Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 637 – Day 641)
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the choice between victimhood and piloting our blood filled vessels of the soul toward our life’s purpose. Let me say that the choice to live a life of purpose is not always an easy one. For whatever reason, the more we live in alignment with our values, the more we can attract hostility from others.
Perhaps it is what psychologists refer to as the “change back” response. When one makes changes in one’s life, family and friends can become disoriented and feel threatened by the changes and the first response is to try to get one to “change back.” Sometimes, one’s changes are threatening to others because they draw other’s attention to areas of their own lives that remain unfulfilled. And sometimes, it is simply one’s conviction, that brings about challenge. In any case, it would be a lie to say that living a life of purpose is smooth sailing.
This week I have encountered hostility from unexpected places. Were I rooted in equanimity, I would navigate the waves with ease. I am not always so firmly rooted.
Defence is a natural instinct to an attack. But this is probably an amygdala response from the very old part of our brains that still thinks we might be eaten by lions. When the attack is a personal attack on one’s way of being in the world, defence is an unhelpful response because, in taking a defensive stance, one gives power to the attacker. We must not justify our existence. Our existence, our beliefs, our choices and our privacy need no justification.
I fell into defence briefly, this week, on Facebook. It wasted my time, and it wasted my vital energy. I had somewhere to be and my preoccupation with defence left me rushing to get to my appointment. It occupied my thoughts for almost the entire trip. A person grounded in equanimity would not have defended themselves or carried the attacker in their mind. But I am human. Fortunately, during the journey, I recognized my response for what it was. I took care of myself, without justification. But it made me sorry for all the lost vital energy that I had allowed the incident to rob from me.
When I arrived at my destination, more rough seas ensued.
I have been floating on the edges of a spiritual community for the last 10 years, enjoying the community whilst practicing my own similar, but distinct, path. When I first came to their meetings, I was the youngest in the room and everyone was at least 15 years older than I was, at the time. Even the leader said it was a path for the more mature seeker.
I had come from a yoga circle in New York that was mutli-generational, but I found that beyond that circle, yoga was really the preserve of the 18-25 year old yoga bunny. I wasn’t interested in fitting in with the yoga bunny crowd, but neither did I fit with the older circle of this London based spiritual group. Ten years have passed, and I am now nearly the age of the next youngest in the group, when I first met them. Somehow I felt I finally grew into the group.
Just as I came to feel this, the group dynamic changed. Leadership is changing and the focus is radically shifting toward those under 30, and the work of the group is largely excluding the rest. In the words of the new, 30-something leader, he is “focussing on the future and people under 30, because they are the future.”
It struck me as a very linear view of time, and an odd way to transition leadership.
It is darkly amusing that just as I feel I have reached the maturity for the path, the path changes and I am no longer in the desired demographic. And, sadly, those who have been on the path for decades seem furious at feeling discarded and useless. I can see the dynamics of an irreparable rift and a split taking shape. I have witnessed two spiritual communities that splintered and split when leadership changed. Neither felt as tumultuous as the energy in the room, this week, as the new leader came to meet the group.
I am a little saddened by what I heard in the meeting, but am grateful for the clarity that I have. This spiritual community has served its purpose, for me, and it is time to move on. I am also grateful for the clarity to recognize and stop defending my way of being in the world and to let go of those who would attack me for who I am. And, I am grateful for the wisdom of Swami Satchidananda, my yoga master. He used to say that one must not judge a guru by his followers. I extend this statement to the concept that one must not judge that thing greater than ourselves by the actions of the individuals that make up the whole – guru, follower, friend, family and non-believer alike.
The day of the meeting was a particularly rough one, but I am joyful today to see early morning sunshine. Whenever one is in the midst of a group at war with itself, it may feel difficult to remember Oneness, if one doesn’t also remember that it is ego and personality that creates war, not the eternal part of oneself. And it is in the eternal where we are all One. My service today is to bless those who welcomed me into their group and to move on and chart my own course, remembering always that they have been an essential part of my journey.
What is the greater meaning in all of this?
I suspect that the artist, the mystic, the ecologist, the healer, even the economist…anyone who is looking to live a life of purpose..can never really be a follower of anything other than Truth. A bird pushes its young out of the nest, in order to teach it to fly, and if one is lucky, one will get pushed out of any nest that becomes too comfortable. Making the choice to be independent must also include the choice to be independent of the opinions of others.
This can make the seas one navigates seem stormy and treacherous as people attack and exclude. Solo navigation on rough seas is not for everyone.
But it is the hero’s journey.
I don’t recall a single hero, in literature, that wasted much time justifying their journey. I don’t know a single hero that didn’t have to lose sight of land, home and companions. And I don’t know a single hero in literature that didn’t go through a series of tests, fail some, get lost, and have to face their fears and abandonment as they journeyed through the dark.
But I also don’t know a single hero that, having come to the end of their journey, ever regretted it.
I know that there are many of us out there navigating rough seas in our own ships, trying to find our way. It may help to remember that although the sea is vast, we are not alone. Perhaps one day, we will meet, and share a moment in some harbour, before we set sail again and weather the storms.
For what are you grateful, today?