A note about my recent posts

I know the reason most of you follow my posts here is because I unfailingly find good in even the most dire situations and that some of my more recent posts have been less than positive. This is done with intention.

I don’t talk as often about the difficulty and pain that comes before reaching those positive conclusions and in doing so I may be misleading or least sugar coating the pain that leads to those ends  but I don’t want to give others the impression that living a life of faith and hope, love and gratitude, is some sort of magic pill that makes everything easy.

There is no magic pill. No amount of meditation or breathwork or metta or exercise or healthy eating or yoga can change that. Life holds suffering for everyone. That is an inescapable fact. Nor would I want to escape it. There is a lot to be learned from suffering.

This is not to say that I actively pursue it. Just that I refuse to allow it to make decisions for me.

Having a positive outlook, living in faith, finding gratitude in even the most unbearable situations, are things that are cultured and nurtured. It isn’t natural instinct for any of us.

So here I am, in dire straights, and rather than share only the positive thoughts that are always there, even in the worst times, I have decided to take the opportunity in what I knew would be an extremely difficult and stressful situation and share those other things we all have in common and maybe in doing so I will be able to convey the methods I use to reach those positive ends.

I do feel pain. Fear. Anger. Self doubt. I am no different than you.

So stick it out with me on this journey. Stay tuned, as they say, and let’s find out together where this chapter leads. I have no doubt it will be someplace better!

Be well and know that you are loved.

James

Journal Entry: Thursday, October 4, 2018

 

When I left Alabama I was smiling because I felt like I have a home to go back to and I like that feeling.

When I got to North Dakota it was snowing. The work I will be doing in Montana is at the mercy of the weather. An early winter means less work. The smile began to fade.

When I was forced to settle for a less than optimal camper to be “base camp” while I’m working because the camper I’d lined up was sold to someone who offered more money in cash the smile faded more. That happens. I don’t blame them for getting as much as they could but it left me without options. The only other camp trailer I could find in my price range (read: cheap) was half the size (a mere 12 feet long), missing windows from hail damage long enough that there was mold and mildew and some of the wood was getting soft, it had neither cushions nor mattress nor bathroom nor propane tanks (not that they’d be of any use since neither the fridge nor the heater worked anyway), and no title. Yep, less than, and it cost more than the complete trailer I had lined up.

When I got to Montana, where I’ll be working, it snowed some more and I was told to expect at least one rain day. It is day two up here and I just got off the phone with my new employer. We are in for an early freeze. All work is canceled until or unless the weather breaks but the forecast for the next week is heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

The smile is gone.

I took a gamble and lost. I should never gamble. Being homeless in Austin, TX is one thing. Being homeless in Fairview, MT is something else entirely so I can’t let that happen. I pretty much depleted my funds getting here. All my cards were maxed months ago, that’s one of the reasons I decided to take the risk, I need to catch up.

The man I’m supposed to be working for feels horrible about it and is making some calls to see if he can line me up with some work. There are plenty of panicked farmers around here working around the clock to get their sugar beet harvest in and he knows many of them. There’s a good chance I can get on with one of them and earn enough to either get me by until the weather breaks, at which point the rock haulers will be in a panic to fulfill their contracts and be working around the clock too, or move to Williston or Watford City and pick up a water or oil hauling job. Not even the worst weather stops production.

If faith was food I’d be fat but I’ll need more than faith to pull this off. A little good luck would go a long way right now.

Home

I left Mobile with a smile late in the afternoon yesterday after a last reshuffling of plans and unpacking/repacking of the car.

The original plan, based entirely on cautious habits acquired over the years, was to bring everything with me in case things didn’t work out.

I’ve gotten very good at eliminating all but the essentials. When I left ND to come here I left a fully furnished, down to silverware, toilet paper, and made bed house behind.

This time something had changed. I found myself wanting to load up everything and that wasn’t going to happen because it seems that when the wiring harness in my SUV melted down a few months ago it took out my trailer lights and I wasn’t about to risk another meltdown by attempting to repair them, which meant I couldn’t rent a U-Haul.

There was no way I was going to take everything with and that bothered me.

It wasn’t until a friend stopped by to send me off with a hug and a smoothie (Thank you, Professor!) and began pointing out things that I shouldn’t bother bringing with that it all began to make sense.

I was attempting to pack up something that is impossible to get into a box or a bag and I could spend the rest of my life trying to squeeze it into every available space I could find and never get it all in because its is larger than a $20 blanket or a rug I picked up from the curb:

Home.

I’ve spent so many years without a home that I forgot what it felt like. I even developed this inner philosophy that said wherever I go I’m always going home because the only sense of home I had for so long was the one I carried with me.

Over the last dozen years every time I’ve headed off to a job in the oilfield it eventually lead to another. Then another. And another. Until I ended up alone and isolated.

These things I’ve felt over the last week, the things that have kept me up at night, that frustrated and irritated, aren’t there because I feel alone.

I am not alone.

I have made strong friendships and have the support of people who love me as much as I love them.

The feeling isn’t that of being alone but of becoming alone, again, which is something that scares the crap out of me and keeps me up at night.

I had forgotten what it feels like to belong somewhere. I never would have guessed that place would be Mobile, Alabama and maybe it won’t be forever, but there it is, home.

So I unpacked everything and moved it all to the attic of the mansion I rent rooms in, much to the delight of the owners who were so honestly relieved and happy to know I would be coming back that they hurried to help me.

I left later in the day than I wanted but made it to Missouri around midnight.

When I looked in the back of my little Rodeo I saw that I brought so few things I had room to arrange a makeshift bed. I walked Brown Dog, the best traveling partner I could ever ask for, offered gratitude to the powers that be, shifted a few things to make enough room to stretch out in, then lay down and slept better than I have in days.

Note to Self

Recently, I was introduced to the term “imposter syndrome” which is defined as “a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.”

Since I don’t feel like I’ve actually accomplished anything yet I argued that it really doesn’t apply to me (“that’s the point” she replied in silence). I am, however, quite intimate with the “fraud” part.

There’s so much I want to say. So many things I want to write about. I have a passion in me that has been ignited in a way that is impossible to extinguish. Nor would I want to extinguish it.

But the words won’t come.

Instead all I hear is:

“Fraud!”

“Charlatan!”

“Liar!”

“Pretender!”

How can I write about those things I feel and the lessons I have to share if I am unable to create and maintain them in my own life? Why should anyone listen to me? Why do the people I know continue to come to me for advice? I have had no success in love (or in life, really) to point at as an example and what I have learned I have learned painfully.

Rather than expose myself as that fraud I have written nothing but in doing so I prove that sense of failure because what I write about most often is hope and gratitude.

Some time back I read an article in the Buddhist review “Tricycle” by the Zen monk, Shozan Jack Haubner, who says:

“The only thing worse than trying to look younger than you are is trying to look wiser than you are.”

So I remind myself that my only failure is in thinking I’d be wiser by now and forgetting that I am only as wise as I allow my experiences to make me.

It is the suffering that has taught me the things I write about and though I don’t write about them in a “woe is me” manner does not mean I am pretending, it simply means I am learning.

Today I recommit myself to sharing what I have learned and to expressing the fire that burns in my soul because to hide it, or to hide from it, would truly make me a fraud.

As Shozan says, “…we all must commit wholeheartedly, moment after moment, to the life we have…”

This is my life. I will live it to the fullest. Even if that means pretending a little.

Discover. Now.

Life is all about discovery.

When we are born we discover the most amazing things: the world develops before our very eyes and as we grow it expands as if we, ourselves, are the gods that create it moment by moment.

In our teens we discover complex emotions that threaten our very existence: rage, pain, immense joy and sadness, and, for the very first time, even though we may not recognize it for what it is, Love.

We go through school being taught pointless rhetoric: math, science, history. All the while being taught none of those things that could lead us to deeper paths; mindfulness, loving kindness, compassion. Those are supposed to be taught by our parents. Parents who never learned those things either.

Learn them. They will lead you farther than you imagine.

Later still, we discover that we wished we had learned more of those worthless ideas. Paid closer attention. What was that formula for finding the volume of a circle again? That will come in handy later. I promise you that. So pay attention if you can. But there’s more.

We discover the value of money. Of friendship and of hard work and of possession. We go into the world discovering fine food, good company, bright lights.

Oh… shiney.

Too often people don’t make it past those last discoveries. They base their lives on the hedonistic values of life: a big house, a nice car, good clothes, physical pleasure. Discovery ends. Life has been explored and all that it offers has been found.

Discovery continues despite that belief. Our friends die. Our loved ones leave us. Our investments fail us. We discover loss, suffering, disappointment.

Those discoveries become empty. Meaningless. Superficial. Life becomes meaningless. Emotions become an intolerable consequence. A side effect of life.

If we are insightful, or have a fortunate predilection for it, or have a loved one willing to force our awareness, or we are just plain lucky, or unlucky, we push deeper. Struggle harder to find meaning.

Our path of discovery narrows to two distinct paths: inward or outward.

The outward path leads us to medical discovery. To miracle cures. To pills that end our suffering. To gurus and healers and shaman. The path can branch over and over from here but it always leads us to the discovery of the inward path though very very few can make that transition.

If you find yourself at that transitional fork in your path I hope, I truly hope, you find your way to the inward path. Reach into that place and you will find a hand willing to lead you farther than you ever imagined. I promise you that.

The inward path leads us to ever deeper discovery: understanding, self love, honesty, acceptance, awareness, unity, Love. True Love.

Discoveries that lead us to higher planes of existence. Planes where loss and suffering are accepted as simply a part of life and where the value of a single breath, drawn long and slow while listening to and feeling the beat of our own miraculous heart connect us to the very soul of the Universe, is beyond measure.

What we discover there can never be fully expressed in words but in that place are experiences outside the realm of comprehension and yet understood as if we were once again children creating, moment by moment, the very fabric of our own distinct, yet combined, reality.

My wish for you is this:

Continue your journey. Never cease in your struggle of discovery, because even further beyond that point lay infinity: a point of chaotic generation and regeneration of life where the distance between infancy and eons are but fractions of moments of the life of a single drop of moisture on a spiders web and all that we have discovered between birth and true life, the life that always awaits, that bekons and welcomes all, are a single reflection on the surface of that dew that shimmers a while before dropping into an endless ocean that rises as mist to condense on the web over and over again.

In that chaos of constant re-creation resides the Divine where She rests on this, the Seventh Day, with arms wide and welcome, to bring us into Her embrace.

It is a place of constant discovery and awe and wonder where a word as simple and complex as “Love” or “Gratitude” can define our very existence.

Though I tend to speak of it in terms of enlightenment and higher planes of consciousness it is not some mythical place reached only through lifetimes of deep meditation and study. It does not require the use of psychoactive compounds or healers or teachers.

It is here.

It is Now.

It awaits your discovery.

Close your eyes and breathe.

—————

Image: “Infinity” by Tue Bengsston

An instrument of peace

“Lord, make me an instrument of peace.”

With that single line St Francis defined a life of mindfulness and loving kindness long before those terms were first used. Long before pop culture turned them into an industry. A t-shirt slogan.

He goes on to describe how that instrument looks. It is one of understanding and giving. A life in service of love.

“Lord make me an instrument of peace

Where there is hatred let me sow love

Where there is injury, pardon

Where there is doubt, faith

Where there is despair, hope

Where there is darkness, light

And where there is sadness, joy

Oh divine master grant that I may

not so much seek to be consoled as to console

to be understood as to understand

To be loved as to love

For it is in giving that we receive

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned

It is in dying that we are born to eternal life”

This is how I want my life to be yet I often fail in these intentions. Instead, I want to be understood. To be consoled. To wade deeply in my sorrow. To be loved despite my shortcomings.

When I find myself on the needy end of the spectrum that runs from giving to receiving I remember that I can not only offer these gifts to myself, I should.

My efforts to be an instrument of peace must begin with myself because to offer peace to others I must first have it within me. The good news is that inner peace is often gained in the offering of it to others. It is a beautiful, endless, self-sustaining circle.

This was my meditation this morning:

That I forgive myself and not beat myself up for being human.

That I keep strong the faith that brought me here.

That I keep the flame of hope ever burning within me to light both bright days and dark nights.

That I be willing to find and feed my joy, especially when it seems so far away.

That I love myself as I wish to be loved by others and that I share that love regardless of my pain.

That peace isn’t just something we feel, it’s something we practice.

I believe I need more practice.

Peace be upon you.