Saturday, October 18, 2008

Today's Sharing: Soul and the Alchemy of Crisis

I'm not really in a sharing-my-self mode lately, more on inner-journeying, hibernation mode, but here are some stuff I find beautiful, and which reflect where I'm at right now, too...

We all flow from one fountain—Soul. All are expressions of one love. God does not appear, and flow out, only from narrow chinks and round bored wells here and there in favored races and places, but He flows in grand undivided currents, shoreless and boundless over creeds and forms and all kinds of civilizations and peoples and beasts, saturating all.
-John Muir

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In The Alchemy of Crisis, my favorite quotes:

... "How do you live?" Not only survive to save your skin, but how do you survive as a soul? How do you reinvent yourself after catastrophe? How do you handle the really extreme things that life deals you and come through intact—and with curiosity and interest and enthusiasm in your life?

- O -

You have these moments when you snap awake, and you’re in the present. And it happens so rarely that when it does, it feels like almost like an altered state. And you think, "What’s different now?" And what’s different is that my eyes are open and I’m seeing. I’m actually here. These sacred moments are happening all of the time. But we’re in a kind of trance. We’re in a workaday, mundane hallucination of ordinariness. And what you realize is when you touch mortality, where life and death meet, that’s where epiphanies happen. Nothing is ordinary. What could be less ordinary than being alive? On this mysterious planet? It’s extraordinary.

And when you have that experience, it changes how you see. Not permanently, in every minute. You're still screwed up, struggling you, but you have a reference point for something that’s beyond mundane.


- O -

What’s the difference between people who transform in crisis and people who melt?

One of the most important things is being able to imagine yourself in a new way. If you can’t, it’s very hard to come through fire. When mystics talk about ego-death—it’s a very literal experience. It doesn’t feel good. It’s not easy. But you realize you are so much bigger than you thought you were.

Most of us have to be forced, kicking and screaming, to give up our ordinary life, even if we’re not happy. That’s what’s amazing. A lot of people would rather hold on to the hell they know. And those are the people who melt. One guy I spoke to, he was in the hospital for eight months and said he could tell within a couple of minutes whether somebody was going to survive or not—and it had to do with whether they were willing to see themselves in a new way. If they couldn’t, they were doomed.


What conditions have to exist for us to imagine ourselves different?

One is the inability to escape. Because most people will run away from whatever is uncomfortable. The inability to escape is a blessing because it really, truly forces you to be there, grow through that, and then transform.

So transformation isn't about will?

No, no. When you’re going through rapids, often it’s surrender that gets you through. That’s why I called the book "When You’re Falling, Dive," because, if you don’t dive, you do so much more damage to yourself and you don’t go as far because you’re kicking and screaming and holding on to the branches. If you dive, you find that life will take you. And you feel—finally—part of something bigger. When you go through it enough times, you start to trust it.

And I’m a control freak. I'm a type-A personality. Your typical macho, idiot guy. But when you can’t control it over enough years, and find that you’ve been taken consistently places you didn’t expect, you start to believe it. You start to believe you’re really not driving the car.


What did you learn from the people you interviewed?

On thing is that loss or change becomes part of who you are. I can be a little transformation crazy, one to just do a 180. But it’s never 180. There’s residue. There are shadows. There’s something that’s left in you from the loss. And that needs to be blessed.

What else did you learn from them?


That your body has an intelligence, and it’s talking to you. But most of the time we’re too busy blabbering to hear it.

- O -

And when you have walked through whatever your fire is, it connects you to the human condition in a way that you’ve probably spent most of your life avoiding and denying. That’s a huge, wonderful, beautiful thing. It deepens you as a person. It humbles you as a person. It opens your heart. It makes you grateful. We forget to have thanks for the things in our lives. People think it’s corny, but it changes everything.

- O -

So, life isn’t blueberries. And nor would you want a constant diet of blueberries. Often it’s the thing that irks you that pushes you forward. For myself, so many of the things that I thought were the most infuriating have been the things that have made me face my s**t and walk through doors I wouldn’t have wanted to walk through. Almost everything that grows you is stuff you would avoid if you could. That's something people can learn about crisis—that it gives you faith in pain. And that sounds weird, but we automatically think if there’s pain, there’s something wrong, and that is really not true. The impulse might be to fight or flee. But bearing is for me, the real revelation.

You realize everyone has their cross— and what do you do with it? You bear it. It becomes a part of who you are. And then you stop resenting the hardship and see it’s the stuff of your life. It’s the shadows in your life that make your life better. People want it easy—they want "life lite."


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