Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Here's what I believe ...

I believe that what we need comes to us when we need it.  Whether we are open to receiving it is another matter.  Often I am resistant to the solutions and inspirations in front of me because I spend my time seeking support for my bad mood, or proof that the world really is out to get me.  Such that when I do trip and fall (both literally, and as a metaphor for any number of personal and work-related disasters), I almost revel in the victory of being right.  See, I AM a miserable failure!

This journey I often take down Cynicism Lane is nothing more than an enormous cul-de-sac filled with left-hand turns and multiple dead ends.  Hence the default, spin cycle journey from Point A to Point A that inevitably ensues when I simply put myself on autopilot rather than mindfulness mode.  And even though mindfulness is a blessing, it has taken me almost 38 years to understand it and to occasionally, for just a second, tap into it.

So this morning, as I was wading through an Inbox of endless (mostly insignificant) emails, I found an email from one of my MFA instructors that described the new graduate course titled Mindfulness Communication.  Even though I don't think I can actually take the course, since it requires attendance on campus, two hours away from where I live and work, the professor's reading list provided some valuable new (to me) resources, and her narrative presented an interesting approach to integrating mindfulness into writing.  And reading.  And creating. 

I quickly (as if the email were threatening to vanish) wrote down every book and author and idea the professor suggested in the hopes that I would find some key to unlocking an even deeper artistry inside myself.  Finding missing puzzle pieces of my self is always invigorating ... and a little overwhelming.  Which is why it is most helpful to connect the outside pieces first; the insides will eventually match up once I build the frame.  Or so I am told.

All of this gets me to the real point of my post - and that is the quote that sat at the bottom of the Mindfulness Communication professor's email.  It read:  

Concentrate on what you do now,
just here and now.
And quite naturally,
you will find the way.

~~ Zen Master Rinzai

I realized, in that moment, that if I do, indeed, have a religion, a faith, a spirituality - a system of beliefs that can be categorized and packed into a label -  then the overarching theme is Mindfulness.  Rather ironic, since I often actively avoid mindfulness. At times I fear it. I judge it. I hide it and I hide from it. 

But ... and this is all that matters, I think ... I am aware of it.  I finally know what it means.  And I finally appreciate what it is.  That doesn't mean I can explain it today any better than I could a year ago, because it is still in its "essence" stage for me - it is a feeling and a presence and an awareness.  But it is there, even when I dodge it and try to manipulate it away.

I have been exploring the connections and differences between "religion" and "belief" lately, and feeling rather orphaned in both areas. I was born and raised Catholic, and I still struggle with inviting any new faith-based ideas into the part of me that feels compelled to do business as usual.  And no, I am not an anti-Catholic.  Or a "recovering" Catholic.  I was raised with a solid religious foundation and don't see any value in condemning an entire faith.

That being said, I am a questioning Catholic.  And sometimes that is just as sinful. 

For example, I believe that every person should be allowed to make decisions regarding his/her body. This applies to a man’s right to refuse medical care as much as it does a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.  I also believe that every human being should have the right to marry (even as I simultaneously wonder who the hell would ever want to.)  Neither of these personal perspectives gels with the belief system of my childhood, however.  And that often feels a little like abandonment ... if I am not 100% in, am I faithless?  I used to think so. 

But now I realize that tapping into the disconnect has proven an essential exercise in self awareness. With age, and time, and experience I have not abandoned my learned beliefs, but have instead expanded them, added to them, fine tuned them into a more personalized collection of Heatherisms. 

Since my feelings and challenges with this issue are nothing particularly new, I'm not sure what led me to write this today. Maybe it's because with the approaching "holidays" comes my struggle with the awkwardness of wishing people a "Merry Christmas" only to unintentionally offend them.  Maybe it's because I have had a rough week of feeling more drained and less supported than usual. Or maybe it's simply because I decided to respond to a reaction I had in a single moment, as I read Zen Master Rinzai's quote, embedded in a professor's email. 

All I know for sure is that beliefs need not be fixed or finite.  They need not fit neatly into a single category or meet the strict criteria of someone else's label.  I think the only way to truly locate oneself is to do the work (sometimes rewarding, sometimes painful) of concentrating on the "here and now." Because I believe that some day, when someone asks me "Who is your guru?" I will be able to answer, simply and honestly: "I am."

1 comment:

  1. This is one of those pieces that make you stop to think about not only your beliefs but how you live them once again thank you.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.