Calm, compassionate, centered.

My new mantra, courtesy of this excellent piece by Jonathan Zap which I found via Rob Brezsny, another favorite source of comfort and advice. This was perhaps my favorite part of the entire essay:

Speaking of our thoughts, we need to watch them constantly. We need to recognize that different voices, often generated by distinct subpersonalities, speak in our heads, and we need a central, witness personality that observes those voices/subpersonalities without becoming them. Hexagram 27 reminds us not to nourish ourselves on negative, unnourishing thoughts and fantasies. Yes, that’s easier said than done, but here are a couple of psychic filters to keep online that are guaranteed to catch all the psychic allergens (the negative thought forms) that all too easily pervade our inner world. We’ll call the first of these the “tone filter.” As you listen to the voices of your inner world (or the voices in your outer, interpersonal world) refuse to believe any voices that aren’t calm, compassionate and centered. Listen to them, understand where they are coming from, but don’t become them, don’t identify with them or believe them. If a voice is nagging, carping, bitter, mechanically repetitious, whining, angry, self-pitying, hypercritical, etc. then it is not to be believed! By tone, you can easily distinguish the voices of false subpersonalities and the still, deep voice of the Self.

I’ve long understood that I need to consciously distinguish between the various voices inside of my head if I want to find peace of mind. H said something to this effect while observing me struggling with my demons, and it made sense to me. What I lacked was an efficient formula to get me back to The Observer. Now I have it. Wait until the voice is calm, compassionate, and centered. That’s your true voice.

Fear can be pretty convincing when it tells you that it’s out to protect you. Even when you consciously decide that loving others is more important to you than the threat of being made a fool/deceived, fear can still make a compelling argument that if you turn your back on it, you will suffer. Most of our failures of love take place in the realm of trying to balance self-love against love of the other. I found Zap’s summary of the I Ching principle of meeting halfway to be helpful as well, since most of failures of love come, not from failing to look out for others, but from meeting them more than halfway. The answer may always be “love more” but in some situations, it’s not clear what that looks like (h’s perspective on this tends to be “I got stronger by being left on my own in the cold; so will others,” the opposite of my “happiness comes from never ever leaving anyone in the cold on their own!”)

At the center of relating well to others, cautiously moving outward from your center of inner independence, is the I Ching principle of meeting halfway (Hexagram 44). Less than halfway would be, for example, to neglect others to whom we are connected by inner ties. More than halfway would be, for example, giving unasked for advice, proselytizing, self-important intervening, lifeguarding others, etc. So if you go to a party and see someone you’re attracted to, but you’re so shy that you hide in a corner and never approach him or her, then you have met less than halfway. Hitting on him or her (without some obvious encouragement from the other) would be meeting way more than halfway. Even in the course of a conversation one needs to apply this principle of meeting halfway by keeping attuned to the moment, aware of the subtle minutiae of openings and closing in the other person. With the openings we advance, with the closings we retreat and yield space. When the other transgresses, invades boundaries or comes at us with false personality, we should never go along with it, should never do anything that compromises our inner dignity. We should withdraw energy from the person who is coming from their false self. This can mean anything from breaking eye contact (a withdrawal of energy), ending the conversation, or in some cases, going our own way for a lifetime. When we do withdraw we should do so lovingly, giving the other space to come to his senses on his own. We do not, in I Ching terms, “execute” this person in our minds, which would be to view him as hopeless and unable to improve. This would only help to keep him imprisoned by doubt. We also don’t indulge excessive optimism that assumes he will become more conscious in this lifetime, or that extends trust where it is being abused. We step back to allow the creative to take its zigzag course. And for our own sake, as well as the other, we try not to carry ongoing grudges against someone. From the I Ching point of view, we are responsible not only for what we say or do to the other, but also for our thoughts, because these are communicated on the inner plane.

I encountered this piece during a bout of insomnia after our lovely and life-affirming Solstice gathering with our dear friends (actually celebrating s’s birthday, but for me it had the significance and function of the solstice).

On another note, I’m setting forth an intention in the new year to take some time, research what I need to do to stop contributing to some of the more terrible practices that continue to flourish in our world–figure out which major restaurants, clothing manufacturers, etc. are treating workers unethically, refusing to invest in sustainability, polluting our planet, etc.–and make my life conform to my believies by refusing to give them my money.

I also intend to make art a bigger part of my life. I miss grad school! I miss being part of a community of artists! This needs to happen.


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