Smile

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I’m not sure when I scribbled this poem on a loose sheaf of note paper (now in the “Final” file along with empty cans and banana peals as all illegible scribbles later clarified end) that suggests there was at one time more to it. Still, it stands on it’s own as a contemplative piece.


Smile

Fall
Through memory
Catching on the web of it
Hurtling through the thick of it

Down
In to the past
Hanged on every word of it
Passing through the heart of it

Hurt
By the act
Bleeding with the pain of it
Shooting past that part of it
To someplace better

sometimes
I find
that stepping to the side
of the ongoing ride
to watch it rolling by
while I
frozen in a space
about the size of nothing
and staring
at the slowly melting something
leaving just the core
while the unreality of it all
falls away
just makes me want to smile

 


 

Image: “Orion” by Liu Yu

Timeless

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Time is as often friend as foe. It flows steadily. Never ending. We can tell ourselves that it is an illusion. That only “Now” exists. But that’s a half truth. Now is the only place we exist but we live in a progression of time. In our human form we have a beginning and an end. We are born, we live, we die. What happens in between is a combination of circumstances and events guided by will or careless indifference and interpreted by intention and understanding or misunderstanding.

I chose to embrace that knowledge some time back. To acknowledge that I had a beginning. That this body will at some point fail. That how I live now is entirely up to me. Not everyone gets that choice. Some are born into short and brutal lives. Some never get the chance to live at all.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I see glimpses from time to time. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the arms of my Beloved. Compassionate days that flow into passionate nights. A flow of energy between us that builds and shares and expands. Perpetual. Timeless.

I want those things.

Time, however, often chooses the pace and, thus, can affect the quality of Now… if we allow it to. Plans made need to be shuffled again and again before they can be implemented and even then I must remain flexible to last second alterations.

This is where I am now: Making the best of unexpected changes. Unexpected changes making the best of me. Guiding the future with intention and understanding with one difference, mutual desire.

Not the base and often destructive sexual or sensual desire of immature love, though certainly that exists, how can it not? I do desire the physical connection of my lover. Intensely. More than that, however, is the desire to give and receive love. Physical. Emotional. Psychological. Spiritual. To create something together under the guidance of those intentions of compassion, connection, union, care, growth, and so much more that I so often describe as simply “love and gratitude” and through those intentions build something lasting. Eternal. Timeless.

Today the flow of Now across which time passes and at the edge of which I exist is both friend and seeming foe. It prevents immediate satisfaction of our goals. Blocks access to the woman I love. But every second that passes brings me ever closer to her and to Divine Union with her. In this it can only be considered friend.

I could focus on the obstacles or focus on the goal. The choice is made easy by these facts:

The obstacles are temporary.

Love is timeless.

I choose love.

 


 

Image: from the “Timeless” series by Moe Shirani

The Four Agreements

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A few readers have asked where my sense of spirituality comes from. What, exactly, do I believe?

Big questions.

Obviously, I believe in the Divine Feminine. I do not share the view of a masculine creator. I call her the Universe but just as often refer to her as God or a number of other names. I will address this as well as my belief in Divine archetypes (i.e. Selene) in later articles.

But what else? A lot. Too much to define in any single reply. So I’ve decided to start sharing some of that, starting with The Four Agreements.

The Four Agreements are a Toltec philosophy written by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is one of the pillars of my beliefs and practices and has been instrumental in my personal growth and change.

Before I describe them and their effect in my life I want to point out that there are no Toltec. Not for a very long time. Most of what we know about the Toltec civilization comes from a scattering of Aztec history which is most often discounted as mythology. The rest comes from the writer Carlos Castaneda who describes them as sorcerers who just happen to share the name “Toltec” with that ancient civilization.

It is upon the back of Castaneda’s work that Ruiz built his name. I guess he saw an opportunity and took it but the truth is that Don Miguel’s work, his philosophy, stands on its own and connecting it to modern mythology detracts from it’s true potential. A potential that has led others, like Heather Ash Amara, to build off it and for me to consider it worth sharing.

So here they are, the Four Agreements:

1. Be Impeccable with your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.”

I can’t tell you how much trouble I have with this one. I understand that our words carry power. Magick, if you will. I try to be impeccable but in the end I have no control over how people interpret what I say.
So…

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

This works both ways. What I do and say is a projection of my reality.

At the core of my beliefs stands the Tree of Life which is represented by the deceptively simple phrase, “As above, so below.”

What I allow into my core shapes me. What is at my core shapes my words and actions.

With that in mind I disagree with Don Miguel on this one point: He suggests we take nothing personally. Not even positive words and actions. I say if it’s good let it in. Just don’t let it go to your head.

And…

3. Don’t Make Assumptions

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”

The rule here is simple: Assume nothing. Not even that tomorrow will arrive.

This includes making assumptions about myself (“I can’t do this“, “there’s no way I can make this work“, etc).

It doesn’t matter if you fail at something if you…

4. Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”

I can not do any better than my best. Sometimes that means asking for help. I’m not very good at that.

The Four Agreements work together. Support each other.

Let’s say that I need to replace the intake gasket on my car:

Before I can say “I can do that” I need to know that I’m capable of it. I can’t just assume I can do it. So I fall back on experience. In the past I have done a good job on similar projects. I have done my best and it worked. Not taking that personal, not allowing it to go to my head because I am aware that changing spark plugs is not at all like changing an intake gasket, I can admit to myself that if I do my best it will get done. Even if I have to enlist the help of my mechanic buddy.

These Four Agreements can apply to everything from fixing leaky plumbing to committing myself to a loving relationship.

I have found that the most profound processes are often the most simple and straight forward. This is one of the most direct approaches to change I have ever used and with just a little practice it becomes second nature.

 

Time and Love

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Time. For many years I thought I would have enough time to do all the things I wanted to do. Hike the Continental Divide. Sail to the Galapagos. Explore pre-Mayan ruins.

For most of those years I literally avoided those things. I put myself in situations that made achieving them impossible.

Today, I want none of them. Sure, it would be great to take 6 months to hike the CDT, but it’s no longer at the top of my list. Something far more important and meaningful is; Love.

At the same time that I was avoiding those physical accomplishments I was also largely avoiding the spiritual as well and there is nothing more spiritual than Love.

For the last several years I have focused entirely on those spiritual needs. Learning who I was, who I am, and who I am meant to be. Learning how to love and be loved. How to embrace compassion. To forgive. To be grateful. All of these are forms of Love.

I’m not saying none of those things existed before, they do in all of us to some extent, only that I learned how to do them right. With purpose. Intention. It’s one thing to love, it’s an entirely different thing to Love with intention.

Loving intentionally means to love beyond the constraints of emotion. It is a deep, spiritual love that affects everything I do from the moment I wake to the last second of my waking day. It is something I share with everyone I encounter. Everyone.

It is a good way to live. Love is it’s own reward.

I won’t regret that it’s taken so long for me to discover these things because I have discovered and learned them  Many people do not.

I do, however, wish I had taken the time to learn them sooner because they have made my life better. Made other people’s lives better.

If there is one lesson above all others that I would share it is this: You do not have enough time. Not for everything.

Nor is it ever too late.

Choose well the things you want in life and from life and to give to life.

And put Love on the top of the list.

The Hermit

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In the Tarot the Hermit stand alone on the top of a mountain with lantern held out to see and to illuminate. He is both student and teacher and he tells us that the answers we seek can be found within.

The card has two basic meanings;

First; the need to withdraw from society to become comfortable with himself.
Second; the return from isolation to share knowledge with others.

Several years ago I decided to withdraw from the world. There were many reasons for doing this. Some of them were valid. Most were not.

One of the biggest reasons I did this is because being alone hurt. It hurt so much that I became a hermit. Funny animals us humans; we withdraw when we feel alone.

I’d like to tell you that in those years I became wise, all-seeing, all-knowing, but I did not. What I did do is learn much about myself. Where I came from and how that affected who I am. How to reconcile my life experiences with where I was physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

When I raised my lantern on those things that shaped me, there were things that came into focus that made me uncomfortable and though they initially made me want to remain in isolation they also became the things that drew me out of it. By examining each act of rage or insolence or passion or love or joy or whatever, without passing judgment, neither good nor bad, but simply as a thing that happened or that I did, I was able to gain a clearer image of who I was and, more importantly, who I was not.

In that process I learned one simple truth: If you want to be who you are meant to be you must first stop being who you are.

Once I gained that clearer view I began the excruciating and liberating job of dismantling who I was and recreating who I was meant to be. I say “recreating” because I have come to believe that we are born exactly who we are meant to be and life, doing what it does best, getting in the way of living, rewrites that person. We may be raised or live in a way that is destructive and damaging or make mistakes or have experiences that reshape that person, but that original person, the ego-free infant with no concept of time or space or tragedy or love or hate or pain, remains at our core. Always there vying for our attention. Waiting to be realized.

This process is never ending. I am complete and whole but my work, examining and re-examining and freeing those parts of myself locked away and learning to become a better person, will never be done.

I chose to release myself from the isolation last fall. For me the process took seven years. It was long and painful and lonelier than I can possibly express but it was worth it. I am beginning to realize that person I was born as. Become the person you see now. I like this person.

This is not the only way to become a fully realized human. Not even close. It was my way and the methods I chose ran a high risk of failure so I won’t share those methods but for me they were worth the risk.

What I will tell you is that it came down to this one thing: Courage.

If you are not who you want to be all it takes is the courage to forget who you have pretended to be. There is nothing more liberating than being yourself.

I hope your own journey brings you home.

 

 

 

One person at a time

 

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As published in Elephant Journal 8/5/17

 

I see a young woman punished by a mind that differs from my own pushing a shopping cart through the dregs of society.

The aisles of humanity staggered randomly like blockades of sheeple that spite or ignore or pretend she does not even exist.

She winds carefully through the labyrinth. A test of the gods. A test of her worthiness that she believes she failed long ago.

I wonder: What test? What god would be so cruel to allow this woman, who carries the spark of the divine itself within her breast, to live like this? Why threaten to extinguish the gift of that spark?

I step in front of this woman, only occasionally glancing behind, and part the cascade of ignorance like Moses in a sea of flesh so she can make her way to the hovel that is her home.

I see a man on a corner with a worn sign that says “will work for food” and I know, without a doubt, that he has neither worked nor eaten in far too long. I watch the constant flow of people pass by like a river of wealth that is just beyond his reach while he slowly dies from dehydration.

I wonder: Why should he work for what the planet gives freely? Why should he be reduced to begging for that which comes naturally?

I step into the closest convenience store, a place convenient only to those with means, and spend what little is left on my debit card to ensure that he will not go another day without that which is his right, and I bring it to him with one request—that if he knows another who has not eaten, he share it. He looks at me and offers a portion, and I gently refuse because I have a job.

I see an old man struggling to carry his meager supplies to his humble home. He staggers under the weight of the few small bags that are his sole source of sustenance for the next month. His “retirement” is barely enough to pay for the two rooms in an ancient building that could, at any time, be condemned and leave him homeless.

I cross the street, add my own bags to his, and carry them all to the crumbling facade which represents the dreams of his youth. Without a word, I leave all the bags, including my own, at his door and walk away in silence as he speaks the only word we shared in those six blocks, “Why?”

I wonder: Where did he work so hard that I can see the memories of his past etched deeply into his face? Why did the system he paid into for so long leave him with not so much as cab fare to transfer a true month’s worth of food? Why would my actions, which seem so natural to me, leave him questioning my motives?

When I return home, I see myself in the mirror: this man that proclaims love, who shares it freely with the hungry, who widens the aisle with his imposing figure and intimidates the sheeple with a glance so the meek can pass, who carries the bags for those who are too weak to carry them, and leaves them with more than they started with—where would he be if not for the love and care of the one person who first offered the very same compassion that he feels for others: his Self.

I see their faces in my reflection. I feel their pain, know their suffering, and, in fact, share it.

Where would I be? Exactly where I am now—with them.

I quietly acknowledge my gratitude to a universe that gave me the gift of this vision and know that I am home.

If you want to change the world, begin with yourself, and then carry that change into the world one person at a time.

~

~

~

Author: J.M. Greff
Image: Pixabay/quinntheislander
Editor: Travis May

Why I write love letters to myself

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“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.“
– Buddha

I love someone. Deeply. With all that I am and all that I will ever be.

I do not know this person. I have never met her. I have no idea what she looks like or how she speaks or walks or where she works or what her favorite color is, but I love her. Deeply.

I sometimes write her letters to express the love and passion and desire that I have for her.

I do this for several reasons;

  1. It helps me to learn how to love her better:
    Writing allows me the opportunity to “review” my intentions. I can look over what I’ve written and see both my strengths and weaknesses.
  2. It helps clarify those things I need to do for myself:
    In reviewing them I see, in black and white, not only those things that I need to do for her, but, since our partners serve as mirrors for ourselves, those things that I should be doing for myself in order to be more prepared to love her unconditionally by loving myself first.
  3. Because the desire to “be loved” is as important as the desire “to love”:
    Desire, though detrimental to living, is a requirement of love. It is only through embracing my desire “for love” that I learn “to love” completely and unconditionally.
  4. Because passion requires an outlet or it will whither and die:
    Passion like any other emotion, is not just something we feel, it is something we express. In writing these letters I learn how to more fully express my passion and that passion, one of intimate love, carries into everything I do.
  5. How I love the person I am with, love being an action and not a feeling, affects all of my relationships from friends to family to the cashier at the coffee shop.

We have all been around people who exude that glow of fresh love. We have all basked in the heat of their passion. Been lifted by the energy of their desire. We have all basked in it.

I love that feeling and I want others to feel it. To benefit from it. I want people to smile without knowing why they are smiling when I am near.

Does it make me a little insane that I want to feel this way even though I am alone? Maybe.

One thing we can all agree on is that love, at least according to my interpretation of mental illness as defined by the Canadian Mental Health Association  as those things “…that affect the way we think about ourselves, relate to others, and interact with the world around us”, is madness.

I accept said madness because it is my hope that in writing these letters, like messages in bottles, to my unknown beloved that she will hear my call, and that in preparing myself I will be ready when she arrives.

 

 


 

Note: I decided against submitting this article for publication several months ago because, honestly, I don’t believe I’m qualified to write self-help articles, especially when they focus on the unusual sort of help I offer myself, but mostly because I lost faith that “she” would ever hear my call. I post it now because it turns out she may have been listening for me all along.