Tag Archive | freedom

Ahhh…grist for the mill of awakening

I pulled into the parking lot of our local grocery store a few months ago and noticed these dogs in the car next to me…so friggin cute

Thanksgiving is a few days away, and for many of us this can be a time of intense emotions and feelings: happiness, anxiety, joy, sadness, contentment, loneliness, inner peace, anger and resentment, compassion, disappointment, belonging, rejection, anticipation…and at least for me, the “negative” emotions are doubly charged because I don’t think that I should be feeling these…especially around the holidays. But I’ve come to know that part, if not all, of the pain is the result of me resisting what is happening or what I am feeling in the moment…thinking that things/people should be different than they are/were, or that I should be different than I am/was.

When I find myself in the middle of this negative thought, I try first of all to acknowledge the feelings…not fight with them…and then, if I can, I try to find a different/new way of seeing.

This isn’t easy with old wounds. If I can catch myself in a new situation that is challenging, and I don’t let it gain momentum, often times it transforms…but with those old experiences that I didn’t have the tools or the desire to handle in a higher way, I unconsciously built up a stories and told them (even if just to myself) over and over until my version, my small little painful version, seemed like the only truth. There is a part of the mind that strongly balks at the idea of seeing painful situations in a new light…especially if we feel we were the ones who were “innocent”.

When my father died in February and had cut off communication with me for the last 6 months of his life, I had a pretty strong resentment against him and his wife, Jane, who didn’t let me know about his condition, and left it to her daughter to call me after he had died. During that phone call, she casually told me that my father was very important to her and that he only wanted her there during his last days. I didn’t even know this woman. It felt like the final insult from all of them, and yet, I knew a different story.

While my father was alive, and we were communicating, he would say to me, almost every time we met, “Jane is very hard but I’m too old to get a divorce. I have to go to her family functions. They don’t mean anything to me.” He was tired. He didn’t want to fight with her so he gave up and gave in. My father was a good actor and he was dishonest in so many ways, but I still loved him and I knew that he loved me.

So, several months after his death when I still felt angry and indignant, I made a decision to see things differently. I didn’t try to see a new angle, but I wanted to be out of the pain of resentment so I became willing…I became a little bit more open. Shortly after I made this decision, while on a walk, I had a huge insight and saw the last 6 months of my father’s life in a new way, “He was sick and dependent on Jane. There was no way that anyone was going to see him except they go through her. He was sparring me that! Oh my god…I knew the truth of it. Maybe it was cowardly on his part, maybe it wasn’t a healthy way of dealing with our relationship but it was his way of protecting me and it was the best he could do.” As I continued on my walk, I thanked him and I could feel his energy and smile…I heard him laugh. I got it.

But now I needed to see the situation with his wife and stepdaughter in a new way, because I didn’t feel the love with them and never had a positive history to draw upon.

I’ve watched myself over this past year with several resentments…thinking they are gone and then finding the angry thoughts back and as intense as ever. I’ve even exclaimed in exasperation, “I wish this could just be gone once and for all! I am so sick of thinking about ____”. But was I really?

Being honest with myself, I had to say no, I wasn’t. There was something that I was getting out of these resentments and the rehashing of the past. In the AA literature, there is a line that has always stayed with me,

“In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority.” (The Twelve and Twelve, page 67)

Did I feel superior to Jane and her daughter? When I asked this question, I had to say that yes I did. I knew their history…I also knew how Jane and my father had met and it was extremely embarrassing for him.

Had I forgiven her? No. I’d only given it lip service.

Ouch. Now I could see it clearly. Forgiveness is a spiritual law…if I don’t do it, then I don’t feel it. Period. I could hold onto these resentments forever and not allow myself to grow or I could do the very big work of allowing a new way of seeing. This is where my immature adolescent girl rears her head. She would rather say, “F  you. You hurt me and now I hope that you are miserable. No way I want you to feel happy and blessed. I want you to suffer!”

But my higher self says, “You are the one who is suffering, Mary. It is time to let go. It is time to forgive so you can be free. The choice is yours. You want it to be easy but maybe it isn’t. Is that OK with you? Are you willing to go through the fire as the petty, vengeful, thoughts burn away?”

And I answered, “Yes I am. Help!” A few days later I was helping Jack clean out an old trunk at his store and he handed me a book, The Gentle Art of Blessing, that I’d given him a few years back. I opened it and read the following passage,

“What is appealing about the spiritual path, as the American spiritual teacher Ram Dass has stressed, is that everything is ‘grist for the mill.’ Absolutely everything—a traffic jam, an illness, a theft, a noisy neighbor, a flat tire—becomes an opportunity to learn, discover, progress, repent, rejoice, unveil, awaken, love more, and wonder. The smallest detail of life, every single encounter—be it with a saint or a snail—can sparkle with tender interest and become aglow with enchantment.”*

These few words helped me to reframe my resentments…why not simply call them “grist”. I loved that thought. If the grinding feelings inside can be redirected from telling the same old painful story to a feeling of productive energy then why not give this a try…and I did. Instantly I felt lighter and more open. Who doesn’t want to “sparkle with tender interest and become aglow with enchantment”?

This lovely little book opened a door for me…a door that I was ready and willing to walk through…what a relief…. not that I’m done with this work…maybe it will go on for as long as I am alive. Fine. I’m human too. Sometimes I feel so inadequate to the task…but sometimes not.

So, as this season of Light approaches, I wish for you all open hearts and open doors…and if you’re not ready to walk through them yet, fine…I love you anyway, just as I am loved as I walk, and sometimes stumble, on this path of awakening. I love you as I love myself because you are human too and you and I have egos that sometimes act like spoiled kids…and sometimes we can just laugh at this…but we keep walking.

 

 

*The Gentle Art of Blessing by Pierre Pradervand

The journey of life…

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Eleanor resting

Several days ago as I was walking on a very rural road, I heard a door open…there were no houses around. As I continued along, I began to see red-tailed hawks, which I’ve always associated with my paternal grandmother, Maude. I returned home and noticed a male cardinal sitting in a tree near the entrance to our driveway, and the words, “Hi Dad” came out of my mouth. I’d never associated cardinals with my father before, and I hadn’t heard from him in months, so the words surprised me. Later that evening I found out that my father had passed away…probably while I was on my walk. After I made the necessary phone calls to family and went to bed, a deep feeling of relief and freedom came over me. I felt like I was flying and I could feel my father laughing and flying too. This feeling has stayed with me.

My father was 91 years old and for the past 6 months, he had cut off communication with everyone except his wife and her family, and since they didn’t communicate with us either, I felt somewhat in the dark. Around Christmas time, I finally made peace with the idea that I would not see him or talk with him again. This took a lot of focus on my part. My mind would keep saying things like, “How dare he keep me away after I’ve been so good to him!” or “Why doesn’t he want to see me? Did I do something wrong?” But I kept bringing myself back to the thought, “Even if I don’t understand this, at some level, it has to be right.”

After he died, I could see how his letting go of me last summer was really a blessing. It helped me to let go of my ideas about how things “should” be, and to not judge either him or myself for the way he chose to live and to die.

Over these past few days, I’ve felt closer to my father than ever before. All barriers to love are dissolved and what I sense now, when I think about him, is laughter, light, and a spirit of fun.

I realize that my experience of my father’s death is not everyone’s. Many people do feel deep grief, loss, sadness, or despair. But my experience is a valid one too, and one that many people feel uncomfortable expressing. Over the years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people who have had a parent die and say that they feel guilty because they don’t feel bad.

That is the reason for my writing today. I truly do not need or want condolences. There is a Divine order to this life, this universe, that is beyond my conscious mind’s ability to understand. My father’s life here on earth, and his life now in the unseen realm, is a part of the mystery of being, and I am so happy that I was, and am, a part of that. As odd as it may have looked to others, as “dysfunctional” and disturbing as it could have been described, life as Bob Muncil’s daughter was a wild trip. Bon voyage, Dad!

Some of us think holding on makes us strong: but sometimes it is letting go.”            Hermann Hess

True freedom doesn’t depend on where we are (or where we go).

Fred in the kitty pen

Fred in the kitty pen; happy no matter where he is.

I’m leaving tomorrow morning for my big adventure, so I wanted to touch base with you all this evening. I’ll post at least a few times from the road but I’m not sure when. After I hung up the phone with my brother on Saturday, I kept thinking, “Am I really doing this? Can I really do this?” There was a part of me that felt I couldn’t just leave home for 10 days without much of a plan. Yet a deeper part said, “Go. This is right.”

All day Sunday, and even into Monday, I found myself preoccupied with details; packing and wondering what the weather would be like, if I had the right combination of warm and cool clothing, shoes, toiletries, books, cds, and journal, and I could feel my energy almost buzzing around me, a little out of control. This happens when I forget who I am.

Lately, I’ve become much more aware of myself not just as Mary Muncil. I’ve started feeling beyond my body, beyond planning my life around my bodily/emotional needs (what I’ll eat, where I’ll eat, how much sleep I need, which vitamins to take, what clothing I prefer, what social contacts I need to keep up, what I need to do to earn my livelihood). Don’t get me wrong, I am delighted to be experiencing life now, in this temporary home called a body, through this mind, but I am also so aware that too much focus here (on the material plane of existence) feels small. I love comfort, good food, good books, rest and play, friends and solitude and appreciate them fully when I keep myself centered on the larger part of me; the part that knows no time or space, no good or bad, right or wrong, no me and them,.. The part that is not apart at all.

I am increasingly interested in the qualities of Life that I want to both feel and to manifest, the Divine Qualities, and less in the “particulars”. I ask myself on a regular basis how I’m, in the moment, demonstrating and living the essence of who I really am (who we all are); God Consciousness, becoming aware of Itself through us, and shining out as happiness, peace, harmony, good-will towards all, helpfulness, gratitude, fun, expansion, acceptance, open-heartedness, love….

These are the qualities that will make this trip meaningful….these are the only “things” that I really need to take along.

“The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him, that moment I am free from bondage. Everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.” Swami Vivekananda

 

Freedom

The beautiful work of Carolyn Abrams, this painting is named, "Freeing Her Spirit" http://www.carolynabrams.com

Years ago, I read an essay on aging, and the importance of finding our “freedom” at mid-life. The gist of this writing was that anything we felt was hampering us, we should leave behind, and move out into the world. At one point it said something like, get rid of your cat if that is the thing keeping you from this adventure. I would have believed that message 30 years ago, maybe 2o years ago….

What I have come to see, and know, is that it isn’t the outside stuff that hampers us, it is our thoughts. In my mid-forties, I gave away almost everything I owned to go work in a mission. I was trying to find inner freedom by stepping out of the “material” world. I blamed possessions, and the desire for them, for much of my inner turmoil and the troubles of the world. I wanted to devote myself to a higher calling and thought this was a part of becoming more spiritual.

It was a rude (very necessary) awakening. Having nothing doesn’t make you more spiritual, peaceful, happy or free. It doesn’t make you more helpful to those who feel disempowered and unable to earn a living. Freedom, at any age, comes from a change of attitude. This is the real mid-life call. The call to go inside and find the infinite within ourselves. To find peace and presence right here; in this house, with this car (or cars), these animals, friends, partner, or work, and not to blame them for our feelings of imprisonment. This is the real freedom.

“…the last of human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances….“. Viktor Frankl

A friend (thank you Judith!) send me a beautiful story and video yesterday about a baby bird that was found. At first, they needed to feed him every 20 minutes, but far from feeling like this experience was restricting, I felt the expansion in it…in them.

Baby Bird Cradled in My Hands