Not a failure

The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world.

The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure, instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege.

Marilynne Robinson

Always moving

We are rather like whirlpools in the river of life….[but]..we’d rather not think of our lives in this way, however. We don’t want to see ourselves as simply a temporary formation, a whirlpool in the river of life. The fact is, we take form for a while, then when conditions are appropriate, we fade out.

However, we want to think that this little whirlpool that we are isn’t part of the stream. We want to see ourselves as permanent and stable. Our whole energy goes into trying to protect our supposed separateness. To protect the separateness, we set up artificial, fixed boundaries; as a consequence, we accumulate excess baggage, stuff that slips into our whirlpool and can’t flow out again. So this clogs up our whirlpool and the process gets messy. The stream needs to flow naturally and freely… We serve other whirlpools best if the water that enters ours is free to rush through and move on easily and quickly to whatever else needs to be stirred. The energy of life seeks rapid transformation. If we can see life this way and not cling to anything, life simply comes and goes.

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: Living Zen.

How is your heart doing?

A bit of a repost, but expanded in the prism of the pandemic and the type of disconnect it has caused in life.

We have had so many new technological innovations that we thought would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago. For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”

Omid Safi, The Disease of Being Busy

An experience of emptiness

Each chapter of the Bhagavad Gita concerns a particular yoga. This first chapter is called “the yoga of Arjuna’s despair” and it is significant that the experience of despair is a yoga; despair is often the first step on the path of spiritual life. It is very important to go through the experience of emptiness, of disillusion and despair. Many people do not awaken to the reality of God, and to the experience of transformation in their lives, until they reach the point of despair.

Bede Griffith, River of Compassion