Or rather, what ancient truth am I being asked to acknowledge? As if I have to ask. As if the answer isn't brought to me in myriad ways at every moment. Things fall apart for a reason: because we must let go of something. The illusion of security, the desire for life to be unchanging, our ideas about ourselves and others, resentments and regrets, the need to be loved - all of these begin in real and vibrant emotion but so often become chains in which we wrap ourselves. And we are called to let go of these illusions and desires for what is so that what will be can come to us.

So I've been working at breathing, letting go, not demanding that things be any particular way. Sometimes that's hard, and sometimes it's so painful that hard sounds really nice. But here's the thing: when I let go, the center holds effortlessly. It's in grasping tightly that the core gets shaken, and in letting go that the perfection of every moment and action and particle of the universe is revealed. Because the truth is that the center will always hold, it can do no other: the center is where God is, and the center is God. The hard part is just in realizing that.