finding meaning

dbl choc banana bread

Today was the first most ab-so-lute-ly gorgeous day of the year. I’ve been leaving the door open for the cat so that she can venture outside at will.

Earlier a bee had come in through a small cracked window (we don’t have window screens on any but one window upstairs) and was buzzing frantically as it bounced between blind slats and glass, trying to crash its way out. I wasn’t sure how to get it outside – the window, as a safety measure, has a locking device that allows it to only slide open so much, which must be unscrewed and pushed along the window rail to allow for a wider opening. With a frustrated bee buzzing around, I wasn’t sure how I would manage to get the window open enough, and I didn’t want to squish it. Somehow I managed to push it open enough for there to be a good gap for the bee to make its escape but it was not moving toward the opening. I utilized my trusty plastic glass and index card method of catch-and-release. As soon as I tipped the cup toward the opening and removed the card it zipped out the window.

After enjoying the quiet of the house until mid-afternoon, a lot of that time spent perusing Pintrest, I stepped outside. With book tucked under my arm, I unfolded my picnic quilt and spread it out on the back balcony. In full afternoon sunlight splendour, I read and sunned for a couple of hours. The cat joined me for a spell, nudging my hand for a rub as I sat with my eyes closed, head and back leaning against the warm sun soaked wall. The sky was an impossible blue, clear and cloudless. Although comfortable because of the sunshine, the wind was blowing softly and required intermittent covering when I felt chilled in my short sleeved tee shirt. I breathed in air to my lungs and light through my pores. I can understand why the bees are gathering around the yard these days. The bushes in the back ooze the sweetest honey scent and drifted all the way upstairs without much effort.

I’ve been reading “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up” by James Hollis, Ph.D. Earlier this week I read a blog post from Danielle Laporte, and on my Facebook share of this same link I had zeroed in on this excerpt:

The point is: I was tired of being my version of good.

Because I’ve been good. Let me tell you. I’ve meditated. I’ve prayed. I’ve cleared my chakras and my ancestral ties. I’ve sent positive thoughts, white light, and handwritten thank you notes. And I have purified—my oh my, have I purified. Cleanses and sweats, colonics and karmic cord-cutting. I got rid of my microwave. I feng shui’d my shit into a transcendental temple. You see, I am a pro at better-fying. For the love of God and Buddha and The Goddess, I am a self-help author.”

I commented with the following:

“I’m with ya, sistah.

Yeah… not a self-help author, but I’ve spent so much time, money and energy on “self-help” (and, mind you, helping others self-help, because I’ve done everything from psychic readings – very briefly, online – to carving my own set of futhark runes (in stone, no less, that I gathered along the shores of the ocean, asking for permission from the earth for each reaping of stone), aromatherapy, energy healing, SoulCollage facilitation, body work encompassing everything from lymphatic drainage to deep tissue massage, and shamanic journeying and soul retrieval, not to mention forays into christianity via the Catholic, United, Methodist, Lutheran, LDS churches and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a six-month stint in a ISKCON -that’s the International Society of Krishna Consciousness- ashram, reading scripture from the Bah’ai, Buddhist and Islamic faiths, and soulful searches into heathen, pagan and occult paths (including those that think we’ve been “seeded” with extraterrestrial genomes, and/or the product of nephilim but those perhaps circle back to judeo-christianity, in some weird, convoluted way). My self-help library probably rivals the local public library’s. Oh… and I didn’t have a microwave for a while, but my son was happy when someone donated the behemoth of a nuke-tastic dinosaur microwave because he was once again able to make popcorn, and I, with equal thanks, can nuke my herbal and buckwheat heat pack for when the body aches.

And essentially, it’s true. I’ve tried all the usual (and unusual) ways to make peace with myself and somehow the peace of mind that I have been reaching for is still eluding me. This signals to me that throughout all of my previous efforts, I have merely managed to placate a part rather than the whole of my spirit, and once I’d calmed down enough to allow my ego to regain control, I resumed my old ways of being in the world.

As I’m reading Dr. Hollis’ book, which I recommend to ANYone (everyone?) who is on a journey toward better understanding of self, I am discovering that no matter how well informed I have thought myself to be about myself, I am still very far from being self-aware, and further still from possessing self-mastery, no matter how much my ego wishes it were so (or thought it was so, ever).

I also, as I read deeper into the book (I’m at page 95 of 260, not including the bibliography and index), I wonder whether there is such a thing. We spend so much of our early lives becoming conditioned and then the rest of it running the auto-pilot programs (mostly without noticing them initialize) that even once we become aware of the fact that we are reacting (drawing from previous experience) in a specific way, we seem incapable of creating a newer path. The reaction is instantaneous. It has a physical and emotional component to it that is familiar; it floods our neurobiology and we react. At least that is what I do; I’m sure I’m not alone.

I’m hoping that as I read through this book, tools will be revealed on how to counter these (for the lack of a better, though sadly overused, term) triggers and replace the subsequent reactions with more favourable ones. I wish that I had access to a therapist. Therapy is costly, and, let’s face it, not all therapists are made equal, but I believe that someone outside of ourselves (who is trained to objectively observe, assess and guide) is a crucial element in the making of headway in this area… and man, am I ever ready to make some headway. Seriously. If not now, when?

It is mindbogglingly humbling to realize that every.single.human.interaction. is filtered through this process, bar none. We learn to behave and manipulate our way into accustomed dynamics. I can see it in each and every relationship I’ve ever had, each disconcerting interaction, each unsatisfying work experience, each unfinished project and each yearning for something other than what I’ve had.

So, to return to Danielle’s piece, and my comments to it, yes, I am tired of being on the self-improvement road, and all of the ways in which I’ve endeavoured to discover it from external sources. Clearly, always focusing on what is wrong and ails isn’t where the joy is. But without knowing, truly knowing, what lies beneath the stuff that drives us, the joy can never be found.

Onward, ho…

Oh… and this (whose smell is permeating the whole room and has ten more minutes of cooling, before I can cut into it and sample).

(P.S. The banana bread? Utterly divine….)

5 thoughts on “finding meaning

  1. Leslie

    Again, another well-written piece! I thought I had done a lot of self-help shit, but you have me beat by miles, girl! I think Ram Dass (and currently Eckhart Tolle) put it best: BE HERE NOW. It will all be revealed, sista-Goddess!

  2. theartsyfartsychick Post author

    For some reason, Tolle had never resonated with me… maybe it was because there was a bandwagon and everyone was jumping on it and I have serious issues about jumping in bandwagons (perhaps yet another thing to investigate in my inner world).

    “Be here now” was the key message of Aldous Huxley’s book “Island”. Have you read it? The funny part is that as in the book, as soon as you allow external influences into your inner sanctum, you also lose the ability to maintain a sense of peace, but, by that same token, removing yourself from all external influences has you existing in a separate, illusory, reality. Interesting dichotomy and one I ponder on and wonder whether the twain shall ever be reconciled.

    My interest at the moment is to understand what drives me (well or poorly). I think if the root of the cause is identified, perhaps the effect can be mitigated or transmuted. That’s my hope, anyway.

    Well, my immediate interest is actually brewing some coffee and having another slice of that banana bread. 🙂 Thanks for reading and writing. xo

  3. Leslie

    I understand, somewhat, how you feel about Eckhart Tolle as I was reluctant to find out more about him due to all the “jumping on the bandwagon” bit. But after reading his book, “The Power of Now”, and after seeing him talk on a PBS channel, I was won over. Very sensitive and intelligent human being. On the topic of Aldous Huxley, whose books I enjoyed when I read most of them in the 1970’s, I have not read “Island”. I will see if my little local library has it. 🙂

  4. theartsyfartsychick Post author

    Maybe a used bookstore? Amazon probably has it. I read it long ago, but it stuck with me (though perhaps only more recently have I realized – perhaps erroneously – its underlying message). I was so busy seeking utopia that I neglected to see that it is a difficult dance, at best, to achieve such a state in this world without forsaking its earthliness and all that it means to be in it, which to me defeats the purpose of being in it in the first place. Either area, if out of balance, throws everything off, outside and in.

    I’ve read Tolle (I probably even have one of his books – which I’m sure comes as no surprise). I’ve seen him interviewed on Oprah. I get what he is saying. The issue I take with him (and perhaps, similarly, with Byron Katie, whose work I’ve also read and I’ve even attended a group session with a facilitator) is that of discounting the usefulness of the ego, in Tolle’s case, and in Katie’s case, removing all external responsibility for our internal reactions.

    I understand the need (up to a point) for each of these ideologies, but disagree with them in practice. The ego is a construct that can not be separated from our human functioning and suppressing it (rather than enlisting it to a higher – personal – purpose) is something counterproductive and reaps only temporary victory over all of the “council” – our shadow aspects – that lurks beneath it in our subconscious (but which are a product of the ego, having become separated from it for various reasons throughout our human development). It sounds very much like the kabbalistic equivalent of the creation of the Adam Kadmon during the separation from the ein sof resulting in the demiurge byproduct and physical manifestation.

    Take this all with a grain of salt. I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist, nor have I spent a lot of time with either to see and understand their modus operandii… I have merely been reading A LOT of stuff on these subjects over many a year and have also spent a lot of time in self-examination (perhaps not honestly enough)… not that I’m much closer to solving the riddle of myself, but I am trying and perhaps creeping a little closer all the time, ever so slowly.

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