Who is this man?

Men (and women) who wake from the slumber of humanity, progress to a spiritual consciousness of all that is good. They traverse the hero's journey, deal with the dross of their character and personality, formulate a mission to serve their fellow travelers in this realm, and dedicate their lives to spiritual progress. They leave behind the baggage of hate, discontent, judgment, resentment, addiction, anger, depression, and fear. They lessen the hold of ego. They infuse their souls and their lives with love, acceptance, integrity, humility, positive values, and the spiritual virtues. They come to know who they are and why they are here. They awaken!




Thursday, December 22, 2011

Turbo-boost

I had three experiences this past week that, as I think about them, turned me inside out and upside down.  I love that, because such experiences turbo-boost my journey! 

It started with a wonderful dinner with two friends of recent years who are moving to Toronto.  I like to pontificate about my spiritual beliefs because I believe them, and because I think others need this information.  I experienced my wife nudging me under the dinner table as our friends started to glaze over when I spewed forth my viewpoints about consciously co-creating the world in cooperation with the intelligent cosmos, or some such esoteric gobbledygook.

The second experience was when my anam cara[1] confronted me with this question: “How do you know all that, any more than some other person thinks they know the truth?”  I heard it as, “You can be no more sure about your own beliefs than another person.”  My initial reaction was, “Ouch!”

All this led me to question my beliefs, which is good.  I realized that she was not questioning my beliefs, but rather my projections onto other people, to wit: “I have the answer to life, the universe, and everything, and they need this understanding.”  It led me to see how I pontificate from my ego, and how I compromise my goal of humility coupled with wisdom.


The third experience involved dealing with a man I know who occasionally talks cryptically about some mysterious set of experiences and encounters he has had during his life.  My confusion reigns when I try to decipher his gobbledygook, but I found, gratefully, that he is a mirror to me.  I often go into “flights of fancy” while avoiding the real issues, deep feelings, and connection with others.

The awakening man understands that what may be his essential understanding may be gibberish to another, and that is OK.  He does not judge another person's belief system because it is sacred.  He does not force his beliefs on others, either by monopolizing the conversation or lopping off his head.  However, like a sensei, he shares his truth and asks deep questions when invited.  He blesses when he can...

May you have -
Walls for the wind,
And a roof for the rain,
And drinks beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you,
And those you love near you,
And all that your heart may desire.
     - Celtic blessing
_______________
[1] Anam cara – “soul friend”.  Refer to the book of the same name by John O’Donohue.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Alternate Route


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

The journey of the awakening man (or woman) occasionally brings what we may perceive as diversions.  We may have to take an “Alternate Route” from time to time.  Like the signs that divert us from a closed highway, our consciousness guides us off our main route.  Often, we do not know the reason until we travel the byway and allow it to reveal its gifts.

I did not post to this blog last week because I was on an alternate route.  A detour sign appeared two weeks ago when a new memory came to me about “the illness” when I was six years old.  Hospitalized for six weeks, I almost died from rheumatic fever and pneumonia.  At that tender age, I realized how close to death I was.

My recalled memory was about receiving the Catholic sacrament of anointing with oil, one of the last rites.  Performed by a priest when death is imminent, Extreme Unction is the final sacrament to provide comfort, ask for divine healing, and help the soul enter the next life[1].  My turmoil grew during the week as I contemplated the idea that my family, and perhaps I, too, had abandoned hope for my life.

My vision became clearer during the week as I confronted my near-death experience and the trauma that haunted me.  These thoughts roiled my mind until Tuesday morning when I broke down, crying uncontrollably about the import of what had happened.  My wife held me in her arms and comforted me.  I visited one of my guides for insight.  I did some bio-energetic work by beating some old tires with a large stick[2], releasing sadness, fear, and anger.  Finally, I pictured the scene as an ice sculpture.  A final blow of the stick shattered the frozen diorama in my mind, and I imagined the fragments slowly melting into the earth.  Near the end of last week, my wandering on this byway ended with clearing and acceptance within my heart.

What we experience on the byways of life may be more important than our desire to stay the course of a journey we have preconceived.  Life’s alternate routes can reveal much, affording opportunities for healing, growth, and soul-filling.

Do you see an alternate route sign?
Do you feel as if your journey has been disrupted and you are on a different path for a while?
Can you relish it, continue your awakening, and know that this is your journey?


[1] For more information, please google “extreme unction” and “last rites”.
[2] The “Forman Anger Obliterator” is a three-foot long, stout plastic pipe with a baseball bat grip.  It is ideal for beating old tires, padded trees, or cushions to release negative energy.  Email me if interested! petegf@att.net

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mission


I spent a good portion of my life without a Mission.  Oh, I had many other missions (small “m”) that I adopted at different points in my life.  Most of these had to do with material wealth or ego wealth.  Some dealt with the focus of the season or the decade.  Example: Grow my career so I can make more money so I can buy stuff so I can be “happy”.  It was not until I was 60, at the start of my awakening, that I formed a Mission.

A Mission is described in a short statement describing a lifelong dream or pursuit that comes from the soul.  It is the dream for yourself and your world that awakens you in the morning and enlivens you in your waking hours.  Mission is about creating a perfect world in some area.  It fills your thoughts throughout your day.  It motivates you in every action and encounter.  It gives meaning and purpose to life. 

A Mission may never be complete by the time life ends, but you know in your heart that you are traveling the right road for your life, that you are living in mission.  It is not selfish but instead reaches out to others and the world. 

A Mission can be nebulous (promote world peace) or specific (counsel others to help them overcome addiction).  You can change or morph your Mission, but not often, and not whimsically, nor if the way becomes difficult.  Furthermore, you can create mini-missions (small “m”) that need addressing at various points in your life’s journey.  An example is to raise your children with awe and respect for nature and animals.

Workshops, seminars, or vision quests can help you formulate your Mission[1].  This is not something to undertake lightly or alone.  A Mission statement includes how you hope to fulfill it through actions you will take.  Example: I create a perfect world of enlightened individuals by teaching soul values.  Notice how this is structured.  It start with the phrase, “I create a perfect world”, it states the subject of the mission, and it identifies how to fulfill it (using the word “by”).

I have a Mission that sets the tenor of my life.  “I create a perfect world of peace by speaking, writing, coaching, and being peace.”


What is a “perfect” world for you?  Is it about helping others, saving the earth, being kind to animals, teaching truths, spreading peace, motivating, loving?  What gets you up in the morning and sets the tone for your living a fulfilled life each day?  Have you written your Mission on paper and in your life?


[1] I created my Mission statement in 2006 at a New Warrior Training Adventure sponsored by The Mankind Project (www.mkp.org).

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm Workin' Here!


I am reminded of that oft-quoted line from Midnight Cowboy, when Ratso Rizzo, after a close encounter with an automobile, states defiantly, “Hey!  I'm walking here!  I'm walking here!”  I wonder if I am just walking here or working here.


 We often find the awakening man “working here”, rather than just walking through his life.  The Work is personal, spiritual, and it brings deep meaning to his life and to others.  The awakening man is a work in progress.  He does soul-work in his life toward progress, not perfection.  If there is any perfection to be experienced, it lies in those moments of deep communion with what he would term a Higher Power, something or someone beyond him, perhaps a god, or God.

The awakening man is also a work in process: the process of living his life fully.  He holds an evolving vision of his better self and a mission to create a better world.  He seeks process[1] in retreats, self-improvement programs, therapy, the hero's journey, spiritual organizations, yoga classes, vision quest, listening, and going deep within to heal his wounds and become renewed.  His processes reach the core of his psyche and spirit.

I found some Work this past week, after I lashed out at my wife in anger and judgment.  She is my soul-friend, my anam cara, whom I love so much.  In spite of this, I chopped her down, shot her through with arrows of ego, anger, judgment, and self-righteousness.  From where did those poison arrows come?  We have been open in working through our differences, vulnerable in our sharing[2], and we work very well in the chores and necessities of our life together.  We are closer in these later years than we have been in 25 years together[3].

In such dark times, the awakening man does not cover over his actions, hide his feelings, isolate, or deny his imperfections.  Instead, he peers deeply into the dark shadows[4] of his soul and confronts raging demons within.  Thus, I took some time to sit with my feelings for a while, an hour here or there, thinking and writing.  I often do my work by journaling my nightmares and day-mares.  And soon, revelation comes.  [5]


When I was six years old, I spent six weeks in a hospital.  I left with six traumas; I am aware of four.  Suffering from rheumatic fever and pneumonia, I recall clearly one night I was coughing and vomiting mucus and blood, surrounded by attending doctors and nurses.  Even at that young age, I realized I was in the process of dying, and I felt abject terror and aloneness.

Fifty-nine years later, this week, when Pam endured her bronchial coughing jags and started spitting up blood and sputum, the horrors in my past resurfaced.  I was consumed by fear of her worsening condition, anger at her illness, judgment of her ability to take care of herself, and feelings of betrayal, just as I felt betrayed by my body and those who cared for me as I lay dying in the hospital bed.  After tongue lashing her, I retreated and washed myself in guilt, shame, aloneness, and despondence.  I felt as if life itself had drained out of me.

The good news is that Pam and I were able to do our work together and talk through how our reactions over the past few days emanated from our individual traumatic experiences.  We are aware that we are dealing with these shadows and that our connection may be reactive these days, instead of being consistent and loving.  That awareness helps!

Some people believe we can banish our shadows forever through our Work.  However, I agree with others who say they will always exist in the dark recesses of our minds, albeit lessened as we do the Work.  This week was a difficult week, but I remain open to process, progress, and, hopefully, awakening.  


What is your awakening like?  How do you define progress?  What is the role of process in your life?  It is embodied in these questions today?

- Pete



[1] Other examples of process, in this context, are bioenergetics, visualization, and sacred rites.
[2] We often use a communication technique called Imago – imaging.  Refer to the book, Getting the Love You Want, by Harville Hendricks.
[3]  Pam and I met in October 1987.  We married in January 1990.
[4] Refer to the writings of Carl Jung concerning shadow.
[5] Picture: Gao Xingjian's silhouette and his shadow, Marseille, 2003. (Photo courtesy of Alain Melka/Jean-Louis Darmyn and Triangle Méditerranée.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gravitas

My wife, Pam, has been ill with bronchitis and a fever this past week.  Her languor keeps her for the most part confined to bed or on the living room couch watching TV.  I minister to her with water and juice, Vicks VapoRub, little gifts, get well cards, a balloon, turning up the heat, taking on household chores, checking that she takes her medications, and healing intentions[1].  The darkness within me resents her torpor, coughing, sneezing, choking, moaning, groaning, neediness, clinging, and overall lack of energy.  I hate her fever, congestion, circles under her eyes, lack of appetite, and her emotions of anger and depression.  My selfish “whiner within” complains about many necessary calls of duty: washing clothes, tidying up, making the bed, collecting the trash, tending to the dog, cooking (which means, for me, heating things in the microwave), and attending to my co-dependence even more so than usual.

But then a time like this past Sunday cracks open my heart and I realize who I really am.  Sensing I needed a break, Pam urged me to get out, go to church, do what I wanted to do.  I wanted to attend a lecture by a man recommended to me by my life coach of this past summer[2].  After his presentation, I hesitantly decided to attend the service.  I was in the midst of songs, prayers, and words of love when rain came down within my soul and leaked out from my eyes.  I felt a longing for Pam.  Where was my friend and mate who holds my hand and gives me knowing playful looks throughout these services?  Where was her special presence, that deep part of my life that brings so much magnificence, like the ocean?  Where did our sharing go?  Where did the embracing of our souls go?  Sadness and longing overwhelmed me as tears trickled down my face.  I missed her so much.

After the last song, the peace song, I stopped in my turmoil to pray with a lay chaplain for Pam’s rapid healing.  When she said, “I can see you really love your wife,” I almost completely lost it.  With wet eyes, I bought Pam a little “Healing” candle at the bookstore and left quickly and quietly.

I love to be cracked open like this.  My heart overtakes all the frenzied chatter of my life.  These silent moments bring me to the realness of my soul and my humanity.  I lay aside my 10,000 things.  I let go of my daily distractions, obsessions, rushing here and there, and doings.  I slow down to the speed of life within and feel once again deep, abiding, unconditional love for my anam cara, my soul friend[3], my wife.


Whom do you miss today?  Who is your anam cara?  Is it you?  Is it God?  Is there someone who shares the road of your journey here and your heart?




[1] I believe soul-felt intentions are prayers.  Our intentions and actions, aligned with our soul’s desires, allow all of life to become a prayer.  “Pray unceasingly”: live unceasingly!
[2] I employed a life coach to assist me through my transition to retirement.  Refer to his website: barryteller.com
[3] Recommended books: Slowing Down to the Speed of Life by Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey, Real Love by Greg Baer,  Anam Cara by John O’Donohue.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Turning


When I turned 60 in 2006, life turned for me and beckoned me onto a divergent path, divergent from my life of introversion, aloneness, isolation, and obsession.  I heard about “the journey” throughout my life, and sometimes sought it, a curious little boy peering and playing and trying to understand religion, spirituality, purpose, but never quite growing up and often retreating from awakening and reality.  I retreated into comfort/excitement.  I retreated through work, women, addiction, money, and possessions.  The dross of my life accrued and weighed upon me until sanity and soul withered.

In that year, my wife, Pam, confronted me about our fading marriage.  She had a dream that became a metaphor for my turning from my shriveling spirit.  She saw a huge fire pit, around which many knights in armor were arrayed.  One by one, they jumped into the pit to anneal their armor.  I stood there naked, viewing the sight, then cast my self into the transforming fire.  I adopted that as a metaphor for the last quarter of my life… jumping into the fire of awakening, recovery, and growth.

We fear the fire, the burning away of the old, the useless, the annealing of the armor that we put on early and carried around us for years and years.  We fear the pain of self-recognition, facing our internal demons and shadows, doing “the work” as many call it.  We fear tearing down the fortress walls of our heart, of taking off our armor and exposing our soft underbelly.  We fear the twisting path, the cliff from which we must jump into what we know not.  We fear the chasm filled with flames through which we know we must travel.  We fear getting real… with our selves and then with the other.  I feared.

But that did not deter me from my running, stumbling, plodding, firm walking, to and fro, leaping, climbing, without sufficient breath, and often stuck in the deep sludge of my psyche, toward becoming an awakened man.  And all it is about is making progress, the turning, the journey of Self to a more evolved and better person, a better life, joyful and singing.

Have you started the turning?

Spirituality means waking up.  Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep.  They are born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up.  They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence.  - Anthony De Mello, Awareness, Page 5

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First Thought


I have nothing to say. I have everything to say. I have yearning deep within to create and express and reach out to you, my wonderful reader. May you be wonder-filled!

Each day I awake to my awakened living at about 5AM. I have always been a morning person, but, having retired in July, I feel this habit is a bit questionable. Perhaps my sore back or neck pulls me out of slumber, or perhaps it's joie de vivre, or the DHEA tablets I take each day. At any rate, it gives me a great opportunity to enter a meditation practice, something I have unsuccessfully tried to develop for years.

I get up, pour some orange juice, read the entries from several daily meditation books, and pick a random meditation from another guide. Then I journal about my first thought of the day. The first thought is at the boundary between sleep and waking, in the amorphous gray zone of daily rebirth to this world. I capture it before my monkey mind starts reeling in its chaos.

Sometimes I do not have a first thought, or I can't remember it. Then, in our meditation room, I practice mindful breathing and silence the cacophony of voices reciting lists and ideas and opinions in my head. I feel at peace.

My first thought today was, "Blog. Why not?" Seemed like a good idea to start to express my ideas to the world in another media, just reach out to others who want to hear about the journey of a man seeking integrity and wholeness for my Self.

Let me correct that: I no longer "seek", because I often do not know what to look for. Instead of a seeker, I am a finder, allowing the Universe to surprise me and guide me.

What do you do with your first thought each day? Does it edify you or weigh you down? Does that gentle nudge from spirit get lost in the discord of unbridled chaos in your life, your mind, your hear?