Posts Tagged ‘past’

Learning Presence

September 12, 2013

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell

My fingertips surprise me when I allow them to translate directly from my soul without filter. When I returned to this blog last week, I responded to a comment from Laurie (Speaking from the Heart ) by saying: “The more I learn, the less I know. I have seen, heard, and felt SO much that all I can say is that I know even less than I knew three years ago because my learning has far exceeded my knowledge. Now I have to go write a blog about that.”

So, here I am . . . writing a blog about that—the more I learn, the less I know.

At the age of four or five, I was complete. I knew everything I needed to know. My memories of that time are curled up in an idyllic cloud of nested satisfaction. During that brief period in my life, I had no worries about the past or the future. I was totally caught up in the present and that was enough.

Life happened and the world caught me in its grip of reminiscence and anticipation. Consequences began to haunt me. The future held shadows that foretold of events to come.

Learning became a cognitive process that created more questions. Half a century later, I stand at the edge of knowledge cliff facing a vast emptiness of unknowing.

I have learned that I often get what I have asked for only to find out that I have asked for something that is not good for me.

I have learned that no one is really in charge of life here on earth except the laws of physics and nature.

I have learned that we create our existence.

I have learned that nothing has to happen and everything will.

What I don’t know is how to put what is best for me first.

What I don’t know is how to help others see that we can only be in charge of ourselves and if we just do that, we might cause less harm to others.

What I don’t know is how to create a daily existence that is based on everything I write about here.

What I don’t know is how to let nothing happen.

I am learning ever . . . so . . . slowly . . . that if I just watch my life and live from my true presence, something will happen.

And it might be better than what I had planned.

©2013 Barbara L. Kass

The presence of betrayal

April 10, 2012

Let’s go into the darkness for a bit.

There are moments of eternal night in my childhood that I carry with me to the present day. I find myself responding to life as if I were still that particular child – still three, four, five, six, seven years of age. I may not always remember the events of any particular dark moment, but I remember the feelings, and my present responses are immediate and involuntary. Experiencing life before I could distinguish my unconscious process from my conscious abilities resulted in a form of programming – a way of responding to life that might have been appropriate in its moment of origination, but does not fit the life I am living now. It is counterproductive to my desires. To fully experience my life as the adult I am now, there is only one thing to do: give it up.

Giving up the programming I received as a child feels like betrayal – betrayal of my family of origin, betrayal of the adults I was dependent upon for survival, betrayal of the child I once was. The child within squirms at the thought that the love and attention she received was not loving at all but programming. She wrestles with the fact that she was raised by people who were not at all connected with themselves, much less with her, and wonders: who betrayed who? Weren’t they supposed to love her and wasn’t everything they did for her own good? At least, that’s what she was told. Loyal to her family, giving up that programming feels like abandonment, but didn’t they go there first? Who will she be once she leaves that story behind? If they truly loved her, why didn’t they love her in a way that supported her, guided her, and nurtured her?

Parents, of course, are the prime targets on this trajectory. They programmed me to believe that their actions and attitudes proved they loved me. As a grownup, I kept wondering why I looked for and found people who treated me much like my parents did and I didn’t enjoy it any more than I had as a child. My introspective work to uncloak that secret finds the child in me realizing that her parents lied to her . . . she was not really loved but rather only used as a tool for them to vent their frustrations and act out their own programming. She was there – wanting, needing, craving to be loved, and for her, any attention was better than no attention. That child in me knew something was wrong but in order to survive, she had to make that something wrong right. My parents in her eyes HAD to be perfect, it HAD to be okay, or else she was lost.

Year after year, I’ve worked very hard to recognize and learn the difference between real love and the love I was programmed to expect. I took my lessons in parenting into my motherhood and programmed my daughters to believe I loved them based on my actions, words, and attitudes. To hold my parents accountable means to hold myself accountable. In my efforts to resolve and let go of what no longer works, I fight the resistance I feel to the betrayal of myself as a parent. Fighting resistance . . . my dichotomous life continues.

Here in the darkness, I am seeking a way to come to resolution with these irrefutable facts. I cannot undo what has been done.

Let’s go into the light.

Because we are ever-evolving beings – becoming more of who we truly are in each moment of experience – there are hundreds of thousands of babies, children, adolescents, young adults, and adults who collectively make up the person known as me in the present. Even if I only count the days of my existence, that number still approaches twenty thousand.

I am a blur of struggles and triumphs. That all of who I have been brought me to this present moment relatively intact is evidence of their strength, their perseverance, their wisdom, their insight, their judgment, and their love of self.

My present is a long luxurious moment of self-exploration, self-investigation, and self-discovery. Within my struggles, conflicts and lonely minutes, I am with an army of selves whose exponential experience births creative and sometimes adventurous comfort and solutions. The totality of me walks into the light to find the thoughts, the activities, and the people who give me love, acceptance, and companionship. I grant myself permission to let go of my condemnation and look upon my past as a troubled road with hidden gifts: resilience, character, wisdom, knowledge, and a spirit who cannot be stopped.

In the light, I find forgiveness.

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass

A hooked presence

September 5, 2011

Many of our loved and not-so-loved ones are skewered on the hooks of our resentments.

Our best-known hookees (<== not a real word) are our parents. Some people are excellent parents. They know how to nurture, have the resources required to raise healthy children, and we grow up with a strong sense of self and belonging. Others had parents who should have opted, did not, and many of us grew up in emotionally fragile and damaging environments.

Even if we grew up without parents, we can still hook those invisible beings tightly on a barb and hoist them up high for everyone to see. We can proclaim something profound about how our lives would have been better had they been around to help us. We batter everyone (and ourselves) with the resulting being we have become all because of their actions or inactions. We hold them accountable for our response to their presence. Even invisible parents have a huge presence by virtue of the empty space they do not occupy.

Occasionally, hookees are complete strangers . . . people who happened by in our lives either by design or circumstance and something happened to us that we did not want to happen. Sometimes, we never even see or know our hookees. I have had property stolen from me and never saw the person, but he or she left a mark, a trail, a permanent indentation on my trusting psyche who can forever recount that episode, mourn again what was lost, and have that person’s actions influence my way of being in the world.

Others have had worse episodes of infringement upon their boundaries. Children suffer unspeakable abuse. Entire families are wiped out by murder. Some are left financially devastated by the actions of the greedy and ignorant.

There are deadly villains who are not even human. Along with lions, tigers, and bears, we have microbes, bacteria, and viruses. Tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes can wipe away any evidence of our prior existence.

On a world-wide basis, famine steals the lives and dreams of thousands. And we are ALL on the hook for that one, but that’s a blog for another day.

Life is a dangerous existence, as I have alluded to before. We have the idea that someone at some point should have made our lives perfect and protected us from reality . . . or at least invented a better reality. And because they didn’t, they are going to pay. In our daily memories, we feel again the humiliation of that forgotten birthday, the embarrassment of a drunk alcoholic showing up at our parents’ night at school, and the betrayal of having just been beat because someone else had a bad day. In our imaginations, we strike back: we think awful things about them, we create vindictive scenarios where we win, and, if they are still alive, we let them know often just how they failed us, and continue to fail us. Or, we don't acknowledge them at all.

But everyone still knows they are there.

Some of us are public torturers. We brandish and berate our hookees publicly, shamelessly, with a flaunting sneer and righteous attitude. We are proud of how those people did us wrong at some point in the past. We don’t hesitate to tell anyone who will listen just how badly we were treated.

Other hookees are silently suffered. The silent sufferer sighs a lot, with woeful heaves and crumpled shoulders. We recognize their burden is tiresome and heavy.

And I want to yell at all of them “Give it up already!” (Yes, some smarter part of me yells this at me, too.)

At some point, we have to lower the hooks and let those people go. Letting someone “off the hook” is a fancy term for “forgive” without all that God stuff looming around it packed with its religious and saintly forebodings. When we let someone off the hook, we also let go of our responsibility for feeding them and the hurts (real or imagined) that they caused. It doesn’t change what happened, but it does change our chemistry – our way of interacting with the world. While that person is still accountable for his or her actions, they can no control our response. We are free to acknowledge the incident, know it will always be a part of us, and transcend it . . . we can still be the presence we intended for ourselves when we came to this life.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

the perfection of presence

November 17, 2010

I witness the capacity of some people (really very few) who can be fully present with another person. Most people I encounter, including myself, are busy thinking about what their response is going to be (in other words, thinking about themselves) rather than being present for the other person. In order to fully hear another person, we need to remain silently present, absorbing all of the information that person is offering with their speech, their bodies, and their emotions.

I read my mantra – How will I bring my presence to life today? – every time I flip open my laptop. It is my screen background. But it does not matter. Many days, it gets mentally filed behind a dozen or so seemingly more pressing issues. Being the habitual human that I am, I forget to be present for others to my fullest capacity. I wander through my days so full of my past and securing my future that I live in limbo between this past moment and the next.

Limbo, by the way, comes from the Latin word “limbus” meaning boundary, border, or edge. In ancient Roman Catholic theology, it is also the place where souls who are not considered worthy of living in either heaven or hell spend their eternity.

It is an eternity of waiting to go nowhere. If I live in limbo, I am never going to be fully present, which means I will never accurately hear what another person is saying. I will miss a lot of their message because my mind will be preoccupied with me.

Our bodies are always in the present moment even though our minds might take our thoughts and energies elsewhere. To be fully present, my thoughts must remain with my body, with the presence of who I am being in this immediate now. I must bring my energies close to me and use their gifts.

Perfecting my presence is a challenge when my mind is squawking like a goose at anything that wanders within my attention. Our minds are egocentric – they were created to help us survive. They are constantly scanning our environment and, when someone comes to interact, the mind’s job is to scrutinize all possible responses and select the one that it thinks takes the best care of us. I believe, though, that there is a way to be fully present for myself and the other person.

Over the next seven days, I am going to conduct a self-experiment. At each encounter I have with another person, I am going to respectfully ask my mind to remain present with that person and trust that I will still be able to take care of me appropriately.

It should be interesting.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

the presence of emptiness

September 9, 2010

I know the title to this piece sounds like an oxymoron – if something is empty (if there is nothing) how can there be presence? Emptiness has a true presence – it is a vacancy ready for occupation. Emptiness fills the spot in a person’s absence. In letting go of the past, emptiness is what comes when the feeling that used to be present is gone. Emptiness is having a wordless place within the desire to write and express. Emptiness is looking for the person that I used to be and finding she no longer exists. My past selves are but a memory to me.

Where there is nothing, though, makes real the possibility of something. As I let go of anything, I become more available to other things in life. If I am not careful in my growing to fill myself with something vibrant, new, and colorful, emptiness will settle its placid self down in my life and occupy any available space. Then, I become vulnerable to the Law of Distraction.

The Law of Distraction is anything that will take my attention away from the fact that I am empty, and, generally, the Law of Distraction is attached to the Path of Least Resistance. Whatever is easily available in my life becomes my focus and distracts me from paying attention to my emptiness. I am still empty, but I have all of these distractions that require my energy, so emptiness sits back in the easy chair, with a beer in one hand and the television remote in the other, and makes itself at home.

At some point, I need to confront emptiness. In paying attention to what I think, do, and feel when I am empty, I come to know my default attitudes and ways of being. Not all of them serve me well but what becomes clear as I watch myself within my emptiness is that each and every one of them is a choice.

I appreciate all of them, especially the ones I am letting go of. They served a purpose in my life at some point, kept me alive, and got me to where I am today.

And I greet the empty spaces they leave behind with grateful anticipation and wonder at what I can create there now.

©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