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Gratitude, Gratitude Practice, Meditation, Oneness, Ten Thousand Days

Watching Clouds

January 30, 2020

Photo: Joshua Gresham

Day 1986 to Day 1993

My friend P-asked me if I’ve been painting.  I haven’t painted in over 6 weeks, and I feel guilty.

Another friend asked me last week how my writing was going and she told me I should be so successful with my writing because I was so talented.  I haven’t been writing enough lately, either.  Am I supposed to be flattered or feel like a failure with the fact that I should be so much more successful than I am?  I choose to be flattered and let my own judgement go – as much as my ego will allow me to do.

I watch my friends solving the world’s problems on the international stage and I wonder if I made the right choices and I ponder:  when did I stop advocating for children’s rights and working to end child poverty?  I can’t pinpoint the exact date or moment or choice to take a particular job that started to take me off that course.  All I know is that today, I was thinking back to a former version of myself, which has been lost in the update to my operating system, and I feel guilty.

Maybe it seems noble to feel guilt over how little we seem to have become, despite all this valuable life experience.  I wonder whether the value we place on life experience isn’t a little misplaced.  Surely not all life experience helps us to be what we could become.  That trip to India that changed the course of my studies, the job that took me into climate change and away from child poverty, the economic meltdown that took me to the City and out of sustainability, the breakup of that relationship that left me bleeding for the next few years…are these all helpful life experiences on the road to being and becoming, or do some of them just weigh me down as I drag them from scenario to scenario?  There is a reason they call it baggage.  It’s so darned heavy to carry around.

A friend shared with me, yesterday, a meme that went something like this:  to truly love someone is to grieve, without blame, the death of many versions of our beloved, as they inevitably let their dreams die, let fall by the wayside those traits we found so charming, to be replaced with new traits that may or may not be as charming.  If we only love the static version that we once fell in love with, that isn’t really love at all.  I think it is a very popular form of psychosis, and our need to control our partner into remaining as a single mirage is the cause of ruin in many relationships.  If we are willing to grieve and to face each new day with our partner, trying to see the unchanging soul within them, shouldn’t we also do that for ourselves?  Are we also not beloved? I do believe that we are always the Beloved’s beloved, whose arms are always open wide, waiting for our hearts to turn towards Him so that we can dissolve into Him.  There is no grief in that final annihilation.

I know that there are practical things that I need to change in my life and I’m impatiently waiting to be fully healed and ready to take on those challenges.  I’ve heard it said that one ought to make life’s waiting room into life’s classroom.  That’s all depends on where you’re at in life. Sometimes unlearning is far more important.

When asked if he was a Hindu, Swami Satchidananda always used to reply that he was not a Hindu, he was an Undo.  Osho taught that we need to unlearn all of our conditioning.  On the Sufi path, one is stripped of everything and laid bare in the face of an excruciatingly sublime love.  Oh the spiritual path is not for the person who is piling on the bricks of the wall of their identity and fooling themselves that it is static or even that it is real.  Jesus called upon his disciples to give up everything they knew about themselves and to eschew whatever lives they had built, to turn their hearts towards him and follow wherever he would take them.

My spiritual life is the most important part of my life and yet, sometimes I feel I pay lip service to that idea because I’m caught up in carrying the things of this world.  But, I am tired.  The weight of all this experience is too much to carry anymore.   All the unmet needs from my childhood, all the dreams I’ve left by the roadside, all the aspirations and hopes that I still carry despite all the broken hearts, all the traumatic events of my life, and all the guilt for not doing more – all of it – got set down for a short while, today.

I sat on my sofa and looked at the clouds through the 12-foot window at the end of the room.  And when the light in the sky changed intensity, I sat and marveled at all the values that on other days, I would normally perceive as simply gray.  Watching the clouds, I remembered what it was like to do nothing.  I wondered what it would be like to finally “become” nothing and walk the planet, being nothing.

Whatever I’ve done or not done, been or become, I’ve done my best, and the outcome was never in my hands.  I was reminded that an aspect of my path is to grieve and let go of all the selves that have ever been, the self that I think I am and any selves that I would have ever hoped to be.  Thy will be done.

I’m grateful for the time I spent today doing nothing and watching the clouds.  I’m grateful for all the teachers who have tried to show me the way back Home.  From the day that we are born, we are all in this waiting room of death that we call life.  I am grateful for this deep experience of feeling “burdened” so that I could, in a single moment of watching clouds pass by, remember the waiting room for what it is.   I can set down all this stuff that I carry.  I can cast my attention skyward, turn my heart further toward Him, and yearn to die, as the Sufis say, before dying.

 

Photo: SV Klimkin

 

For what are you most grateful, today?

Art, Articles, Meditation, Music, Nature, Oneness, The Practices

Why I choose Art in times of crisis

November 16, 2015
Inside the Musée D'Orsay, Paris France. Photo by Tania D Campbell

Inside the Musée D’Orsay, Paris France. Photo by Tania D Campbell

In 2001, I was living and working in Lower Manhattan. My boyfriend, my social circle, and my spiritual community were all in Manhattan. It was home.

My home came under attack.  I was consumed by the news.  It ate away at my insides.  And then, I turned it off.

Two days after the attacks on New York in 2001, my boss closed the studio and we went to look at art on the upper west side. I can’t even remember what art gallery we went to that day, but I do remember being on the roof and in the presence of incredible sculptures and seeing a sky not filled with smoke, for a change.

That day began my experience of communion, through art.

The very nature of art is to interrogate our perceptions of reality, to question what makes us human, to strip away all that is unnecessary in order to find the essence.  The ultimate aim of art is simply one thing only: Truth.

 

Truth, it has been said, is the preserve of the artist, the poet and the mystic.

 

Some would say that Truth is also the preserve of religion and the press.   The spin doctors of political agenda use the media to incite and divide the public.  Our press is owned by corporations with profit motives that dictate certain agendas.  Information is delivered in reductionist snippets and hashtags. There is neither discourse nor freedom in most of the ways we consume “news” from the press.  How can a media so constructed deliver the Truth?  I question whether it can ever even deliver the facts.

I have not lost my faith in the power of the word. I do believe in discourse and the power of the word to persuade. I believe in being informed and taking reports from a wide variety of sources. I believe in listening to scholars and experts and in discussing what is being said. But all of that simply delivers opinion.

Oh I do believe in words.  Words, like all art, can approximate the Truth.  But it is not their content which provides our insight.  Words may only have the power to approximate Truth through the ambiguity of the spaces between those well chosen words.

As in music, it is the silences that give words their meaning.

 

As for religion, it has long been the organising force around which wars have been fought.  Religion became the rallying force for a political agenda driven through the media. Since 2001, the combination of religion and the media has lead to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, and violent acts of terrorism in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America.

It remains so, now, as crusade and counter crusade strike a chord of familiarity in our collective unconsciousness, whose shared history is one of bloodshed and violence as much as peace and progress.  Currently, there is a lot of talk about the crusades and apocalyptic thinking of a certain group of terrorists.

I am an Interfaith Minister and I chose that path because I believe in the Truth of Oneness that lies at the heart of all of humanity regardless of belief.  It is a rejection of the divisive power of Religions to embrace all faiths and all paths of light whose aim is to seek the Truth  – including the paths of atheism and of science.    There are some that call this a nonsense path in the face of opposing ideologies born in the Middle Ages.  They are entitled to their beliefs, as well. And beliefs are simply that: they are not facts and they are not Truth.

And the argument goes: But how can we stand aside and do nothing when one side has already set up camp on the battlefield?  It is a good argument, if we look at the logic and the rhetoric and if we choose to believe that our God takes sides.

And yet, setting up battle camps on either side of this line, will surely, with today’s technology of killing, usher in a bloody war that we may well wish would unleash the apocalypse.

 

The mystic knows that in every religion, there is one way to know God. It is not from the pulpit nor on the battlefield.  God, in all religions, is revealed in the silence of the heart.

And if we choose to kill God and all concepts of God, we find that it is in the silence of meditation, contemplation, and communion with art and with nature that we can experience what we might call Oneness.

 

As the world struggles to make sense of an outer existence that has once again shown itself to be chaotic, distressing and unpredictable, I choose to turn off the media barrage and seek the one unchanging Truth of Oneness.

I meditate, I send healing to the hearts of family and friends of the dead and for the passage of the souls of the dead, and of course, I cry.  I make inquiries of friends who have been impacted and I listen.  I select my news and I engage in discourse with a variety of sources.  And, with a meditative stillness, I turn to contemplation and communion with art.

On Friday evening, as events were beginning in Paris, I was leaving the Giacometti exhibition in London.  It was an uplifting and deeply moving exhibition.  In describing his own process, Giacometti referred to the material from which he formed his sculptures as the illusion, itself. He sought to pare down the superfluous to reveal the presence of the living essence of being – not of any particular person – but of us all.

In the spaces between the words, in the silence of our hearts, in quiet contemplation with nature and with art, the Oneness of being calls to us constantly because we are a part of it.  We can choose to enhance its light or to shroud it in darkness by what we bring into our collective unconsciousness, our very essence of being.

 

What will you choose, this week?