Posts Tagged ‘alive’

The presence of experience

October 9, 2013

You cannot create experience. You must undergo it. Albert Camus

Before humans could write and read we learned through witnessing and listening. As witnesses, we saw what others experienced, and (hopefully) we learned vicariously. When we witnessed someone become ill from eating the strange red berries, we were not likely to eat those berries. We listened (again hopefully) when our parents and elders passed along knowledge and wisdom with the spoken word: don’t poke the sleeping tiger.

The written word expands our worlds. All the red berries have warning labels and the sleeping tigers have awakened. If we want to know about Subject X, the most expedient method is to look it up on the Internet. Sometimes, we can watch a film or talk to a subject expert, but the cheapest and quickest way to learn anything is to read. The written word saved my sanity as a child. Books were my lifeline to the world beyond the one I was confined to then, and I wanted to experience all of it.

The short 90 or so years that I will be on this planet will not satisfy my desire for discovery, and I am nearly two-thirds of the way to my expiration date. As I weed my way through what I am willing to experience, death has become my azimuth. Years ago, some therapists told me that this was a problem so I “worked” on it, but now, I find that it has served me well. Keeping my eye on death causes me to embrace my eternal presence – the part of me that will continue when my body no longer exists. Who I become now I take with me into eternity. What I experience helps me evolve into who I become.

Countless words exist of people’s tales detailing their journeys of how they became who they are. There are hundreds of methods and paths to self-discovery. I’ve read the books and blogs of people who appear to have blazed the trails to enlightenment and ultimate universal connection. I’ve prayed their prayers. I’ve practiced their meditations. I’ve repeated their mantras.

Yes, I’ve grown. I’ve become. I’ve discovered. I’ve experienced. But, I’ve not achieved the measure of conscious embodiment their words have described. I’ve failed to mirror their success and wonder why.

In my efforts to master the experience of Centering Prayer, I read Thomas Keating’s book Manifesting God. If you read his book, you can’t but help but hear Keating’s voice and feel his experience with God. In a moment of clarity, some small still voice inside me said: “these words describe how it is for him, but not necessarily how it is for you.” Keating can only describe his process, not mine. He cannot live my experience any more than I can live his.

Words and books cannot create my experience. Living creates experience.

The experience I seek is to be fully alive as my true self in this life.

Only my presence can create that experience.

©2013 by Barbara L. Kass

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a little bit edgy

May 25, 2010

Being powerless makes me weary. Today, this is what stood out for me:

• The ants who insist on invading the kitchen
• The optometrist who clearly did not bother to find out what I wanted
• The co-worker who plays helpless and inept in an attempt to get others to do her job for her
• Whether anyone likes my cooking
• If it will rain
• If my tennis partners will show up to play
• If other people drive safely

I’ll not bore you with the details or the outcomes. It is sufficient to say that I made it home alive and intact.

And the ants are still here, too.

This exercise has made me notice how my mind automatically thinks. I have to focus and concentrate on what I have no control over in order to even be mindful of it. The question for me is: now that I know I am powerless, will I let that stop me?

It could be that I am not all that invested in outcomes as I once was. I will find another optometrist. I will laugh at the co-worker (and occasionally poke her with a stick). I like my cooking. Rain or not, does not matter except when I want to play tennis. If it rains or no one shows, I go do something else.

Other people driving safely is one of those tricky outcomes. I have a constant urge to stay safe, so I drive like other people are out to get me. I am paranoid, untrusting, and always expect other drivers to do The Stupid Thing.

Like I said, I got home alive.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

The disappearing outcome

April 20, 2010

Sometimes, I get a little too attached to the Land of Supposed To Be.

Okay, not just sometimes . . . a lot of the time.

Through the stories I tell myself about what reality is supposed to look like, I create a story about outcomes – how life is supposed to be. And I really cannot be blamed for having this attachment. After all, I was programmed from birth to have expectations. It doesn’t help that nature does what it is supposed to do: water does what water is supposed to do, animal behavior is fairly predictable, trees and grass and flowers all respect their cycles of growth and dormancy. There is a certain stability and logic to our environment that allows humans to depend on specific outcomes.

Nature also limits the predictability of human life. I can depend on certain outcomes in my life given the conditions of any environment. It suddenly makes sense to me why some people abandon civilization and go off to live alone in a backwoods cabin. Life becomes a more known quantity when I have removed variables I cannot control or predict (i.e., other people).

Lately, though, I have been letting go of the need to have a specific outcome to anything. I have become more conscious and aware of taking care of the moments in my life and my internal work has been to trust my intent to bring my presence to life. I cannot predict or control the outcome of being truly present and alive. I only know that I must honor that this path called to me and I chose to follow it. I don’t want to know how it ends or to try to imagine where it might take me.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Presence and personal value

April 5, 2010

A long time ago in a place called Gaia.com, we were asked what pushes us to ignore our personal values. I responded that it depends which value is at stake at the time; I will trade every single value I hold dear for the life of my granddaughter for she is who I value most in life; other values become negotiable for my own survival; others less so for the price of my employment and having a home — but these are all in the extreme. We all like to say “nothing” will cause me to ignore my personal values, but when we examine our lives closely, there are trade-offs daily even though we don’t like to admit them. I admit mine mindfully, trade them carefully, minimize their impact on myself and others, and realize I am living in the real imperfect world.

My eternal presence does not wrestle with the rightness or wrongness of any of my decisions. Because of my granddaughter, I know that my life really is not mine to trade lightly or selfishly. When that little person came into the world, in that moment, she became the reason I was born. I do not know for how long my life is hers. It may be until she reaches adulthood. It may be beyond. Until I know, everything about me is to take good care of myself, negotiate life’s trials with caution with the fundamental knowledge that I need to be wholly alive.

Does her ownership of my mortality make me do less for myself? Actually, no. Instead, I strive for more because I know she is watching me. She makes me even more determined to be fully alive, to bring the presence in me that lives eternally to this temporary world.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass