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A wonderful life

Summer nap

Fred, Esther, Bodhi and Noah taking a summer nap

It has taken me most of my life to realize that if I have a problem with something or someone then I have a problem. The “problem” is mine and the problem is always with my thinking.  I’ve heard this stated in 100 different ways but one of my favorites was something I heard Edween Gaines (a Unity minister) say, “If I see a problem with anyone, it is my vision that needs correcting”.

For a while, I thought this meant that I was the only screwed up person, no one else did anything wrong, and I needed to change so I would feel love toward them. This seemed like an impossible task. …and it was.

What I have come to see is that everyone really is perfect. Just because I don’t like the way they are acting, how they are treating me, or others, doesn’t mean that my vision of how they should behave is the right one. That is arrogance in the extreme…and ego running the show.

I am the only one who can determine what is right for me. If I’m around someone who is perpetually hostile or unpleasant and I choose to stay, how can I blame them? How can I call their behaviour wrong? If I want them to change, so I can be happy then I am trying to make them into the image of perfection that I like. Again, arrogance in the extreme.

But knowing that everyone is living the life of their choice (which I have no right to judge) also means that I can leave them, or ask them to leave, or not invite them into my life, without assuming that they are wrong.

I know a woman who stays married to an unhappy, disconnected, mean-spirited, man because she feels like she need to accept him as he is. And she has suffered for years over his behaviour. She has contorted herself 1000 different ways to get him to love her, while all the time ignoring her own pain, which is saying, “Make a new choice for yourself”.

Her ego is in charge but she thinks she is being “spiritual” by staying, while it is so clear, from the outside (and isn’t it always so easy to see from the outside!) that the most loving thing that she could do for herself and him is to leave. He is perfect just the way he is. It is clear that he isn’t perfect for her but she stays because she thinks that he is someone who needs her to fix him. She vacillates between feeling sorry for him, and being angry at him, and he just continues along ignoring her as she continues to ignore her dreams for a happy life.

Dare to dream of a happy life. See it, love it, become it…and that vision will guide and direct you in ways that you could never figure out, manipulate or plan. Trust that you were meant to live a wonderful life.

 

“Everyone is perfect, just as they are, but there are some people whose perfection I choose not to be around.” Edween Gaines

This entry was posted on July 22, 2014. 3 Comments

If you want a new world, ask a new question

A New World Today

A New World Today*

I’ve had the chance to spend some time with someone lately who seems to dislike me….quite a bit. I’ve heard a lot of people say things like, “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me”, or similar statements, but this isn’t my experience. I do care what people think about me, even though I know (deep down) that it isn’t any of my business, and even though I cannot change what other people think, there is still a part of me that wants everyone to like me, even if I don’t really like them.

So I found myself asking the futile question, “Why doesn’t he like me?” and my ego was happy to oblige me with many reasons, and I was still left, in the end, feeling bad. None of the things my mind came up with felt right. So I asked myself another question, “Do I really like him?” and the answer was yes, which meant I had to keep looking for the reason for my inner discomfort.

Once I was able to get a little distance from the emotional rat’s nest (that my mind had become trying to figure him out) I saw the answer and knew it was the truth because I felt a deep sense of relief: I really like this person, I really don’t like me around this person. I don’t like who I become around him. I try too hard to impress him. I try too hard to make him like me. I try too hard…..and so the relationship feels difficult…because I am not at ease within myself.

This isn’t a new revelation. I know about enough about projection, and the psychological theories of human relationships and the ego, to fill an ocean. But I still get caught in the trap of thinking that something or someone outside of me can make me feel a certain way….and when I do that, I am lost. So where to go? Back to myself. What I am thinking?  The answer is always there.

“When a thought hurts, that’s the signal that it isn’t true.” Byron Katie

* this new painting and several others are for sale on the MY ARTWORK PAGE (feel free to email me with any questions, mmuncil@verizon.net)

trusting in a plan that I cannot see

The baby mouse

Bernadette

Jack was cleaning out the garage the other day and emptied an old cardboard box, which he thought had junk in it, into the trash barrel, only to find, to his distress, a mouse-nest at the bottom. The mother jumped from the box into the rose bushes leaving a small, baby mouse at the bottom of the box. Not knowing what to do, Jack put the baby into the bushes at the same spot where the mother had seemed to go, but he felt terrible. The baby still had closed eyes and just a little fur.

We decided there wasn’t anything we could do, and hoped that the mother would return for her baby. An hour later, I heard one of our cats, Bodhi, making that cry (the sound that means he has caught something) and I went outside and saw him with the little mouse. My heart fell. I went back inside, but Bodhi’s meows persisted so I went out again, and then something amazing happened.

Bodhi looked at me, picked up the baby mouse (which was on the ground in front of him) trotted up the steps, and deposited it at my feet. When he was satisfied that I was going to take the mouse, he trotted away. I gently picked it up and could tell that it was unharmed. Bodhi had gone into the thickest, most tangled mess of old rose bushes, thorns, and undergrowth, retrieved this baby mouse, and carried it 50 feet, without even a slight injury to its tiny body.

I held this tiny creature in my hand and said to it?, “What am I going to do with you?” I didn’t think that it could live long without eating, so I sat in the studio with it in my palm, but as I looked at it I just felt like it wanted to live. It was about 9:30 a.m.and I had appointments all day, so Jack got a soft towel, and set it inside the studio (right next to the bushes where the mother had gone). We hoped that the mother would be able to find it in there and it would be safe and warm in the meantime.

When I checked on it again at 4 pm, I was hoping beyond hope that the mother had found it. She hadn’t, but it was still alive. I knew that I couldn’t take care of it myself since the next day I was going to visit my new grandson for a couple of days. Suddenly an idea came to me. Earlier this year, I’d met a man who did wildlife rehab and I wondered if he would take the mouse. The only problem was, I could only remember the town he lived in, not his name.

I went on the New York State Wild animal rescue website and tried to look through the names to see if anyone rang a bell. Finally, I just decided to call one of the names on the list and ask her if she knew of this man. It felt like a shot in the dark, because even if she did know who he was, would he take a mouse?

I left a voice message for a woman who lives about an hour from me, telling her about the mouse and asking if she knew the man I was looking for. Fifteen minutes later, she called back and said, “So you have a mouse! This is so odd. In all of the years that I’ve done wildlife rehabilitation, I’ve never gotten a call about a mouse until today, and you are the second one. When I took the first baby this morning, I was wishing that it wasn’t alone. Where do you live?”

Within an hour I was driving north to meet a woman who I can only call an angel. As I drove along, the name, Bernadette came to mind, and I thought this was a good name for my tiny friend. I arrived at the meeting spot and after filling out the official paperwork, this wonderful woman took my tiny friend home with her. Driving away, I felt like I was a part of, and a witness to, the Living Web. It brought me to tears.

The following day, as I drove to my son’s home, thinking about my precious grandson, who I would soon be holding in my arms, I also thought about the little mouse who was being cared for, and who even had a tiny friend to keep it company. I turned on the radio and was flooded with goosebumps. The song, Bernadette, was playing.

 

“Everything in life is interconnected. If we could see these connections, we would be instantly relieved of all of our fears and worries about the future.” Alan Watts

Seeing beyond my eyes

"Sometimes a friend and a good cup of tea can save your life." Acrylic on very old board

Sometimes a friend and a good cup of tea can save your life.” Acrylic on very old board (details below)**…also, I am setting up a temporary gallery in Jack’s shop (30 West Main St. Cambridge, NY) beginning this weekend and ending with a show August 15th, 16th and 17th.

I’ve been painting a lot lately. I don’t need to discipline myself, set up a schedule, or carve out time, to do it. The desire is so strong, that it has swept everything (that could be a possible distraction) away, and so I am giving in to it and letting it carry me along.

This doesn’t mean that the little critical voice inside my head has been swept away too. It still says things like, “You should be writing more (and I’m sure that if I was writing more, it would then say, “You should be painting more”) What are you going to do with all of these paintings after they are finished? What if they don’t sell? What if no one likes them?…..”

Even though, up to this point, over 20 paintings have sold, and they have been met with appreciation, the little voice in my head doesn’t care about these petty details. Its job is to point out what is wrong or what could go wrong and if I believe it, it will stop me from going forward. My approach has been to notice it going on and on, about all sorts of potentially bad things, and to keep on painting.

There is such a huge difference between noticing and believing this voice.

The Spirit of Universal Love is the voice that I want to follow, and it offers non-stop guidance (in the moment, and for the moment) and I know it because It feels and sounds like a YES, it feels and sounds like a deep sigh, it feels and sounds like Love.

“The habit of seeing only that which our senses permit, renders us totally blind to what we otherwise could see.” From the book, Out of This World, by Neville Goddard

 

** this painting is done on a fabulous piece of old wood, (8 x 13 x 1 3/4th inches, and weighs almost 3 lbs) that came from an old warehouse by the ocean. I originally had the idea after having a cup of tea with a friend and feeling so much better. Suddenly the idea of a cup of tea (and a feathered friend) coming to the rescue made me smile. I’ll be happy to send you additional photographs if you would like them. More details can be found on MY ARTWORK PAGE    The cost of this painting is $175.00

A plan for life…sort of

Noah napping in the heat

Noah napping in the heat…I just loved seeing his paws sticking up

As I was driving yesterday, I listened to a snippet of a sermon that really made me think about guilt. I’ve heard this particular man preach before, and I truly believe he is sincere, but at the same time, limited. He was talking about prayer time and said; “Don’t let the world pull you away from your time with god. Don’t leave god to answer the phone. It might be someone just wanting to sell you something!”

And I thought, “That is the problem. We believe, and have been taught, that we must “set time apart” for god, as if the Spirit of Creation can only be found by getting quiet and shutting everything out. And another problem in our thinking is the idea that god can be left out of our lives, or must be found….that “he” is somehow hidden.

I understand the need to center ourselves, have our quiet time, and all of that. I also understand the need at times to turn off the phone, go on retreat, and get quiet on purpose. Setting time apart for this contemplative period can be deeply satisfying, but we should drop, forever, the idea that when we are not having this time, for whatever reason, that we have temporarily “left god”.

I cannot even count the number of people who, over the years, have told me that they were struggling with guilt and feelings of inadequacy for not meditating or praying on a regular basis. It is as if we think there is some sort of pre-existing correct path (set up by a god that is outside of us and has made many firm and right rules) but we haven’t been given the program for this “event” so we keep fearing we’re missing something and are not doing it (life) right.

We search for routines that made us feel (at least temporarily) secure and we then vow to stick to our plans….and when we don’t, we feel guilty. Rigid rules and routines regarding prayer (or anything) will eventually suck the life out of it.

Hold your plan loosely.

See god (your inner divine self that is inseparable from all that is) in your planned prayer and in your decision to answer the phone instead (even if it was a telemarketer). See god in your meditation, and in the eating of that bowl of ice cream (that you decided to have instead of mediating). See the ice cream as meditation and the phone call as the prayer.
Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each
moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in
the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d
by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.” Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself

Guess where we were yesterday?

Griffin Wesley Getz was born at 11:08 yesterday morning. I sent this photo to my mother and she said, "It looks like you are in love!"...she is right.

Griffin Wesley Getz was born at 11:08 a.m. on June 29th. I sent this photo to my mother and she said, “It looks like you are in love!”…she is right.

 

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child…our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Laughing at myself

"My studio"...Noah and Fred sleeping in the middle of it all!

“My studio”…Noah and Fred sleeping in the middle of it all!**

I am going to be a grandmother any day now. So basically, I have been thinking about my son, daughter-in-law, and the baby, 24/7. When I go out, I take my phone and I don’t turn it off…just in case “the call” comes. This time has been a great teacher for me, because while Tom and Lindsay are “front and center” in my mind, I am just barely “on the stage” in theirs.

Even though I believe that this is the way life should be, my ego has been taking a major hit. There is no need for them to call me every day….even though I think about them all the time and want to talk…even though I really have nothing new to say. When I do talk to my son, he says, “No news yet, we’ll let you know.” They are always loving and sweet and yet, a part of me wants more, and a part of me feels left out.

I feel very grateful that I can recognize this little part of me that always thinks it should be center stage, gets its feelings hurt on a regular basis, and wants to be important. Thank god I finally know that it isn’t really the larger part of me and yet, sometimes, when I forget this, I believe the sad, pitiful, story it tells me, and I feel bad.

For many years, I believed every story that my egoic mind told me. I didn’t think that there was any difference between that mind and me. Life was very difficult when I lived this way. Every time I was upset, I thought it was important and something that needed to be talked out (usually with the person that I was upset with or I feared was upset with me). I thought that my feelings and my thoughts about situations were very important and “the truth”, so I looked for resolution on the outside.

A huge difference came for me when I began to address these “issues” by recognizing that the unhappy stories were not that important, were certainly not coming from the larger part of me, and very often were not the truth at all.  Sometimes, right in the middle of one, I would be able to say to myself, “Isn’t this interesting. I am feeling left out or insulted or…” Once I could do this, I was never completely lost in this egoic mind again (or at least not for long).

There are plenty of people who will listen to a story like mine and think things like, “You shouldn’t feel that way, how selfish, I didn’t think that you were that petty, or you should be further along the spiritual path than this”…but to all of those people (and of course “those people” are only the thoughts in my own mind) I can say, “And those are just unhappy stories too.”

We all have this little mind, no matter how far along the path we are. But knowing that it isn’t speaking The Truth is a huge step. Sometimes, when I find myself in the middle of one of these stories, I will say, “This is happening for me” and I will instantly feel relief, like I have just remembered that I made up this story, am now reacting to it, and also have the abiltiy to stop. Then, I usually laugh.

“The ego is always on guard against any kind of perceived diminishment.  Automatic ego-repair mechanisms come into effect to restore the mental form of ‘me’. When someone blames or criticizes me, that to the ego is a diminishment of self, and it will immediately attempt to repair its diminished sense of self through self-justification, defense, or blaming. Whether the other person is right or wrong is irrelevant to the ego. It is much more interested in self-preservation than the truth. This is the preservation of the psychological form of ‘me’. Even such a normal thing as shouting back when another driver calls you ‘idiot’ is an automatic and unconscious ego-repair mechanism.

One of them most common ego-repair mechanisms is anger, which causes a temporary but huge ego inflation. All repair mechanisms make perfect sense to the ego but are actually dysfunctional. A powerful spiritual practice is consciously to allow the diminishment of ego when it happens, without attempting to restore it. I recommend that you experiment with this from time to time. For example, when someone criticises you, blames you, or calls you names, instead of immediately retaliating or defending yourself, do nothing. Allow the self-image to remain diminished and become alert to what that feels like deep inside you. For a few seconds, it may feel uncomfortable, as if you had shrunk in size. Then you may sense an inner spaciousness that feels intensely alive.

You haven’t been diminished at all. You have been expanded.”

pp 214-215 (from the chapter, Finding Who You Truly Are, A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle.

** I am putting some new paintings up on “My Artwork” page this morning.

now

What are you doing on July 19th?

Noah checking out the July 19th, “Writers Meet Agents Workshop” Colchester, VT http://www.leagueofvermontwriters.org

Since many of you are writers, I thought that this workshop might be of interest. Details are on the website of The league of Vermont Writers

I’ve been sitting at my computer for an hour trying to see if I could write a meaningful post. I guess not, but at least I can post an interesting upcoming event, and a great quote.

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.” Alan Watts

expecting change, welcoming change

"Home"

“Home” (acrylic on old board)

A few months ago, I became a board member of a group that I’ve belonged to for about a year. I have never wanted to be on any kind of board before, and was totally surprised when I wanted to be on this one. Many years ago, I was asked to be on the board of an organization, and said yes for two reasons: the first was I thought it would be prestigious (good on my resume and all that nonsense) and second, I thought I should. I disliked it so much that I quit after 3 months. Then I felt guilty.

Back in April, when the vacancy was announced for this current board position, the feeling of “I want to do it!” flooded me. As I approached the president to put my name in, a little voice inside my head was also saying, “You don’t have enough time to do this. What if you get elected and then you don’t like it? What if they don’t elect you and then you feel resentful? What if ….” on and on it chattered away as I made my way forward.

My first meeting as an official board member happened this week. It involved a 3 hour drive (one way) to meet in an upstairs room of an old library (turned into a museum). It was 85 degrees outside, with no air conditioning inside, and I loved every minute of it. I sat at the table with six other people and thought, “I really like every one of these people”. They were fun, funny, serious, relaxed, focused, open to ideas…everything that, for me, makes life wonderful.

There are things that I am finding out I want to do (that I never did before) and other things that I was sure  I would want to do forever, that no longer speak to me. A few years ago, I did a ropes course (high up in the trees of the Adirondack mountains) and loved it so much that I almost bought a season’s pass. For the next few years, I did it many times. Then a few months ago, I did it with a friend and half way through I thought, “I don’t think I’ll ever do this again.” It just felt done, and I have come to trust this inner voice of No, as much as I trust the inner voice that says, Yes…and neither need to make sense to my “little chatter box” mind.

What will the world present today for me/you to love, and to say yes to? I love that thought.

No work or love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now“. Alan Watts

Life as serious fun

Rumi

Acrylic on old board painting that I just finished, “The door is Round and Open. Don’t go back to sleep” Rumi *

When I hear people say, “Be careful what you pray for, you might just get it!” I usually don’t say anything, but this line of thinking never felt right to me, and I’ve come to see that it isn’t true. Oh yes, we can all  make things happen. I can put my will-power and determination onto an idea and wrench it into place with extreme effort, but this isn’t my idea of prayers becoming reality.

When I use pure will-power and grit to accomplish a goal, there are feelings that accompany it: struggle, worry and tension. And I’ve done this enough to know how it feels when “my plan” is simply that (and not a part of a larger good/higher ideal for my life). When I have the feeling that if I let up for a second, my goal will dissolve, then I’m usually contemplating a move that isn’t in the highest and best, because if it is, there is an energy, that is me but is also beyond me, and larger than me, that moves things along, opens doors, brings ideas, opportunities, and assistance, that I could never have dreamed of….and I know this feeling too. It feels like “going with the flow”.

Last week, I wrote about wanting to go to Alinea (a restaurant in Chicago). I contacted them (found out I couldn’t even buy tickets for September until mid-July), looked up flights from Albany to Chicago, and read about some interesting B & B’s within walking distance of the restaurant. All of this activity was so much fun.

I was talking with a family member about this, and he said, “Have you figured out the total cost of this trip?” I told him that I had (approximately) and then he said, “I want to pay for your trip as an early birthday present.” That was a total surprise. But I also knew that if this trip to Alinea was meant to be, it would flow….in ways just like this that would also be delightful.

It’s the feeling-tone of the idea/thought that lets me know if I am going in the right direction or heading off onto a side road/dead-end. If I have to work, really hard, to accomplish something, I will have to work really hard to sustain it. If I am worried sick about anything, then that event, relationship, or occurrence, will hold “worried sick” energy.

Prayer, to me, is seeing the outcome that I would like to see and then letting it go (to the best of my ability). But if I find myself thinking about “it” after I have let it go, and I usually do, then I try to make sure that I am not worrying it, struggling with it, or trying to micro-manage it. I want to live my life as play. I want to flow with this great stream, of which I am a part. I want to discover, deep down in my being, the truth that Life is seriously fun!

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.” Alan Watts

 

*if you are interested in buying this painting, you can see the details on the My Artwork page or contact me at mmuncil@verizon.net