Apr 23, 2010

Resistance and Listening to One Voice

Since I came back from the School for the Work, I haven't experienced resistance. Resistance is that heavy feeling I used to feel when what I was doing did not match what I thought I should be doing. I felt resistance often. If I had chores to do or a project to complete, I thought about them often during the day and I felt badly because I wasn't doing them when I thought I should. Some things I never did at all and the thought that I should have weighed me down.

For the last three weeks, my days have been flowing effortlessly. I wake up in the morning and wait. I may have a thought about what I will be doing during the day. There may even be a plan or a schedule; but plans, schedules, and ideas are just images that pop into my mind. My mind now understands that they are not real. I don't expect anything to happen until I'm actually doing it.

I notice I'm getting up. I stand and start walking. I follow my body to where it is going. If it's morning a thought may say "you're going to brush your teeth," and it seems likely that that is what I'm going to do, but I don't know for sure until my hand picks up the tooth brush and I'm brushing my teeth. I hear plans: "You should go to the grocery store," or "you should go to your yoga class." To these ideas my mind automatically responds: "that's a nice story…," because I know that ideas about what I should be doing are just that; ideas. I only know they are true when I'm pushing the cart into the supermarket or I'm laying down my yoga mat on the floor. My mind is in a perpetual state of not knowing.

There is a force within me that guides every move I make from the moment I wake up until I go to bed at night. I'm being lived. My only job is to trust that everything will happen as it should without my control. That trust increases daily as I witness how everything is taken care of perfectly and at exactly the right time.

I have somehow surrendered what I used to think was my own will and I'm living in harmony with the script as it comes. It's like watching a movie in which I'm temporarily identified with one of the characters. I'm looking at the script from a particular point of view, but I have no choice as to what will happen in the movie. The scrip with all its possible variations has already been written. The movie has been filmed. I'm just a spectator. The idea that I could have ever believed that I wrote my own script as I went along seems crazy now. I'm pretty sure that most of my suffering came from that one belief.

Experiencing no resistance means that whatever I'm doing is what I want to do. There are no "shoulds" or "shouldn'ts" and no wishes or regrets. Occasionally, there is a thought that opposes what I'm doing, or a judgment thought that creeps in, but it has so little glue that it doesn't stick. These thoughts remind me of how painful life use to be when I believed in them. For these thoughts, I carry a notebook where I write down the thought as it happens and later inquire into its reality using the The Work or, I simply watch the thought as it passes through my mind with a smile on my face as I've been doing for years through my practice of A Course in Miracles.

Thoughts and stories are beautiful! They keep me company. I thank them as they pass for keeping me entertained, but it is clear that they are just stories. I sometimes daydream about how much I might actually get accomplished in this life now that there is no resistance. But then I laugh because I have no idea what it is that I will accomplish. How can I know what I will be doing in ten years when I don't know what I will do in the next five minutes? I laugh because so far this unending source of energy has kept me organizing closets and letting go of bags and bags of stuff I don't seem to need anymore. I wouldn't trade my daily work in the house for anything. I'm having the time of my life. One day I re-potted all my house plants and planted a vegetable garden. I get excited about cooking new things and mixing foods I never knew could be mixed. I enjoy every minute I get to spend with my children. I don't seem to get tired. I yawn and lie down at times, but I haven't yet felt that feeling I used to get when I couldn't wait another minute to take a nap or to go to bed at night.

As I look back at my life prior to this shift, I see that I always did exactly what I was supposed to do in the exact moment I should be doing it. The anxiety I frequently felt was caused by my mind being at odds with what I was doing. My mind had its own ideas of what was right or wrong. It offered constant commentary on everything. If I was tired and slept in, my mind threw a fit because it thought I should be getting up and being more 'productive.' If my back hurt, it was upset because it thought it shouldn't hurt. If I ate too much, it felt guilty because it thought I shouldn't be eating so much. If I was depressed, it thought I should snap out of it.

What happened in my life was my path and though at the time I didn't always realize it, I followed it perfectly. Even what seemed like setbacks to my judging mind; was all necessary and part of a perfectly crafted curriculum. Every problem, every upset, every shred of anxiety and all the resistance I felt were gifts. They reminded me to forgive. Without them I couldn't be where I am.

My only function is and has always been to be in harmony with what is. As long as we argue with reality, we will experience resistance. If we fight resistance we reinforce the false suffering self in us. When we plow through resistance what we are saying is that we know better. And as long as we think we know better, we can't hear the true voice of our integrity.

This does not mean we don't take action; it simply means we don't get invested mentally in avoiding what is. Our purpose is to find joy in whatever it is that we are doing. Sometimes that is not available. The practice that led me to the shift I experienced was that of looking at resistance without judgment. That is forgiveness. It's forgiving yourself for reacting to your thoughts. It's forgiving yourself for making what is illusory, real.

Apr 3, 2010

A new beginning

Long before I found A Course in Miracles, I followed Howard Roark. From the moment I imagined him at the edge of a cliff about to jump, I fell in love with him. I was in my early twenties, and no character in literature has made more of an impact in my life than him. Here's a guy who has just been kicked out of the most prestigious school of architecture for refusing to draw buildings using design guidelines from the past, and yet he is serene, focused and unaffected. He doesn't think about what the future will be like for him without a title. Instead, he goes for a swim. He gets butt naked, climbs up to a cliff and jumps into the lake.

One of Ayn Rand's purposes in writing her novel "The Fountainhead" was to portray the "ideal" man. Howard Roark is the ideal man. He is a man who consistently acts, speaks and designs for himself. He never gives to get or acts to impress. When he speaks, he says what he wants to say. Words for him are tools for communication; not manipulation. He acts consistently with what he wants and needs for himself. Ayn Rand calls him "selfish," and in her world that is the ultimate compliment.

Yet Howard Roark is one of the kindest men in literature. Because he doesn't need anything from anyone, he also expects nothing. When he helps, he demands no gratitude because he helps for his own sake. His integrity can never be sacrificed. As a result, he offers the highest form of help possible, which in Ayn Rand's words is to recognize other's "own independent value."

Howard Roark cannot be hurt by people or circumstances because he gives them no power to make him happy. His happiness comes only from his personal achievement; from doing what he is born to do. The first line in the novel is: "Howard Roark laughed…….He laughed at the thing which had happened to him that morning and at the things which now lay ahead." From that point on until the end of the 727 page novel, he keeps on laughing and smiling as he faces adversity because no matter what happens to him – and a lot does – he is free.

After his swim in the lake Roark goes into the world to practice architecture. In early twentieth century New York City he is way ahead of his time. He is labeled a "modernist" and throughout the novel he is abused and condemned by a society that is not ready for him. Yet, no matter how difficult the situation gets for him – several times in the novel he loses everything - he cannot suffer because his core belief is that nothing can hurt him. He knows that his body might be hurt or inconvenienced; he may become poor or even be thrown in prison; but he understands that a man can only hurt himself by giving power to the world to hurt him.

At one point in the novel he says to his friend Steven Mallory: "I don't think a man can hurt another, not in any important way. Neither hurt him or help him. I really have nothing to forgive…." Roark understands that he can't forgive another man because a man can't hurt him in the first place. How can he forgive someone for something he didn't do?

Over the last eighteen years, I have struggled to reconcile my love of Howard Roark with my practice of A Course in Miracles. I understood partially and only for brief moments what one had to do with the other. Last week I had a revelation which took me back to Howard Roark. I awoke to the realization that there is nobody out there to do things for. There is only one and that one is me. For the first time in my life I felt deep love for myself and as a result, for everything I see. I experienced this will rise within me that allowed me only to speak and move for myself.

This force that directed my actions made it impossible for me to do anything with the ego's motive which is to seek love, approval or attention from others. For two days I couldn't speak, move or even smile for other people's sake. Speaking or moving outside of this new found integrity felt like deep betrayal and I wouldn't dare betray it for the sake of others. Following this Will that guided my words and actions, I understood, was the end of suffering.

When this happened I was in a program called "The School for the Work," by Byron Katie. People noticed me and interpreted what they saw as a sign of grief. They were kind to me and offered me food, water and comfort. They tried to hug me. They asked me questions. They smiled at me. But I couldn't answer to please them, or to make them feel better. I could only move for myself, speak for myself even write for myself. Those first few hours after my mind cracked open, I was so moved by the freedom I felt, that I cried. I felt drunk with Joy that came from feeling complete. If I had a fear, it was only that somehow, I would choose to go back to doing things for others.

Little by little over the past week I've learned how to act normally again. I look the same and sound the same; the only difference is in purpose. My words and actions are honest because their purpose is not to manipulate. The blessing to others is that if I am with them, I am fully present and not calculating consciously or unconsciously what I might get in return. I'm no longer seeking approval. I have become Howard Roark.

I understand now what Ken Wapnick meant when he said that ultimately you realize that the Holy Spirit is you. When your mind lets go of its identification with the ego you become what you are in reality. Without the ego, you are that mind, which A Course in Miracles calls the Holy Spirit, which knows its true nature. Everything you do with this mind is honest because it does not need anything. This means you no longer reinforce the ego with its dream of separation in yourself or others. The "Secret Vows" which the Course talks about are off. Without the ego's motives, your purpose is only to extend love. And with love you can only be truly helpful.