Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

The presence of lessons and eternal mirrors

January 2, 2015

“It isn’t all about you.”

We’ve all heard that line.

Or, the sarcastic: “yeah, it’s all about YOU, isn’t it?”

The message is that I am supposed to think about others, have regard for their feelings, some empathy and sympathy for what might be happening in their lives, and that nothing is all about me.

Or is it?

Is there a metaphysical existence where I perceive everything as reflecting my presence in the world? In this existence, life takes every opportunity to define itself by reflecting the nature of its creator.

That little proposition is easy to take on when one is out in “nature” defined by glorious trees, dazzling mountains, endless horizons of flowered meadows, and Bambi chewing clover by the river. It’s a little harder when one is hustling “nature” the day after New Year’s chasing down the after-Christmas sales at the local ginormous nationwide superstore which is where I happened upon my most recent soul-opening exercise.

At said nameless store, ever hopeful for a stay-at-home snow day, I placed two 15-pound cartons of snowmelt in my cart and proceeded to checkout. At the checkout counter, I unloaded all of my items, including the 15-pound cartons of snowmelt on to the conveyor belt. As the cashier swept the snowmelt cartons across the scanner, she said, “Next time just leave the heavy items in your cart and I will scan them from there.” She didn’t look happy while she said it.

It took me a moment to realize what she said. I finally asked, “So, you think those are heavy?”

She responded by saying “If you have to lift them all day long, they get real heavy.” She was not smiling when she said this.

All sorts of responses went through my head – statements about how there are no signs about leaving heavy items in the cart, what qualifies as heavy, pointed remarks about how this was the job she had chosen and if she didn’t like it . . ., and one really super retort about how I was contributing to helping her prevent osteoporosis, but fortunately none of THOSE came out. What I said was: “Thank you for pointing that out to me. I learned something today.”

I did not tell her what I learned because I had not yet figured it out. At that time, I was mostly thinking that whatever her problem was, it had nothing to do with me and was all about her disliking what she did for a living. And, I thanked her because I made a mental note to self: “never work at Nameless Nationwide Superstore as a cashier.”

But then I came home and read my e-mail. My friend, Deborah Hart Yemm, from A New Gaia and blog Gazing in the Mirror, had sent me this poem written by Rumi:

You have no idea how hard I’ve looked
for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.

What’s the point of bringing gold
to the gold mine, or water to the ocean.

Everything I came up with was like
taking spices to the Orient.

It’s no good giving my heart and my
soul because you already have these.

So I’ve brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.

It is like God said “no, this IS about YOU.”

I am that cashier and she is me. Just as she has to own her suffering, I must own mine. Just as I seek my soul’s happiness in the world, so must she.

She cannot order me to alleviate her suffering anymore than I can demand that the world relieve mine. She cannot complain her way into happiness anymore than I can.
Barbara L. Kass
©1/2/2015

A self-involved presence

September 11, 2011

I am the most self-involved person that I know. While I suspect that there might be others whose soul focus on earth is me-me-me, I can’t speak to their experience . . . only mine.

And, no, use of the words “soul focus” is not a typographical error. Or a mismatch of “sole” and “soul.” My soul is my focus. Ever since I can consciously remember (fed by some raw, wordless impulse within me), I have asked the universal question: “Why am I here? What am I supposed to do?”

For my entire childhood and into young adulthood, that answer was “Make your parents happy!” (Their idea, not mine.) By the time I was 30, the insight hit me – not quite like a bolt of lightning but more like a stinky sock in my face – that nothing in this universe was going to make them happy because they already were: they delighted in their misery, settling with deep satisfaction into that cool muddy pool of inertia. They were, and one of them still is, very attached to their pain. The one that is still alive is demanding daily affirmation of worth through the actions of others. I don’t know what the dead one is doing right now . . . maybe peering over my shoulder while I write this, hopelessly seething with indignant justification for the heinous and neglectful actions that person committed in the name of love. Oh, wait, I need to let them off the hook for that stuff . . . okay, onward.

It seemed to me that many people had been given the purpose of making themselves happy. And other people, animals, objects, and events were supposed to do that for them. So, I figured I would get on that wagon and ride it home.

Fast forward twenty years and the dawning wisdom that – duh – all things come to pass. People. Animals. Plants. Objects. Events. To rely upon the ever-transitioning universe to provide me with steady, uncompromisable (or is it incompromisable?) happiness is a witless expectation. There is only one place where happiness can live eternally and that is within my soul.

I am not finding legions of friends lining up outside my door thrusting soul food into my arms. If my soul is to have nourishment, I need to seek that for myself. If my soul is to thrive and bloom in this existence, then it is up to me to nurture the environment within where that can happen.

The self that I am is very involved in that process, almost to the exclusion of everything else. And I think that the “almost” is an illusion. I am slowly realizing that everything I do, act, think, feel, and believe is in service of the self, creating fertile ground for my soul to flourish. There is no truly altruistic thought or act. I might think so as I help another or know within my bones I would die for a loved one . . . but even those thoughts and actions have a reward for me. I feel good about myself when I can provide for another. The pain of dying is nothing compared to the pain I imagine living without my loved one.

Self-involved is not a bad place – it is where I am intended to be. I must be involved with myself before I can be involved with others. The rules of behavior and boundaries of responsibility seem arbitrary and subject to self-perception, but this is all I’ve got. To be self-involved to the exclusion of the rights and needs of others is a clear boundary that often gets murky in my desperate attempts to reach that golden pot of enlightenment.

Yet, each day a particle of gold drops from that pot into my awareness and some new space of existence lights up inside me. A new understanding connects across those synapses in my brain. I am suddenly more complete than I was a moment before and yet painfully aware of more incompleteness and work to be done.

My self is working on it all right now.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

A presence of choice

October 20, 2010

I wonder what the children will remember . . . the children in the homeless shelter where I go to cook on Tuesday nights. It is a family shelter and there are ten children of all ages who live there.

I wonder what they will remember about this time. The older ones realize that they are homeless. The younger ones don’t quite know the implications. They all play and interact just like any other children I have known.

There is this underlying need to be normal. They play, they fight, they have fun just as they would in any other home. I don’t know their histories. It could be that being homeless is normal for them.

Children adjust so quickly to misfortune. It is like there is this inner guidance system that makes them gravitate toward joy and happiness despite their circumstances. As we become adults, though, we tend to lose that gravitational pull and instead let circumstances determine how we feel and how we shall be in the world.

I was never homeless as a child, yet I remember a constant drain on my energy that pulled me away from my normal gravitation toward joy and happiness. I grew up in an environment where to have any kind of thought, feeling, or action that was incongruent with my parents’ thoughts, feelings, or actions was considered improper, disrespectful, and punishable by having anything I enjoyed taken away from me. They were two of the most unhappy people I have ever encountered in my life, and my memories are full of a childhood spent learning how to be unhappy (about everything).

When the world became my parent, I had a real hard time keeping up with all the different responses I needed to accommodate. Everyone who I came into contact with who I imagined had any kind of control over my well-being (i.e., friends, teachers, employers) had control over my responses. As I gained physical and emotional distance from requiring any kind of parenting, I was able to see how I was allowing others to determine my way of being in the world.

Most of my adulthood has been spent learning how to be happy despite everything. For me, it is really a matter of choice. I can use my memories to recount my miseries and wallow in my woe-is-me fantasy. Or, I can watch these children play at the shelter and connect with the child within me who remembers how to be herself no matter what tune the world is dancing to.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of choice

September 23, 2010

I didn’t have any other choice.

I have heard this reasoning from lots of people to validate the decisions they’ve made. I’ve used it myself.

People’s lives are largely based on the choices they have made throughout their lifetimes. The circumstances they find themselves in are often the result of decisions they have made. If they enjoy their circumstances and love the lives they have, and if they keep using the same choice and decision-making process they have always used, they will probably find themselves in similar circumstances most of their lives. Even if some disaster out of their control sweeps their lives out from under them, if that person’s way of being is to be happy and enjoy life, that person will find a way to make their lives happy and enjoyable once again.

The same holds true for people who are not enjoying their lives, who are unhappy in their circumstances. Even if someone comes along and plucks them out of their miserable state, if the person rescued does not change their way of being in the world, they will eventually find themselves back in a similar miserable situation.

The kind of choice-making I am talking about is reserved for those who have free will and the capacity to enact the changes that they seek. There are those who are exempt, like infants and babies. But as soon as children develop awareness of self, they start making decisions. And we learn a lot of our decision-making behavior from the adults around us.

As children witness other adults’ decision-making behavior, I am not sure how much choice they have about adopting those behaviors. In survival mode, we all rely on what we know works because we witness it. Even if it other people’s behaviors do not work and their lives are miserable, if we have not witnessed a different behavior to model, we will rely upon what we know.

Until we wake up.

Once we grow and differentiate from others, we all have the capacity to change our way of being in the world and change the way we make decisions. We have the capacity to discover what is the best choice we could make given the kind of life we want to have.

As my friend, Laurie at Speaking from the Heart, would say: “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

the presence of wind

September 4, 2010

I had the good fortune to be on a Shamanic journey the weekend after Magic died where I connected with the spirits of nature: fire, wind, water, earth, bugs, and plants. Connection with nature is available all the time and requires only that I focus my attention to use my senses to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste.

Fire is probably the only spirit that one might not want to taste in its burning naked essence, but we taste and ingest fire anytime we have eaten a plant or an animal cooked over an open flame. I doubt that I would ever lick an insect or eat dirt, and I remind myself to admire poison ivy from afar and only taste water that I know well.

The wind is an entirely different matter. Wind is air molecules who have caught the energy of the sun and use it to travel the earth. It is with us all the time. Can you taste the wind? Of course we can. We can measure its strength with our bodies, watch its effects with our eyes, smell its fragrance through our nostrils, and hear its journey as it passes through tree branches and lifts the eaves of our homes. Most of us don’t stick our tongues out to taste it as it passes by, but you might try it sometime.

Because it is always available, I have begun to pay attention to wind while walking. The west wind visited me the other day, bringing with it the promise of autumn. I felt its breath of coolness against my skin even though the temperature of the air was well over 90 degrees. As I inhaled, the air tasted and smelled faintly of dusty leaves and earthy soil. It was easy to see and hear the trees ruffling in the breeze, but that was not all I could hear. Beneath the quiet trembling of tree limbs, the wind offered me a whisper of advice: look to be happy.

I’ve been pondering this advice. It is not so much that the wind advised me to be happy. It clearly said “look” to be happy. If I expect happiness, I will seek it – I will look to find it around me. I can expect that if I desire happiness, I will find and experience happiness within myself. Even if there are some present circumstances in my life that I am not totally happy with, I can look within my being and find much to be happy and joyful about. Being happy is a proactive way of life.

When I quiet the monkey chatter in my head and connect to these ever-present spirits of nature, I realize my more complete oneness. The wind is always inside me filling my lungs, providing my cells with precious molecules of oxygen. My contribution is the carbon dioxide I exhale which the wind then carries to all the plants of the earth. They, in turn, sustain me with their nutrients when I ingest them. The wind even captures the molecules of water on my skin when I sweat and lifts them high into the atmosphere where they become clouds of rainwater. Those molecules carry an essence of me to share with the world.

The next time it rains, I am going to imagine I am being showered with happiness.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Spiritual Warrior

July 31, 2010

My friend, Jeff (the reluctant bloger), responded to one of my blogs using the term “spiritual warrior.” In my quests to discover the divine truth of me and my life, I often feel that I am battling to discover, uncover, and recover.

Jeff said “it takes powerful courage to walk the way of the spiritual warrior.” My courage comes from my innate gravitation towards happiness. I want to be happy. I want to feel love. I remember those gravitational moments in my early years when I sought to be happy and some misunderstanding soul slapped me down. And because I was small and dependent upon them, I stayed down. I think it does take courage to get up and be willing to tackle the monsters again.

To read more about my monsters, go to “real monsters don’t wear costumes” under my About section.

I am fighting my programming, my natural instinct to survive, my need to belong and fit in with others. My warrior fights for my need to evolve and become while my survivor says “yes, but let’s fit in with the rest of the world at some level. We need them.”

I let my outside circumstances and other people determine who I became and I was a very unhappy soul. No matter what mental or emotional acrobatics I performed, the world was still not satisfied and continued its dysfunction. I could not become any more dysfunctional to accommodate it. To do so would have meant a total mental and emotional breakdown. I would have ceased to exist.

If I wanted to survive, my only option was to begin this journey. I began to slay the demons I had created for myself and who I had come to depend upon for survival. They worked in my childhood, kept the insanity of living in check, so letting go of them was often painful and distressing. After all, how would I survive without them? Can I find my spiritual enlightenment and awakening in this world? Must I slay foes with my spiritual sword or am I to use it to carve my path through thickets of lies to reveal my truth?

Illusions that once secured my sanity continue to be in my way. Beliefs that I once depended upon to make decisions sway like boulders on the precipice of avalanche. How can I create the security I need to challenge these systems? Do I need a specific set of circumstances to evolve? Do I have to create the ideal set of circumstances to become enlightened? Can I use any moment to become?

It helps to have a plan – a new set of ideas, beliefs, and ways of being that I desire. I can even try them on for size and practice before I let go of the old beliefs and ways of being. I can look for ways of being outside of me that resonate with my true presence and find that talent already hidden within myself. I just have not brought that monster out to play.

I know a few people who are genuinely, innately nice. They are kind and generous with their way of being in the world. They seem broadly happy and satisfied, even when they are overcoming obstacles on their way to becoming happier. They have an attitude that I can only describe as “inquiring” when someone is angry, rude, or hostile. I have felt this way of being calling me for a long time now.

All people who come on my path are my teachers – the “good” ones along with the “bad” ones. If I recognize them and label them, then I know I am them, too. A good warrior also knows when to lay down the sword.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Walking gratitude

June 2, 2010

Gratitude is a tough walk to take at 3:00 a.m.

At 3:00 a.m., the ghosts of past decisions come to visit. Each and every one of those decisions brought me to this space in my life. I look at the coming day and realize that not everything that is going on in my life is the way I like it, but I am happier than I have ever been.

That I set it all in motion becomes acutely clear – so sharp in my vision that I have to sometimes look away. I am not ready to see all of me just yet.

I am willing to see that I make all of the choices and decisions to be working and living where I am. Every day, I choose this path for many different reasons, and some of those decisions are made unconsciously. As my unconscious self slowly wakes up, I am meeting the self I am who desires peace and happiness.

At 3:00 a.m., I am not quite sure where I will find peace and happiness. All of my lessons in being powerless have taught me that peace and happiness are not “out there” even if I perceive others in the world as having more than their fair share. Still others have so much pain and sorrow, I feel guilty for having any joy.

It is easier to talk gratitude than to walk gratitude. My unconscious self who gave up peace and happiness in favor of guilt and inadequacy knows all the reasons, and I do not need to resolve all of those issues before I walk this path of gratitude presence. The wisdom of my eternal presence reminds me that this walk I am taking, this time of waking up, is happening within me. Within me is the path to peace and happiness – within my thoughts, within my feelings, within my actions, within my responses. Who I am becoming is reflected for others to see and perceive however they choose.

It is time to be the word and today the word is gratitude.

©2010 Barbara L. Kass

Wanted: New Complaints

May 17, 2010

I was reading in May’s Science of Mind magazine about monotony – doing the same thing over and over and over, and getting the same results, including the same complaints about life.

Traditional wisdom holds that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting a different outcome. We won’t go there today.

Living life with regular repetition supports us. It is helpful to not have to find a new place to sleep every night. Looking for a new job every day would be exhausting.

This particular reading focused on living and thinking the same way, every day, all day long. Now if your life is “humming along” nicely and you are happy with the way things are, why change? The only thing that comes to my mind is “more of the same, please.”

On the other hand, there is that tendency all humans have to look for what is not right in our lives. In other words, complaints. A complaint is nothing more than a decision we make that life is not the way we think it should be or want it to be. A complaint is suffering – realizing that we want something else other than what is.

Suffering is a feeling, an indicator that we are hurting in some way. Suffering tends to lend itself to defining situations that we might be totally powerless over like the death of a loved one. We suffer in that person’s absence, but most of us seek ways to help us feel better. If we endure our grief and see that process through to the end, most of us find ways to regain our happiness level.

A complaint is a verbalization of our suffering and tends to be a judgment in our minds that we don’t like how we are, or what happens, or who someone is, or what a person does, or how life is. If repetitious complaints are showing up in our lives, we need to do something . . . anything . . . different, but it requires changing the way we think. In support of a new way of thinking, DO something different even if you are the only person who knows it is different.

The more we let go of what is wrong, the more we find what is right.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass