Walking the walk

It is one thing to look down at one’s life from a new perspective, it is quite another to walk the path into the possible future.

This idea is not mine wholly. It is a half remembered quote, so poorly remembered that even google can’t help me out. The image is of standing on a ridge looking out over the valley of peace or forgiveness, juxtaposed with the challenge of actually walking into that future.

The last few months have been incredibly useful to me. I have come to see myself from a new perspective. A single concept has seeded the crystal which has unlocked my understanding of much of what drives me.

It is a powerful force which has operated below the surface of my consciousness for so much of my life. Seeing it, casts a new light on unconscious presumptions which I never thought to question. It is tremendously liberating.

And yet, the liberation is only theoretical for the moment. I need to make a new path into my future. I need to examine the motivations in the choices I make. The liberation is useful, but ultimately empty until I begin to incorporate the insight into my daily reality.

 

Letting the other be other

This is one of those lessons I probably would have learnt a long time ago if I had had any kind of long term intimate relationship. Alas, I have had to wait for my friendships to mature to a place where I can finally see this truth.

A close friend of mine has made some choices in the last few months that I know I would not have made. The choice she has made is in no way inherently wrong or problematic. I only know that I would not have chosen it. Watching her I have really begun to realise that other is just other.

My way is not necessarily better. It is just my way.

I find the process of walking with her fascinating. Firstly, because it is the first relationship where I have truly encountered the complexity of what it is to be different. Too often, my friendships have been forged in a sense of commonality, and when that has broken down – or found to have limitations – I have walked away.

Secondly, because it has forced me to recognise that just because she has chosen something that I wouldn’t, doesn’t make it wrong.

As I ponder this a little longer, I begin to recognise that in similar situations I have been driven by similar forces – the quest to find my identity. The difference between us is that we locate our identity in different places. So where we search to recover it is different.

My way is not necessarily the right one! It is just my way.

Non-dual consciousness and discernment

I’ve been reading and listening to a fair amount of Richard Rohr’s teaching in the last few weeks. The emphasis has been on non-dual consciousness. I’m still not convinced I know what non-dual consciousness is, or indeed, how to get there, but I think I do recognise it when I see it.

I think part of the problem is that most people who have experienced non-dual consciousness can only really describe their own route into it. For Richard Rohr, that seems to have been principally through centering prayer. For Cynthia Borgeault, the entry was through a relationship of conscious love. For Joan Halifax, through the practice of Buddhism.

But, the experience of non-dual consciousness must be accessible through any tradition which has given rise to mystics. The question that has been playing through my mind for the last week or so has been the link between discernment and non-dual consciousness.

I think, for me, the link is present. Discernment is not an objective process of judging i.e. this external thing is good or bad. Rather it is a subjective process of choosing. That is to say, that the thing is itself neutral. What I am assessing in discernment is what happens when I am in relationship with this thing.

It is a subtle process, and one that needs to be constantly revisited. My discernment with respect is something in particular may change with time as I change or as my circumstances change. There is no certainly in discernment, rather a greater or lesser sense that this does seem the better choice. There is also the recognition that choices which lead me towards God, may not be the choices my neighbour makes.

I’m not sure that I can say that the daily practice of discernment leads to non-dual consciousness. But I am fairly sure that it supports the process.

 

Wait for the clouds to clear

I love my job. The combination of teaching and research is both enjoyable and stimulating. I work in a young vibrant department in which we have a good balance between wisdom and a willingness for change to happen. In organic chemistry we work well together as a team, and I am blessed with generous and able colleagues. My research is slowly gaining traction. Most importantly, I really do believe that I am in the place most suited to my particular giftedness.

And yet, for the last few months I have struggled. I have felt tired and frustrated. I haven’t quite been able to isolate the source of my malaise, but as most of the niggles have been associated with my job, I have found myself wondering about that. Maybe the job isn’t such a good fit after all. This is not to say that I was seriously thinking about quitting and trying something else, but rather I engaged in a nebulous grappling with the idea that my perfect job was maybe not so perfect after all. Occasionally I would find myself thinking, if not this, then what?

And then, earlier this week I realised that the problem lay not with my job, it lay with me. The job isn’t perfect, but then I don’t think any environment is. My issue over the last few months is that I haven’t enjoyed the way in which I have engaged with the various tasks that I need to attend to. I have been a little off the boil, and feeling less than enthusiastic about my capacity to engage has left me feeling disappointed and frustrated. What I failed to notice was that my general disease was actually about myself in the environment. I presumed it was a function of the environment itself.

In the last week through two very different sources, I have been able to get in touch with my passion again. And that in itself, has been sufficient to energise me just a little. As I have attended to the ideas which were brought back into the light through those encounters, I have found yet more energy. I remember now why I love my job.

It was a shock to me to recognise that I was quite willing to blame my job for my sense of discontent, when the real source of discontent was myself. It makes me wonder how often I do that – how often I blame something in my immediate environment when really it is my internal process. It makes me wonder how often people do that: Changing jobs or relationships when the real issue is internal.

It reminds me of the wisdom of Ignatius – don’t try and make major decisions when you are in desolation! The time in the well of frustration is not the right moment to begin thinking about making a life shaping choice. Wait for the clouds to clear, find the even keel and then, if appropriate, make a change.