I have discovered a great and vast Ocean…and I haven’t walked a step…♥
Sometimes a person needs a period of intense suffering to obtain clarity, focus and the proper understanding. In this way it is a gift, one that gives music its harmony and the dance of love it’s rhythm. All you have to do is be open to its message and receptive to the change.
Writing for me is therapeutic. It has also been one of the purest and most honest methods by which I communicate. It is impossible for me to be dishonest when I write, and it is impossible for me to give anything less that 100% of myself when I offer my heart in written form. I am grateful that my Creator has seen fit to give me such a vehicle with which to share parts of myself with others, and in some small way perhaps help someone in the process.
I have been told that when I write it’s “just words” as if words themselves are what I write. It’s like telling an artist that their creations are “just paint” or a sculptor that their masterpiece is “just marble.” I am sure the process I use to share bits and pieces of myself are similar to that used by many creative types. I have a moment of inspiration and simply sit down and create it in written form. This usually occurs without thought or editing but with a tremendous amount of openness and honesty.
Over the last year, I have made great strides in using that openness in my everyday relationships. I was once a closed person emotionally. I kept my feelings private until they reared their ugly head in the form of anger. When I was sad, I expressed anger. When I was wrought with fear, I got pissed. When I felt wasn’t sure of how I felt, a temper tantrum usually erupted. Anger gave me a bit of an edge and acted something like a security blanket for me. I felt safe and powerful when angry, so by creating anger from every other emotion it provided me with a “buffer” where I would not find myself in a “weak position” emotionally.
That was, of course, unless I was writing. There, I could express my fears, pain, instabilities and doubts honestly and openly. Writing has always been that type of release for me.
Needless to say, my emotional disconnect was not something that led to wonderful and long-lasting relationships unless those relationships were built predominately on the physical. It took a remarkable woman to convince me to open up and be more honest about my feelings, and although it took years to finally “get it” I find myself completely open and honest about my feelings, sometimes to the point of being told I am nearly TOO honest and open. I simply can’t help myself though, I have become an honest man and an honest man has trouble lying about anything.
My hope is that as an open book I can share something that can help someone prevent the type of pain I have experienced. Now while I don’t have any need or want to continue to discuss my past or the suffering I have experienced in it, I do have a need to share the finer points of honesty. We need to be honest not only with those in our lives, but with ourselves.
(Excuse me, but my dog just farted and I need to tell her how she utterly stinks.)
Ok, back. I am still gagging a bit, but the dog must surely understand how much she has stunk up this room. Ok, the truth is that she obviously has no idea what I am talking about, because she just did it again and, yes, I am gagging once more. Too bad she doesn’t have a dog to blame…
Now back to the subject. I write mostly for me. If someone likes what I have written, that’s awesome. It means they’ve taken the time to read it, and that somehow somewhere I have effected them with my experience. The appreciation of others, however, is not mandatory for me to sit down and share a moment of inspiration with the world. I do it for me and for some chosen few that inspire me. I believe that when I write something with someone in mind, I am sharing with them the most honest and most pure part of me. There is no question in my mind that when I am done that what I have written is the best part of me. It’s what makes each article, essay, poem and thought I write “special” to me.
So, I have shared this in the hopes that if you have ever wondered about the integrity of what I have written you can stop. To those who have questioned my honesty, you may now go back to questioning WHY you doubt the veracity of my creation. I’ll simply just continue sharing until the moment the Creator decides to end such ability.
Be well, all of you, and please accept this piece of me with an open heart, open mind and with open arms. I have to now go back and proofread my article and figure out exactly what it is I have written. Up until now I truly have no idea. 🙂
Today I feel as if I want to start my journey anew. I want to shed the burden of the past, end the silly roles and games that have been played far too long. I want to explore this life, feel its beauty and know its Love. I want to embrace it all.
Through the suffering of great pain I am finding my Self. Through the stripping away of the “me” I thought was there I am finding the me that was always there. Through the haze of a life lived in fear I have found the beauty of Love. I have discovered and rediscovered friendships that have shown me the power of acceptance and Love. I may feel rejected by some, but the embraces I have experienced in their stead have shown me a new kind of Light and for that I am grateful.
I will Love, and be that highest vision I have always sought. I will be who I am, and in that perfection know the touch of love as if for the very first time. I make no excuses, I seek nothing but that which I am, and trust that will be good enough for those who will do the same.
One day I may see you across a stream, and we both can smile in the knowledge that even though we are on different paths, each one is the perfect one for us. If our paths do cross again someday, we can know that such a crossing is, too, perfect.
When I was but a wee lad (that’s the Irish in me) there were many difficulties facing me. Those difficulties translated themselves in tough times both behaviorally and socially. This was, of course, no more evident than in my school life.
Needless to say, the fact that I was having a very tough time was an understatement. Yet, through it all, there remained this tough old nun (I went to Catholic school) who was there for me in some of the darkest moments of my young life. Her name was Sister Assumpta, and although she was tough I have yet to meet a person who offered such unconditional love to me as she had. In some ways she was a savior to me, and although it took many more years for my savior to arrive, she was there to do her best in guiding me through a time when I was utterly alone.
So, in this post, I wish to honor her, and you, with a story and explanation. The story is one that she told me during one moment when I felt an intense anger and was suffering horribly from it. This moment was a harbinger of things to come, but in this instance she was there to try to light a different, truer, path for me. It is with tears in my eyes with love in my open heart that I offer you this memory in honor of a loving woman who will live eternally in my Soul.
A monk was walking besides a river swollen with torrential rains looking to see if there was anyone he could help. As he scanned the raging river, he noticed a scorpion struggling to stay atop a boulder. It was surely going to be swept away as the river rose.
The monk noticed a tree near the river’s bank that offered a sturdy branch reaching out directly over the scorpion. Without hesitation, the monk climbed the tree, shimmied across the branch, and reached out to grab the scorpion as a large crowd gathered to watch.
Each time the monk reached out, the scorpion would sting him. Still, the monk persisted until finally, after many, many tries, he successfully grabbed the scorpion and carried him safely to the shore. The amazed crowd watched as the monk let the scorpion go, staggered, and fell at the base of the tree surely to die.
“Why would you kill yourself to save a scorpion?” someone in the crowd asked. “Surely you would know he would sting you and you would die!”
“Of course I did,” said the monk. “Yet just as it is the scorpion’s true nature is to sting in fear, it is my true nature to serve in love. We were just being true to Who We Are.”
And with that the monk died, a free man true to his Self.
Now, I altered the end a little to more fit my current understanding. I simply added those seven words that, to me, sum up the moral of the story. What Sister Assumpta was trying to tell a young boy losing himself in sadness, anger and chaos was to not lose sight of the true Self. Even then I understood what she was trying to say, but at that stage of my life I wasn’t sure who my true Self was. It seemed my true Self was the one getting me beat at home, teased at school, and in trouble everywhere. I simply did not have the tools or the experience to take that understanding and do something with it. Frankly, those few moments with Sister Assumpta just were not enough to stem the tide of the raging river within me. I eventually changed from being the monk to the scorpion and back to the monk again.
Actually, in my current understanding, I have always been the monk, the scorpion and the crowd. Those experiences are “who I am” in this lifetime. Today, however, I understand I have a choice. I have no need to protect myself. I have no need to cater to fear. I have no need to worship the ideas of who you are or who I am; I simply have the understanding that we are truly no different except in those meaningless ideas. In those moments when my ego rears up I try to go back to that scared and angry little boy. I see the smiling face of Sister Assumpta as she grabs my cheeks in love to share some light. This time, however, I smile back and tell her, “thank you, I understand, and I love you too.” Those moments of focus are coming quicker to me now as the hold anger has over me evaporates with the ideas that spawns it.
See, the scorpion allowed the monk to be who he was in shining glory. “No greater love is there than when a person dies for his friend.” In return, the monk allowed the scorpion to be who it was. Both allowed the crowd to be who it was. All accepted and none suffered.
I love you. I can’t help it. Even when the scorpion decides to sting (both when I am the stinger and the stingee) I love. As my mind conjures up ideas about you and yours about me, we both love each other in ways we simply have yet to recognize. I have to find ways to recognize that love in myself and express it to you. That’s the light that needs to shine. If Sister Assumpta tried to do anything it was to shine a light for all to see, and I will be eternally grateful to a woman who can still inspire a warm feeling of love within me.
Anyway, I hope this foray into memory and love had some meaning to you. I look forward to seeing your light shortly. Peace!
“There is no way to be truly great in this world. We are all impaled on the crook of conditioning. “ ~James Dean
There’s a certain magic in that quote. It tells an entire story in two sentences. Even those few we cherish as “great” are only so because we allow a certain perspective to dictate to us who and what they are. Change your perspective and they cease to become “great”. George Washington and Gandhi were not “great” people to the British of their time. Mother Theresa was not “great” to the starving hordes in Northern Africa. Jesus was not “great” to the Sanhedrin or the Romans. Republicans are not great to Democrats and vice versa. It simply is a matter of how you choose to see something.
I often use the Hawking example of the “ping pong ball on a train” applied to my spiritual practice to understand perspective (a view by which we cast all judgment) so that I can extrapolate the effects of perspective, conditioning and attachment on our reality. Here’s
this analogy in all of its glory:
There is a ping pong ball sitting on a table on a train in a way that causes it to sit perfectly still. The train, however, is moving at 65 miles per hour.
To some people conditioned to be ON the train, the ball is not moving, never moves, and remains perfectly still.
To others conditioned to be on the side of the tracks, the ball is moving at 65 mph as it whizzes by.
Each has its own perspective because of its own conditioning. The ball is still a ball, but when we add ideas of conditioning to it we create a “moving ball” or a “ball sitting still”. If each is unwilling to waver from its perspective we have the conditions for war, violence or, at the very least, anger and fear.
Yet, each is right in their observation. Where they make a fundamental mistake is when they attach themselves to their idea of what they see or have learned and not what is REAL. The reality of this example is that there is a ball and an Observer, plain and simple. If they could agree that there is a ball then the BELIEF about the ball becomes MEANINGLESS! After all, all one has to do to change the way you see the ball is to change the view. (Change the world by changing the way you see the world.)
They would not have to add phrases from a book (in this case any religious text) that
proves they are right and the other is wrong. They would not have to create “wickedness” in others who see things differently. They could simply “allow” the description by simply not needing one in the first place. (Those who know do not speak and those who speak do not know.)
In this analogy, no one has actually seen the ball. These people have READ about the ball and what it is doing. For the purposes of this post, the book says that the ball is moving.
Now because these people (we will call them Xtians) have never seen the ball but only have a book to rely on describing what the ball is doing (or was doing), they have created “faith” to ensure that the countless generations of conditioning that taught about the moving ball remains intact. They can’t prove the ball is moving, or that the ball even exists, yet this faith allows them to not only believe in the ball and what it is doing, but also condemn those who either don’t believe in the ball’s existence or have different conditioned ideas about what the ball is (or was) doing. After all, their parents taught them it was moving because they themselves were handed down the countless generations of conditioning that have gone into creating this “faith”.
In this example, the Xtians not only have created an idea of right and wrong, but are using someone else’s idea to do so. They are taking someone else’s experience or inspiration and making it necessary for everyone to have it. It isn’t real, it’s an imagined idea of an experience someone else had thousands of years earlier MADE real in order to support their own conditioned thoughts.
They could point to verses in that book that allowed for the conclusion that “I am right, you are wrong, the ball is moving,” and “I will be saved and you won’t be because I believe the ball is moving”. I mean something supreme told them that the ball was moving (or is), right? The book said that anyone who said the ball was still was a false prophet!!! BEWARE but remain hopeful because a savior is coming to prove to everyone that the ball was, in fact, MOVING.
The faith in the book itself would keep you from experiencing the TRUTH about the ball. You would not be able to experience the ball as still because, frankly, you could not get out of your box long enough to have the experience. So, you could not say for sure if the ball was moving or not, you’d just have to have faith that it was. Experience would be secondary to the conditioning and the belief in you it created.
Silly, huh? When you achieve a level of consciousness that allows you to experience the ball as moving and still, either idea becomes equally meaningless and equally valid. Ultimately though, it is not as important as the experience itself. You die when you stop having the experience of existing, and strict adherence to any religion, dogma or belief (religious or otherwise) is a death experienced by those who have forgotten their own breath. Once we start honoring experience as the basis for our purpose, we not only live for the experience but also find a deep desire to let go or it in order to see the sunrise as if for the very first time. Experience is dynamic and ever-changing, religion is not.
There is MUCH value in religion. It removes people from horrible darkness and debilitating despair as well as providing the impetus for humans to come to a deeper understanding of who we are. However, religion seems to be the “puberty of spirituality”, that stage of development that allows us to learn about ourselves in tremendously unique ways while still only being one stage of many. Unfortunately, it has been our history that we stop developing at this pubescent stage. We find comfort in religion, particularly if our parents are the ones who indoctrinated us into it or if it has pulled us out of some deep abyss, and remain in this stage rather than mature beyond it.
Religion is nothing more than an experience. You have it, and then you should let it go. Or else you begin to have the experience of stagnation as you live like a veal-calf in a box. You soon forget how to walk, and become so soft as to be desired by wolves. It would be like finding comfort on the seat of a roller coaster and never getting off to experience the rest of the rides.
Now, before you decide that I am judging religion while demonizing judgment let me just suggest to you that I am offering a unique way to describe my experience of religion not only from the inside looking out but from the outside looking in. I am not JUDGING, I am DESCRIBING. I am describing the ball while I was standing by the tracks and now as I stand on the train. I am not saying I am right to you, I am simply describing what I have experienced which, of course, makes me right to me.
In my experience, religion gave me a grounded understanding of my society’s morality, or at least a rosy picture of it. It also seemed to create a lot of society’s inner turmoil. Because of that, it remained for me just a step toward higher levels of consciousness. There was no comfort in the religious stage, only questions that would force me upward and beyond the confines of a book that taught me that ball was moving. I needed to experience it, to know it, to feel it and to understand it and then fortunate was able to let it go. In doing so, I stepped out of its confines into an experience that hasn’t stopped pushing me into deeper and more meaningful levels of understanding. Religion was a gift for me, it got me to a point where I wanted something it could not offer. It has also been a curse because it has cost me friendships and countless hours of guilt and fear as I began growing away from it.
So when someone says to me “you are wrong, the ball is moving” while unfriending me on Facebook because of what I see (or how I describe what I see), I can simply say “yeah, I saw that once too and this is what I saw once I stepped onto the train.” I now focus only on the ball, and keep my “eyes” firmly fixed on it as I let go of all the ideas I have created about what it is, what it does and how it does it. I simply experience the entirety of the ball, and have found something very powerful in this focus.
The ball does not exist. But that’s for another story…
To see me do a downward facing dog is to see the Hunchback of Notre Dame looking for a fallen quarter. I’m not sure what to call my triangle pose, but the word “triangle” isn’t exactly an accurate description. What some call a yoga workout, I would call a comedy routine with me as the headliner.
Surely I am being a bit hard on myself. After all, it was only a year ago that I thought the ad on elephant journal for “hot yoga teachers” meant
you had to be hot to be a yoga teacher. It was about two months back when I decided it was time to be able to actually scratch my own back. The time had come for me to bring my spiritual practice into my physical practice.
The interesting part to this is that I am actually pretty strong. I have lifted weights my entire life, building up an impressive number on nearly all strength lifts. In the nearly 30 years of most continual weight training, I never stretched and never put much importance on flexibility. I wasn’t injured often, and frankly never had the nagging pulled muscles that others I knew (who did stretch) had. “Stretching is for sissies” was my motto.
I used to box when I was in my early 20’s. My trainers used to scream at us for lifting
weights. “Weights make you tight”, they would yell, as they tortured us for touching the iron. They would follow that up with “and stretching is for sissies”, just to make sure we got the point that stretching would be unnecessary if we just didn’t touch the weights. Still, I couldn’t stay away from the iron, I loved the way it made me feel and look. Ah, the ego and its wacky ways of getting you to see the world!
Today, I find myself laying crumbled on the floor after an hour of yoga saying “weight lifting is for sissies”. I mean I have done some strenuous workouts in my day, but nothing
like the types of postures Vinyasa Yoga has put me through. It’s pure torture, particularly if you push yourself like you do with iron. True, the “no pain, no gain” motto, that once defined my workouts, is completely obsolete today, but there is still an inner drive that pushes me beyond where I think I can go. For some, that may seem appropriate, but for me, in my understanding, it is something I need to work on.
My question to whoever will answer is “can inflexible, old muscleheads be Yoga teachers?” Maybe I can’t be a “hot” yoga teacher (it still makes me laugh), but can’t I provide others with some insight while they help me gain my body back? Can’t I become flexible and flowing despite my obvious inflexibility and lack of grace?
Are there others out there who have come from the same place?
Ok, I get it. I said “question” and have asked four. It’s just that my yoga instructors are all so flexible and lithe and I am so rigid and “blobby” (my word, not theirs). Is there
a place for guys like me in the yoga teacher world? You can’t fault a guy for asking. After all, I feel like a football player, leaving the field wondering if he can teach ballet. The idea seems ludicrous but the idea is still there gnawing at me like a hamster on an acorn holding a barbell.
Anyway, I will continue to practice. I do love what it does for my body and how I feel afterward. I feel stronger as a result. I can only see me continuing the practice because of what it does for me physically, mentally and spiritually. My meditations are awesome after a sequence, they spring alive in the union yoga itself provides. Of course I realize that asanas are just one-eighth of yogic practice, but it is the one-eighth I have been ignoring all my life.
I look forward to any responses out there. Be well, find peace.
Ok. You have to listen here. Not because I tell you to but because you want to. Wait, I take that back. Listen because I am telling you to, or because you love to see a grown man beg.
Yes, I am about to beg. In the tradition of Buddhist monks I am going to walk into the world with a proverbial bowl and two robes to begin this journey. Like Adam and Eve before the apple I am going to bare my Self. No fig leafs, no shame, just a verbal question to you all that follows up on the true action I have been asking the Universe.
“When will I no longer be an ‘aspiring’ writer?”
See, I have no formal training in the art of writing nor have I any real experience except in my hobby. What I do have is an innate talent and a great desire to write. I love pulling that part of me inside that hides out into the open and sharing it with the world. Writing is me at my most vulnerable, my most honest and my most real. It is the Self exposed in real time and the moment realized in the absence of time. It is paradise in my midst.
Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, let me say that I have absolutely no writers in my family. Nor are there friends who can share with me the experience or advice necessary for me to engage in my love of the written word. So, I have asked the Universe to become a writer. Again, I don’t ask the Universe in words for something which is, to some, ironic given my love of words. I ask in action. So, I began writing on my blog and then for elephant journal.
In this activity, the feedback I am getting has been tremendous. Emails, Tweets, posts, messages, texts and whispers in my ear all tell me “you should be a writer!” Um, ok. I appreciate the Universe answering me this way as it certainly has given me a push in some direction, but I have absolutely NO idea how to go about being a writer. Or at least feed my family while doing it.
So, now I ask the Universe by writing and, in the process, ask the fine readers of my blog and elephant journal “how do I become a professional writer?” To those volunteer firefighters (like me) out there who think the world “professional” doesn’t mean “paid”, I am speaking intently on getting paid to write (the volunteer firefighter thing will just have to wait for another post). What is the process? Who should I contact? What should I do to make a living doing what I love?
As you can see, I am not just asking for the process of writing. That much was given to me just after the sperm met the egg as well as the countless hours of practice I have had since. What I am asking is much more complicated, and any advice anyone can provide would be greatly appreciated and welcomed. For those who earn a living sharing their thoughts in written form, you know exactly what I am talking about. I hope you can share with me your experience and your suggestions.
Ok, now I can put my clothes back on. It was a bit chilly anyway. At least that’s the excuse I’ll give.
Thank you for your time and your help, as I know some of you will invariably be drawn to help this wondering soul. I can’t wait to get started, and look forward to a much clearer path ahead.
Be well, stay safe!
The path we walk is divided by a fork, and we choose which path to take.
One one side is the path of ideas. On this path, we choose to be known and to know by the ideas we assign to whatever reality we have created. Color, creed, race, nationality, and ideology are used to determine value, worth and condition. Borders become a method of separation. Monetary status becomes a representation of worth and the measure of effort. This is the Path of Impermanence.
On the other side there is unconditional love. There are no borders. There is no color, creed or nationality. There is only the love you have for another human Being. You serve and are served, you give and you receive, and you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You are guided by a much more permanent source of inspiration, and your measure of effort is not made by monetary success, but in the waves of love and alleviation of suffering you have left in your presence. This is the Path of Eternal Life.
The good news? The Path of Impermanence is, well, impermanent. You can leave it whenever you make the choice to do so. No words are necessary, you simply need to give in to that part of you where Unconditional Love resides.
Will you join me on that path? You need not be perfect. You need not share any ideology with me. You simply need to love thy neighbor, and you simply need to have a willingness to show it not with ideas and judgments, but in action.
My friend Terry Hodgkinson sent me this through Facebook. It was certainly worthy of sharing.
Dream of a butterfly
The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamt that he was a butterfly fluttering here and there. In the dream he had no awareness of his individuality as a person. He was only a butterfly. Suddenly, he awoke and found himself laying there, a person once again. But then he thought to himself, “Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?”
©2010 Thomas P. Grasso All Rights Reserved ☮ ℓﻉﻻ٥ ツ