Settling Into the Miracle of What Is

Settling into the miracle of what is may be all that our heart ever needs. How to do that is an ancient dilemma, a constant in humanity, and as such, perhaps the source of the miracle we seek.

“Every particle of creation sings its own song of what is and what is not. Hearing what is can make you wise; hearing what is not can drive you mad” (Sufi poet Ghalib).

KMHuberImage; Mudhen; St. Mark's Refuge; Northern FL

We are prone to making sure that everything turns out as it is supposed to be, which is often synonymous with what we want it to be. We make murky what is, at the risk of making what is not. Perhaps we do not trust who we are; perhaps we do not believe in miracles.

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle” (Albert Einstein).

If living is a miracle, then we are a constant witness to the ever evolving miracle that is existence. Viewing life through that lens, just being seems more than sufficient. It is and it is not. There is the matter of day-to-day activities, relationships, situations.

For every day of the week, I mentally repeat a Vedic sutra as part of my morning meditation and writing. On Tuesday, my sutra is Sankalpa, the Sanskrit word for purpose or intention. In part, it says “every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. I let go of all grievances and choose miracles” (Deepak Chopra, SynchroDestiny, DVD version).

KMHuberImage; Snowy Egret; St. Mark's Refuge; Northern FL
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For me, Sankalpa clearly delineates the distinction between what is and what is not; it frames day-to-day choices and decisions that are part of the miracle of being. Sankalpa reminds me that miracles reside within the field of infinite possibilities where we choose courage over fear.

That means loving ourselves for who we are, not for what we might be or for what we were but who we are–now. Loving ourselves completely is our connection to one another for it is how we love all.  The depth of or lack of love for ourselves is the face we present to the world.

“… Loving [ourselves] requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world—our own self-worth” (Mark Nepo, Book of Awakening).

When we settle into the miracle of what is, we love ourselves as we are. The face we present to the world is our open heart, a revelation of our self worth. It does not mean that the world is open to us but rather, in courage we choose the miracle of what is, including pain.

Every moment of our life is like opening night for our roles are constantly evolving, while we await the response of our audience, the world in which we live. And as each scene plays out to either applause or catcalls, we settle in to the next. The play is Oneness and each of us must play a part, on and off stage.

“And all moments of living, no matter how difficult, come back into some central point where self and world are one, where light pours in and out at once.…a fine moment to live,” for it is yet another miracle of what is (Mark Nepo).

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Gifts and Limitations

In a recent morning meditation from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, I read of his playing basketball during high school and college. He assessed his performance with this stunning sentence: “My gifts were enough to hide my limitations.”

In immediate response, my mind sorted its archives to a job interview I had in the late ’80s; I interviewed for a library KMHuberImage; librarycataloger position with the library system’s director. Her impression of my resume was, “You’ve had many positions that most people would consider careers.”

Forever naïve, I welcomed her comment as a compliment, freely admitting how wonderful it was to experience as many careers as possible. Not only did I miss her point but I’m not sure that I fully appreciated my own response until I read Nepo’s sentence.

In other words, my gifts were sufficient to let my heart go elsewhere.

The ability to enjoy more than one career seems to be much more accepted in the 21st century. In fact, it may be a necessity. Regardless, there is an emerging awareness that exploring our gifts to their fullest allows us to let go of the dreams that are mere moments of brightness for the one light that is ours alone.

I have been incredibly fortunate in my work as a journalist/editor, a college writing instructor, an administrator and in between, I worked clerical jobs that taught me the immense importance of detail.

For as long as I can remember, writing was in my heart but I never had the courage to experience it. I believed one secured a job to support one’s writing, which wasn’t working out too well for me. Never did I consider “the succession of life’s trials is precisely the unfolding we need to find our bliss and rightful place in the order of things” (Nepo).

Not surprisingly, I did not get the cataloger position but I was later hired as the branch librarian and went on to become the director of the library system. I loved those library years but I could not make them be my dream nor was I the library system’s dream, ultimately. We both looked elsewhere.

It is not that I have not considered my careers from time to time for I have. I am grateful for all that brought me to this moment, for all the unfolding of my gifts that gave me each dream until another dream emerged. I think it kept me curious.KMHuberImage; Library gazer

What I never experienced in any of the dream jobs was the joy I experience every time I write. For me, there is nothing like it, and I am completely serious when I say that I come to the writing to find out what happens next. Whatever happens in the writing, I experience it. No longer clinging to what the writing may or may not be, the words and sentences open into the field of infinite possibilities, where joy resides.

Every career brought me moments of happiness but never joy for I was KMHuberImage; writingclinging, which is very like trying to touch the wind.

“The truth is that what we want to dream of doesn’t always last. It tends to serve its purpose… And then fades away, losing its relevance. And we can do enormous damage to ourselves by insisting on carrying that which has died” (Nepo).

Only in pursuing our gifts do we meet our limitations, which, I suspect, is the stuff of dreams.

Considering Critical Mass

Imagine what critical mass consciousness might mean for our planet. That’s what I have been considering this past week. In this context, I am referring to critical mass as “a threshold value of the number of people needed to trigger a phenomenon by exchange of ideas” (Wikipedia).

In a recent Super Soul Sunday interview with Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra suggested the possibility of critical mass consciousness because of the advances we have made in technology.  Imagine all of us aware of being aware.

The idea of awareness or wholeness reaching such a threshold does seem more than plausible as we are able to communicate globally on a daily basis, if we are so inclined. Whatever technology may or may not be, it is bringing us together face by face, word by word, video by video, an ongoing parade of points of view. It seems there are few places or events that we cannot access.

The recent US presidential election is a good example of such an event. The reelection of President Obama revealed much about us as Americans, not the least of which is that we, too, are moving toward that segment of the planet where white is just another color. In revealing ourselves, warts and all, we relied on the risk that is hope, on the spark that is genius.

“Genius is a crisis that joins the buried self, for certain moments, to our daily mind” (William Butler Yeats). Whenever we are jarred into genius, we have the opportunity to become whole–once again aware—to perceive yet another perspective on what it is to be human. Through crisis, we absorb all that we have been so that we may be yet again anew and maybe, just maybe not as attached.

“The purpose in crisis, if there is one, is not to break us as much as to break us open” (Mark Nepo). Letting go is a lifelong lesson. To be broken open is to detach from the outcome of crisis, no matter how difficult it is or how long it takes. To become aware of all around us requires us to love enough to let go. As the Buddhists say, “to be a fisherman you must detach yourself from the dream of the fish. This makes whatever is caught or found a treasure” (Nepo).*

Perhaps that is what takes us to crisis, our ever narrowing inability to let go of the dream. We attach our lives to a candidate, to a belief, to a fish, and we close ourselves to any and all outcome outside of our narrowly defined dream. No such dream could ever come true for our attachment to its outcome is beyond the dream.

St. Francis told us that “[we] are what [we] are seeking.” As seekers, we break open, teetering on the edge of ourselves, where awareness begins. Extending all that we are to all that surrounds us is consciousness, motivated only by compassion, love, gratitude, and joy. Just consider that we have the technology to reach such critical mass consciousness.

*(All Mark Nepo quotations are from The Book of Awakening, Kindle version).

Taking a Full Breath

I usually mention “being present” or “being in the moment” in my posts but until I read Elizabeth Mitchell’s inspirational post, I did not realize how often I am my own obstacle. When I read Elizabeth’s words of “get out of your own way,” it occurred to me that I am only in the moment when I am not standing in my own way.

Here is another way to consider it: I am my greatest obstacle when I am least aware that I am aware, the opposite of Michael Singer’s definition of consciousness, “being aware of being aware…the seat of Self.”

When we are in “the seat of Self,” we immerse ourselves in each moment for the experience of it, allowing all of it to pass through us completely, not holding onto a single breath. It is as basic as inhaling and exhaling, the essence of living.

Breathing/living completely requires constant awareness and attention; if we get sidetracked, we attach first to this, then to that and we find ourselves short of breath. Our physiology constricts; our head is over our heart. We need to get out of our own way.

Currently, I am participating in Kristen Lamb’s two-month, online blogging course, which I highly recommend for all bloggers; I am about to engage in writing the initial draft of a second novel; I have a nonfiction manuscript that requires revision; the response to my blog pleases me more and more every day. Every one of these is an opportunity if I breathe fully and do not attach.

Fortunately, I have the luxury of being older as well as being chronically ill, and I’m serious in my application of the word luxury to both advantages.

Aging provides me a considerable archive of experience—albeit one of attachment—yet I pause, mainly because I’ve been there, done that, which is not being present. I catch myself relying on the known, which does not fit as it once did. So, I am considering the class, my writing, and this blog–each for what it is–through perspectives unknown to me. It is taking some time but in understanding that the moment is all I ever have, time is yet another luxury for me.

As I have written numerous times, chronic illness keeps me more in the moment than any resource in my life and as such, I  discovered worlds I would never have known, and there are so many more! Every day, I meet people with the most extraordinary stories, constant sources of inspiration and information.

Always, I am grateful for  my readers and for the incredible insight that so many of you reveal in your comments as well as in your correspondence with me. Frankly, your response is humbling and energizing. It keeps me on the search for blog post topics. Truly, I thank you.

As I reorganize and reconstruct, I am taking a break from blogging, returning on October 28.  As usual, Mark Nepo succinctly describes the coming and going that is living:

“Being human, there are endless times we need to be still and as many times that we need to move. But much of our confusion as modern citizens comes from trying to have the one we are more comfortable with substitute for the other.”

Freedom in the Unknown

For a while I have been residing with two, well-worn nemeses, the past and the future.  I am deliberate in my use of the terms future and past rather than a specific moment, incident, or person for what keeps the past and future ever present is what Deepak Chopra calls “the conditioned response” or the known.

Each one of us has a myriad of conditioned responses for every situation that arises. Regardless of whether or not there is a replica of a particular situation, the mind enthusiastically emits a thought barrage of past experience and future possibility. Both future and past are attached to what happened or what might happen but not to the moment that is. Living in the moment is the unknown, free from past or future.

Essentially, every moment is free. We choose between the known and the unknown, between what we have always been and what we have never been. It is that basic. What is not free is the situation surrounding each and every moment.

Situations reside in the past or in the future–they have strings–and where there is attachment, there is ego, a constant chatter of what you already know. Only when we practice what Chopra calls “choice less awareness” (Moksha), are we in the unknown of the moment and truly free. It takes a lifetime of practice and ceaseless awareness.

For without awareness, we get comfortable and our practice becomes what we know and not what is. Increasingly, my enthusiasm was on the wane, whether for the revision of my novel or for my nonfiction manuscript on consciousness. While I love what I am doing, I could not deny a familiar tug of weariness. Briefly, even the malaise of lupus loomed as I turned more and more to the known of the past.

Mindless television is a tried-and-true response of mine to whenever “the world is too much with us” (William Wordsworth). Some would argue that I could not have picked a better time than the broadcasting of the two major political conventions in the United States. There may be something to that. For completely opposite reasons, both conventions made me weep but as I reached my saturation point for both weeping and politics, I discovered my enthusiasm for republic and democracy.  Both are messy, completely life-like, wherein lies the sliver that is hope.

No matter the moment of life, hope is always the light of the unknown and may be the heart of risk as well. In hope lies enthusiasm, the total immersion into life, “the ripple that follows the stone…[as] we are each faced with the endless and repeatable task of discovering or uncovering our enthusiasm, which means in essence being at one with the energy of God or the divine” (Mark Nepo). Not surprisingly, God and the divine are within the political whirlwind of the United States while the world watches.

Regardless of how we perceive our relationship to one another–Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance,” the Tao, the Universe, the Source or quantum physics–we are all connected to consciousness, which is so much more than a mere pinprick of light. Consciousness connects us to existence, transcending all we have ever known; it moves our heads under our hearts so we may hear one another. When we listen, we observe. We make a response within the moment.

In observing the political conventions I listened, dropping my decades-long conditioned response of ranting and raving. Rather, I was grateful for living in a republic brave enough to reveal the messiness of its democracy to the world, at considerable risk perhaps.  I immersed myself into the enthusiasm that is the noise of life, the unpredictable but eternal moment.

It is such a small step from the known to the unknown. In the unknown resides the “choice less” awareness that is the freedom inherent in risk, the heartbeat of hope. It is neither the past nor the future but only the moment, which is all we ever have yet is always more than enough as long as we are aware. “Despite our endless limitations, it seems that the qualities of attention, risk, and compassion allow us to be at one with the energy of the whole and the result is enthusiasm, that deep sensation of oneness” (Nepo).

(All Mark Nepo citations appear in The Book of Awakening)

The Quiet Teachers

As I have mentioned more than once, I’m spending this year with Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening, meaning that I begin my daily meditation by reading one of his 365 observations. More often than not, a series of readings—one day after another—will seem an awakening designed only for me. This past week, Nepo introduced me to the quiet teachers.

The quiet teachers are often ignored but are everywhere and are as solid as the ground upon which we walk. We know these quiet teachers by their “lessons [that] dissolve as accidents or coincidence…offering us direction that can only be heard in the roots of how we feel and think” (Nepo).

For me, the lessons have been clear but somewhat noisy for I am in the process of completely restructuring a novel I wrote seventeen years ago. What that means is the destruction of a weakly structured novel in order to salvage a stubborn story that has waited a long time to be told. It has required me to immerse myself into an old world, awakening characters long silent and provoking images fraught with memories. There has been much shattering of ideals but the shards of those ideals proved to be quiet teachers, the first of others that I met this week.

Nepo also introduced me to an observation from Megan Scribner: “‘I’m only lost if I’m going someplace in particular.'” I could not have described my own first attempt at writing a novel more succinctly. For over 80,000 words and seventeen years, I stayed with a story I no longer believed rather than facing the story that was trying to emerge. Once I began stripping away the façade, I heard the heart of the story and found myself at journey’s beginning: “Practice letting go of your plan and discover the path of interest that waits beneath your plan” (Nepo).

Not being attached to outcome or plan reveals the story waiting to be written. It is only when I have the courage to face failure do I heed the lessons of the quiet teachers. Accident and coincidence dissolve into the direction of the story. I am struck by the synchronicity of my own life’s direction with that of my writing life. Not for the last time, I am in awe at the oneness that is all.

“‘Be serene in the oneness of things and erroneous views will disappear by themselves'” (Seng-Ts’an) became clearer and clearer to me as I separated the heart of the story from the remnants of what was once a novel. All of the tearing apart and leaving of words is less difficult than I imagine. There are thorny moments but eventually, they give way to the relief of no longer having to hold up the façade of novel.

While the shininess of a new structure of a novel is a gift, the fear of idolizing structure at the cost of story, wherever it may wend, is a battle that will wage until structure and story support one another as a whole. I am confident in the lessons of the quiet teachers but mostly, I am vigilant for like life, writing is fraught with accident and coincidence as is the beating of my heart.

“As you enter your day, try not to reach for life. Try not to leave or arrive. Try to let life into you” (Nepo).

Gifts at 60

On this first day of my being 60, I am not writing the blog post I had planned; living in the moment is like that or so I am learning. Certainly, I thought about this particular post much more than I usually do—I kept considering it my first blog post of my next decade–but by mid-week, that ego balloon went airless.

The last week of my fifth decade proved to be a week of surprises, mostly in the form of sugar, but not entirely in the obvious way. For the most part, my system no longer tolerates sugar in any form other than what it produces itself. Generally, this is not a statement I have to consider but in my last post, I mentioned that I had an appointment with a practitioner of Eastern medicine. Not so surprisingly, she and I had different interpretations regarding Eastern medicine–and sugar–but rather surprisingly, I agreed to try two different remedies at least one time, which proved to be more than enough.

Buoyed by the possibilities presented by the practitioner, I decided to have one (1) glass of red wine, my first in three years.  Although my glass of wine and my dose of “remedies” were days apart, literally, my week collapsed before Wednesday noon. I am more recovered than not and leaning toward awareness.

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I suspect I was caught up in birthday bliss for it has been a week of gifts beyond remembering the lesson of sugar.  Once again, I discovered that I really can, and should, trust my instincts and not my ego. It was not my instincts that chose the remedies or the wine but my ego filled with the idea of birthday, a balloon born to burst. I am reminded of Georgia O’Keeffe–“To see takes time”–a sentence for the rest of my life, yet another gift.

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I was pleasantly surprised by lovely flowers from  Dr. Mac and all of the sanctuary “critters” at  secondchancefarms.org. As you can see, EmmaRose wasted no time in her inspection, and yes, all are “kitty safe” petals.

Cooper and I began our morning on the Gulf of Mexico, near this palm tree at St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge but here is where we will both end our day.

Almost always, Cooper takes command of the remote. Like me, he is a bit ambivalent about television but he has a preference for the remote.

Thank you, Dear Reader, for stopping by to read my posts and to chat, from time to time. It is such a gift you give, and I am most grateful, always.

“Once during the day, think of who you are as living energy and not as a goal to be achieved or obstacle to be overcome. Feel yourself without inventory” (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening).