How I love to see the snow falling. I moved to New England many years ago so I would finally get to experience all the seasons. I’d grown up in South Florida, where it’s pretty much summer year-’round.
Well . . . the truth is, I delight in a lusty snowfall so long as it arrives on my schedule. It occurs to me just now that were a blizzard to be on the docket for tomorrow, I would be truly bummed. A happily (and long-) anticipated musical event is in the offing. If it could just hold off snowing till I get across the state and back, that would be great.
You couldn’t do better for a teacher than the weather. Talk about the things we have no control over. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did?
* * *
And then there’s the “weather” ordinary life subjects us to, little of which we have much say in. Though we sure wish we did. I’d rather I didn’t have arthritis, for instance. Physicality is another fine teacher in the nature of control and its absence. In these lives of ours, there are many things we have no say in — at whose mercy, you might say, we are. The spiritual life has at its heart the tricky business of sorting one from the other: the stuff we have some say in, and the things we must simply accept.
The spiritual life has at its heart the tricky business of sorting one from the other: the stuff we have some say in, and the things we must simply accept.
There are teachers everywhere in ordinary life, so long as we’re willing to recognize them for what they are. Here’s a first-rate instructor: reflecting on what-I-want and how that might differ from what-I-need. Once upon a time, anything I fiercely desired I felt I just had to have, in an almost obsessive way. Oh yes, I desperately want it not to snow tomorrow. But at least I notice myself doing that and manage to laugh: fortunately, my mind still works well enough to enable me to recall the thousands of times this sort of thing has happened over the years.
Does any of this ring a bell in your experience?
* * *
One thing to be aware of, as you look at your ordinary life to see what it might reveal of your underlying beliefs and motivations, is this: none of it should involve judgment of yourself. You are not a “failure” or a spiritual misfit for any of what goes on in your head or heart. You are simply human! This is the way we tick as people.
When somebody wakes up, spiritually speaking, one of the striking qualities of that condition is that all judgment has pretty much dissolved. This applies to looking at yourself as well as looking at others. Phenomena simply are what they are. If you want to be more free, on the interior, than you think you are right now, judging yourself for being this-or-that is absolutely useless — even harmful. Gazing on yourself with critical eyes, with the wish to “fix” yourself, only gets in the way. If you do notice yourself in judgment of yourself (or others), realize that seeing this is a true blessing. But spare yourself the next step of judging yourself or denying any of it or determining that you must “fix” yourself.
All of the spiritual life is about actual reality, both on the interior and “out there,” in the world we engage with. If you want to wake up, it is crucial that you see this — and also that you see if you are otherwise focused, aimed at fixing yourself or others. Or judging anyone (above all your dear self!) for being less than perfect.
* * *
If peace is what you desire most in your life, sorting out all of this can be truly catalytic. Even to be simply conscious of the several conflicts operating opens a door of possibility. Not to say it’s easy: for it asks us to challenge what are likely lifelong habits and beliefs.
But oh, is it worthwhile!
You may, for instance, notice yourself thinking such things as “I cannot be okay unless these circumstances change for the better.” Even to see yourself having such a thought can open a door. It can be incredibly freeing — and illumining — to ask yourself, “Is that actually true?” It can feel risky to question ourselves. To see what beliefs or desires might underlie chronic ways of orienting to life.
What if you put this to yourself, during a time of torment over some life condition: “Maybe I cannot do anything to improve things just now.” It might turn out to be actually restful to see that. (I can attest to this in my own experience, particularly since things changed on my interior many years ago.)
* * *
I wish you all the best in your own explorations, my friend. And now, since my oh-so-human back is aching a bit, I think I will be kind to myself (and maybe to you; perhaps your life is brimful of things to do just now) and say goodbye for now.
I will be back! Meanwhile, please have fun. Let yourself love — yes, even your precious self. And if this is a holiday season for you, may it be glorious and blessedly free of stress. Life is short. Be gentle with yourself, and with those you love.