A few weeks ago, I was out walking the dog along the waterfront, where a new pier is being constructed for a residential high-rise. It’s been a little noisy in the neighborhood for the last few months, but nothing really disturbing; just a constant sort of background hum.
This particular day however, as we got closer to the site, I could really hear it. I mean really. You want to know how loud it was? It was louder than the loudest setting on my phone’s music app! I know, right? Immediately, the yenta complainer voice that lives in my head chimed in: “Ugh. It’s so loud. I wish it would stop. Why does this need to be happening now? Why can’t I just go for a quiet peaceful walk on a beautiful warm day without something like this ruining it? Why does this always happen to me?” She’s a real gem…
I’ve been vaguely interested in Kabbalah for a while now, (Madonna notwithstanding) but every time I touched it, it felt too esoteric and incomprehensible. Maybe I’ve matured in my spiritual understandings, or maybe I just never found the proper teachings. Anyway, yesterday I took a quick dip into what it is, and what it does. And I finally get it!
Tree of Life. Image source: wikipedia
Here’s what I found:
1. The Kabbalah is not a book per se, but a tradition of mystical practices. The Zohar, the primary text, was written (or received, you can say) in 13th century Spain.
2. The Zohar offers many different things – it’s a huge compendium of stuff. It changes some large primary assumptions and reinterprets the whole Torah under this new light.
3. It introduces Ein Sof (the infinite) as the real supreme being, the creator of what we know as God.
I posted some time ago (here) about Gaya’s famous teaching: “there’s no one out there, just a bunch of mirrors reflecting you back to yourself.” It took me nearly a year to really grasp the magnitude of how this principle actually operates. In short, there are many different ways to think about this idea.
One is that every time you are emotionally triggered by something, it’s an invitation to go inside and discover more about yourself. The trigger is a gift; a clue, of sorts, letting you know that there is some negative self-judgment hanging out in your subconscious, waiting to be healed. Another way to think about this is that the external world is just a reflection of what’s going on inside of you. If you have chaos, or drama, or negativity in the world around you, look inward and you’ll see that that is precisely what’s happening inside your mind. If someone is mistreating you on the outside, I’d bet you are mistreating yourself on the inside. (No blame or judgement – just food for thought). A third perspective is that all the judgments you hold about other people, are really all about you. They have nothing to do with the behavior or appearance of another person. This last perspective was the subject of my previous post.
Things are blissfully busy here, as usual, but I wanted to share some ideas and posts that are in the works:
1. I’ve been noticing an interesting trend lately, and I’d like to propose a theory. Maybe this is already common knowledge somewhere, but I haven’t yet found any articles or books on it. Here it is: Addiction to anxiety (among successful professionals). Technically, it’s an addiction to the adrenaline, cortisol, etc. that is present in the body during stressful times. We already colloquially call someone like this an “adrenaline junkie.” But I’m seeing this in the context of successful professional people in corporate jobs: lawyers, accountants, management consultants, bankers (even doctors, at times). I think this is distinct from workaholics, because it bleeds out into their lives, outside the office. It’s not an addiction to work, per se. It’s an addiction to stress. What’s interesting to me is the down time, or low stress points, in someone who is constantly busy, overcommitted, stressed out, and exhausted. They report experiencing a kind of boredom, restlessness, and mild anxiety. I think of this as a withdrawl symptom of the addiction. They cannot handle the discomfort of doing nothing, so they keep flinging themselves into high stress jobs, situations, environments, in order to keep the withdrawl symptoms at bay. Still thinking this through…
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. -Rumi
I was out walking Linda recently when a man approached us, and struck up a conversation (with me, not with her). He said that he was thinking of getting a dog, but wasn’t sure it was the right thing for him. He asked a bunch of questions about the responsibilities and commitment required.
This is Linda!
As we got to talking, I shared some of the experiences of having Linda in my life (lots of love and affection, but also lots of poop, vomit, allergies, and shedding). At the end, he said “you sound like a very compassionate person. I don’t really understand compassion. I try to be caring, but I just don’t feel anything. I don’t really care about other people the way I think I’m supposed to.” The old me would have been shocked at such an admission, but the new me seems to bring out this kind of thing in people. I took the opportunity to thank him for sharing his honesty with me, and I shared what I know to be true with him.
Some time ago I took a short business trip to Ohio. I picked up my rental car, and found that the agent had thrown in a GPS for free. (I usually opt out of the GPS because of a traumatic experience in Albany, but that’s a different story).
Anyway, I plugged in the address of my destination, and when I pulled up to the building, the GPS announced “You have arrived!” How nice, I thought. I have arrived. Let’s take a moment to celebrate that.
After my meeting, I returned to the car, and plugged in the address of my next destination. When I got there, the GPS again announced “You have arrived!” Again, I took a moment to savor my arrival and settle my thoughts.
As I got out of the car, I felt great. I could stop worrying about the traffic, or the weird sound the car was making, or being late for my meeting. All those worry thoughts were no longer relevant in that moment. Just taking that small second to recalibrate and calm my thoughts before moving forward made such a difference!
What a lovely mantra that would be – with every step, at different points throughout the day (no matter what you’re doing), you stop for a moment and think “I have arrived.” In this way, you get to really cherish the journey.
There is life. And then there is the story you tell about it.
One of the most important steps in the shamanic tradition of the Toltecs, is a taking of responsibility. While I’ve always considered myself a very responsible person, this is a different kind of responsibility. The tradition teaches that we must take ownership of our lives, of all the bad things that happened to us, of the stories we tell ourselves about those things, of the pain, and of the emotional wounds. This is the only path to true freedom and happiness.
After studying the basic tenets of the tradition, and learning the Toltec psychology, I embarked on the long, and sometimes scary, process of reframing my stories. As I looked at each painful experience of my past, examining my thoughts, feeling, and actions, I began dismantling the victim perspective. When I was done, I realized that I am no longer the victim of any of my stories.
I want to be clear that this isn’t about denying the truth of what happened, but it’s about finding the core negative beliefs that create the victim story. By removing the pity party dialogue, the right versus wrong dichotomy, and the negative judgments against ourselves and others, we are unshackled from the victim mind-frame and all the pain that comes with it. (If you’re familiar with Buddhist lingo, this is the second arrow of suffering).
The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the thinker. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought. That thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter: beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.