Tag Archive | Ralph Waldo Emerson

don’t condemn the means

For a number of years, I had wanted to go to the Ralph Waldo Emerson House. I’d imagined myself walking on the same wooden floors, looking out the same windows, and touching the same walls, as this great man did so many years ago. I fantasied that some of his inspired thought might rub off on me if I could, even for a few minutes, occupy the same space that he once had.

Last week, Jack decided to make my dream a reality and planned a short get-away to Concord for us. Driving into the town, finding a wonderful restaurant for lunch and tea…everything was perfect, and although I was excited to go to the Emerson House, I was enjoying every moment of the build up.

We pulled up in front of his home and goose bumps flooded me. It looked like the pictures. We walked up the wide stone path to the front door and noticed a small sign that read, “RING THE BELL”, which I enthusiastically did.

A few seconds later, the door opened slightly and a woman’s head peaked out as she grumbled, “What do you want?” What do we want? My mind couldn’t make sense of her tone or meaning.

I replied, while pointing to the note on the door, “The sign says to ring the bell.” She looked at the sign as if it were foreign to her and then shot back, “The next tour isn’t until 2:30. It’s 2:00.” As if this should somehow satisfy us.

“Do we need to take a tour?” I asked.

“No, but you can’t come in now” she replied. “There are too many people in here already.”

“Can I just step inside?”

“No. Come back at 2:30, OK?”, she snapped and closed the door.

I was stunned. We walked around the back of the house into the garden area, trying to gather ourselves. As we sat on a bench in the shade, wondering what to do next, I felt something that I didn’t expect to feel at a moment like that…I felt curious.

What were we supposed to do? My mind kept wanting to relive the episode that we’d just experienced with the rude woman. It was saying things like, “You should report her to the board, I can’t believe how she treated us”, but I could feel that if I did that, I would be closing off something good. I was at a fork in the road and was being asked to choose: grumble just like she did, or choose to think, “This must be perfect, even if at this moment I don’t understand it.”

The idea of waiting around in 85-degree weather for a tour with this woman seemed completely unappealing. I turned to Jack and said, ‘What about going to Walden Pond?” Within minutes we were walking hand-in-hand into the cool, clear, refreshing, water of Walden Pond…we were swimming in the same lake as Thoreau had…maybe Emerson too. We spent 2 glorious hours swimming, sitting, and just being…it was heaven.

As we talked about the “closed door” at the Emerson House, it was clear what had happened: spirit had moved in an unusual way through this woman. If she had been even a little bit nicer, we might have waited around for the next tour, and although that would’ve been fine, there was something completely unexpected and magical about our time at Walden Pond.

It was also clear that I needed to keep focused on the wonder and goodness of all that had occurred and not condemn the means by which it happened. Getting angry, indignant, or stewing about the woman would have ruined my day…it might even have closed off the thought about going to Walden Pond.

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Jack in Walden Pond…a very happy man!

 

“Reality unfolds perfectly. Whatever happens is good. I see people and things, and when it comes to me to move toward them or away from them, I move without argument, because I have no believable story about why I shouldn’t; it’s always perfect.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change Your Life, page 8

 

 

Time to be real

Noah and Esther sitting through the screen

Noah and Esther sitting on the chair (view through the screen)

Last night, we were having dinner with friends and the song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow*, sung by  Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, was playing.  The way that he sang and “mixed up” the original lyrics was so touching to me. I don’t generally like re-makes of songs (or anything else) but his version was magic. He brought to life something new and unique, and that shined through, and we all felt it.

A couple of years ago, Jack and I were stopped as we got out of our car by a man (someone Jack vaguely knew) who wanted to show us the paintings/assemblages that he had just completed. They were in his van and he was driving to a gallery to set them up for a show. As he pulled them out, one by one, I felt turned off.  The images were dark and, at least to me, uninteresting.

But it wasn’t this so much that bothered me, but what he was saying.  As he proudly presented each one he kept saying things like, “This is my own unique style. No one else has created in this way….” and the feeling I got was that he was trying to be unique and different. He obviously had a lot of talent but he wanted his work to stand out as unique, and that somehow made it feel flat.

We do not need to try to be unique. We are unique. Most of us have just covered that uniqueness up, from years of trying to be something better, different, more interesting, or more special, than we think we are. You, me, we, couldnt’ be more special. Each one of us has the ability to stop others in their tracks, and bring them to tears of Love…just by being real…just by being ourselves.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

* This version of the song is a combination of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World      

 

A new curiosity…what is right about me, you, it, them, Life?

Esther napping on a rainy day

Esther on her new chair yesterday afternoon…. the perfect spot for rainy day nap

The desire to psychoanalyze people; to figure out why they are the way that they are, why they do or say, or don’t do or say, certain things, is quite possibly one of the most destructive habits that I’ve engaged in….and it used to be one of my favorite things to do. I cannot even bear to think of the untold hours I’ve spent in this useless activity of the little mind.

And of all of the hours, days, and years that I spent in this frivolous mind-activity, very few were spent thinking, “I wonder why that person is so kind, happy, considerate, honest, helpful, generous, thoughtful, giving, non-defensive, open, lovely….!?”

No. Most of my psychoanalysis was trying to figure out why they were not the kind of person that I thought they “should” be.

I saw one day, that even though this way of thinking made my egoic mind happy for a little while (“We’ve figured that one out”! it would say, feeling so smart and smug) it wasn’t a lasting thing…since it wasn’t the Truth. It was just a little box that made my little, fear-filled, mind feel secure for a few minutes. If I imagined that someone didn’t treat me well, or didn’t act in a way that I found acceptable, then I could separate them from myself by putting them in a little box, labeled, “Messed Up”, and if I couldn’t figure out what was specifically wrong with them (in that moment) then the generic label was fine…. I’d come back to them later, possibly at 2 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep and was feeling desperate and needed to search for the cause of my misery.

This approach to life never leads to more happiness. Looking for what is wrong with others only leads to seeing more of what is wrong with them, and with ourselves….then we think we need to find new people who won’t hurt, offend, or take advantage, of us. We think we’ll be happy when we find “them”….but we never find them, since we are searching for their opposites.

I can’t say that I have turned this old habit of mine (habit of mind!) completely around, but I’m much quicker at catching it and saying, “I don’t go there anymore”, to my mind when it wants to dissect someone’s life or some situation that I’m unhappy about. It is my intention to get so good, at never looking for the bad, that I will someday be amazed that I ever did it….and I love this thought.

“The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people“.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Listening to ourselves

Noah and Fred on the radiator

Noah and Fred on the radiator

From what I have observed in life, it’s the people who are (in that moment) most unhappy, that give the most advice to others….I see this pattern in myself also. Unhappy, frustrated people are chock-full of opinions and ideas about how others should live, change, and grow. I know a woman who buys boxes of self-help books and gives them to anyone and everyone in her life that she thinks could benefit from a little change of attitude, a new perspective, a more positive mind.

I know that she means well. She sees unhappiness, struggle, and frustration all around and so much wants to help. The thing that she doesn’t know is that all of these feelings are within her. She’s seeing/feeling on the outside, what is happening within her very own being.

She doesn’t yet know that when we change, our world (and everyone in it) changes too, and instead of frantically giving away books and advice in an attempt to make others be different than they are, she could drop down to the level of her own heart, make those inner changes, and become that change….then the ones that she so earnestly pursues, in an attempt to help them, would make their way to her door, unbidden.

It might be an interesting exercise this weekend to see how many times we want to give advice to someone (even in our minds) and notice how we are feeling in that moment, listen to what we are about to say (or suggest), and see if it applies to us.

A low self-love in the parent desires that his child should repeat his character and fortune…I suffer whenever I see that common sight of a parent or senior imposing his opinions, and way of thinking and being, on a young soul to which they are totally unfit. Cannot we let people be themselves, and enjoy life in their own way? You are trying to make another you. One’s enough.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Easy…does it!

Our tree

The angel wings have found a home on our tree

The other day, I decided to switch back to my old style of running shoe. The minimalist shoes were just too cold for winter running. It’s been almost 2 years since I made the change, and I couldn’t even remember what brand of shoe I wore (but I used to save my last pair so I asked Jack if he had seen them, and he said that we had thrown them all away).

The next day, I was shopping at my favorite thrift store and picked up a pair of slippers that I thought someone might like. As I was checking out, the woman behind the desk said, “Shoes are, buy one pair get one free ($2 total cost). Why don’t you see if you can find another pair?” I had already looked at the shoes, but figured I may as well look for another gift-pair, and as I scanned them again, there sat an almost brand new pair of Asics Gel Nimbus in my size….that I had over-looked earlier.

What I really believe is that the Universe is throwing Itself at our feet saying, “Here you go, take this wonderful thing, idea, relationship, or opportunity” and we often (and unconsciously) say back to it, “No thank you. I haven’t worked hard enough for that. I haven’t earned it. I’m not one of the lucky ones. I don’t deserve it. There are people who need it more than I do.” So even though the whole world is ours, we settle for what we think is “fair”, our portion, logical or reasonable, which generally amounts to what we have gotten, achieved or received in the past.

But we can change our thinking and “claim” a different, easier, more harmonious life. One thing that I say on a regular basis is: “Everything that I need is provided. I always find the best stuff, and Life is so easy for me. I have so much to give!”

Man surrounds himself with the true image of himself. Every spirit builds itself a house and beyond its house a world, and beyond its world a heaven. Know then that the world exists for you. What we are, that only can we see. All that Adam had, all that Caesar could, you have and can do. Adam called his house, heaven, and earth. Caesar called his house, Rome; you perhaps call yours a cobbler’s trade; a hundred acres of land, or a scholar’s garret. Yet line for line, and point for point, your dominion is as great as theirs, though without fine name. Build therefore your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportion.” Emerson (quote taken from the book, The Power of Awareness by Neville Goddard, page 102)

Enduring Love

a friendly being

I went into the bathroom yesterday and saw this spider resting on the roll of toilet paper. I’ve seen him/her in the bathroom for a couple of weeks but this was a new place and so it surprised me. I’ve been reading a biography of Emerson and the author said of Emerson’s mother, “She expected her children to be kind ‘to all animals and insects.”* This also surprised me considering that she was born in 1768.

I know so many kind people who go out of their way to capture and set free insects of all kinds, and yet are troubled by the thought that they aren’t doing anything to make the world a better place, or that their contribution is minimal. How can we measure the importance of a life? What makes us think that lovingly rescuing a spider or a bee isn’t a high spiritual activity, vitally important to the good of us all?

And who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:25

*pp. 21 Emerson, The Mind on Fire by Robert D. Richardson Jr.

 

I really appreciate……

Fred snuggling up with Emerson*

My birthday is at the end September and so I’ve been thinking about what I want to do. The weeks before Jack’s birthday, I’m also in planning mode. I love planning special days and trips, and this process makes the build-up to the day seem like a celebration too. Not so for Jack. The thought of being responsible for planning and executing a special occasion is a daunting task for him. It isn’t fun.

For years, I felt slighted by this. I took it personally and thought, “I go to all of this work for your birthday, (or Christmas, Valentine’s Day or whatever) and  it seem like it’s a chore when you need to think about something for me. I failed to consider that often, when he did make plans, I didn’t like them and changed them anyway, (but feeling slighted never needs a logical reason to exist, so I felt quite justified in my displeasure with him).

Last week we had a serious talk about our  mutual lack of appreciation (for the part of each other that wasn’t like us). I wanted him to be more like me (while doing everything else) and he had the same feeling about me. We decided that over the next month, we would concentrate on what we appreciated about each other, and that we would not only silently acknowledge this, we’d say it too.

Jack is great at taking care of the  “infrastructure” of our home: mortgage, taxes, fuel, lights, garbage, lawn…he takes care of all of this, month in and month out. It isn’t the glitzy, exciting, new or fun things that he plans, but without his part, the glitz wouldn’t be happening either. It is the stuff that goes mostly unnoticed but as I tried to notice, and to tell him that I noticed and appreciated what he was doing, the atmosphere of our home got lighter. We’ve gone from saying, “I really appreciate……” a couple of times a week, to many times a day. He told me last night, as he walked in the door that he appreciated my friendly greeting. We’ve made a game of it.

So last week when he said to me, “I need to start thinking about your birthday” I said,

“No you don’t. That’s my job.” and we both laughed…. And I began planning. First we’re going to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home in Concord Mass and then on to the Natural Living Expo (in Sturbridge) for the night, and I can’t tell you how excited I am. I love these plans, and so does Jack.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well”. Voltaire

Why not make this weekend an “Appreciation Fest” by trying to notice what is right, with everyone and everything you think about (including yourself) and if you’d like to, write these things here on the blog (as often as you’d like).

If you are reading this, I really appreciate you being a part of my life. Without you, this blog would not be what it is.  Love to you!, Mary

* The title of this book is, Emerson: The Mind on Fire, by Robert D. Richardson Jr. (and it is a really wonderful read, if you want to know more about the development of this great man’s life)