Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

The presence of meaning

October 29, 2010

We all tell ourselves stories – about everything: ourselves, other people, what others are thinking. Our stories all have morals to them, too. We give meaning to events. Events by themselves have no meaning. We ascribe meaning to them. We say “this happened and that means I am and/or others are (fill in the blank).” We even pronounce judgment upon our own thoughts and feelings that resulted from the event.

As I am meandering (and occasionally stumbling and downright falling on my ass) down the pathway of the past and not quite forgotten memories, I will come upon an incident that occurred over 40 years ago and still be able to recall the details including what was said and done, what I felt at the time, and what I was thinking. I also recall the meanings that I branded upon that incident, my thoughts, and my feelings. I can even recreate the feelings as well as think those same thoughts again. If I hang with the memory just a little while longer, I also discover the decisions that I made in those moments about how I was going to be from now on.

It is not a shock to discover that I am still living out those decisions over 40 years later.

It does not surprise me that when I think about changing a decision, I feel just a tad bit threatened and scared. After all, the child I was then made those decisions to survive the circumstances she was powerless over and remain as emotionally and mentally intact as she could. Now, looking back, I watch the child I was give myself a meaning based on what other people said or did even though clearly at the time my initial thoughts were, “that’s your problem.” I knew even as young as five years of age that what other people said and did was all about them, not me. But I gave meaning to that behavior. It meant I was responsible.

And, I took on responsibility for others because I had been told that my attitude was wrong, that I was making other people behave the way they did (all of us had adults who played this trick on us – remember the words “You make me so ________!”? They did that to manipulate us into behaving the way they wanted us to behave.)

This way of living pretty much strangled any growth of individuality. Instead, I became a puppet who thought she could rule the world if she just danced to everybody’s strings just the right way.

How nutty is that?

Let me reframe my nutty judgment. The skill and the insight are useful. I am living in a world where most of the population believes that other people control how they feel and, thus, what they do, including how they treat themselves and others. I know how to identify these people and thus limit my exposure to them. I appreciate the five-year-old in me who is wise enough to recognize the symptoms in others, and who took good care of herself way back then. At age five, she had neither the power nor the words to extricate herself from such people.

But now she does.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass


Nonattached presence

June 20, 2010

Although the inner world of self and the external world of reality appear to be distinct, ultimately they are not two, but one-not just closely interconnected or mutually dependent, but inseparable from one another. In Buddhism, we call this oneness “the true aspect of all phenomena,” the ultimate truth, or the Buddha nature. Nichiren also called it the Mystic Law, which he expressed as Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. -Buddha in Your Mirror (

I’ve been thinking about my stolen virtual items and how I view that theft within my larger belief system. If virtual items exist in any reality, they exist as part of the One. So, in essence they are still here, just not in my presence.

Everything else that I am is still here in my presence. No one can steal away my sense about myself. In fact, this virtual theft of digitized possessions has brought me around to meet me.

I am surprised today to find that I have developed this quality of nonattachment. As I play the game, I realize that there are many things I cannot do with my characters without their appropriate gear and items. And, I don’t find it as frustrating as I thought I might. I find freedom in being able to see other paths that I can take with my characters and still enjoy playing the game. Their world can be recreated.

Even more surprising, I found that I did not have any attachment to the responses that I got when I told my sad tale to others. All responses have been welcome as a matter of me sharing my life with others. In my life, I have been a person who once required everyone to agree with me and give me the response I expected.

It does not even bother me that some people don’t care at all. Even a nonresponse is only that: no response. The only meaning it might have is meaning I might attach to it.

Some time ago, I wrote about being on the verge of something very big in my life.

This is it.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Past presence tense

May 16, 2010

The me of yesterday is still very much present today. Memories creep up on me, rapping softly at the back of my mind, saying “this is not quite resolved.” I watch the old reruns of life past with an apprehension I cannot quite name. I just know that I am disturbed by my recall of the event and wonder what it has to do with my present today.

My friend, Laurie, writes about the ripple-effect of our actions. I am acutely aware of how my journey brought me to this moment. And I know there are thousands of moments that are yet to come full circle. I remember past events and I think: can I change the past? No, I can’t change the event.

But, I can change my perception of that event.

And, I can tell a different story around the meaning of that event.

Or, I can remove any meaning I have attached to that event.

My presence today has the advantage of distance. Today, I have the power to disengage reliving the event and simply observe it. I can remember the person I was during the event. I can notice my clenched jaw, my hands curling into fists, and the shallowness of my breathing. I can give my past self permission to breathe and relax while watching the memory. I can listen to the story I tell my past self about the event and suggest alternative stories . . . or no story at all. Changing any part of the story changes it meaning, but I have also noticed that meaning sometimes just evaporates.

By engaging the past with presence and awareness, I can address the present realizing I can make these same choices now about perception, stories, and meaning. In this way, I can be more in charge of my “ripple effect” and not get knocked out by the boomerang.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass