Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Simplifying My Inner World

"There are only two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as if everything is. I believe in the latter." Albert Einstein

It was such an ordinary situation. But ordinary is often where the gold is found. I was driving to my daughter’s ballet recital, due to begin at 5. It was 4.55 and I was just around the corner. I was on time. Can you believe that I actually considered stopping at the store to pick up some lemons? For a moment I thought I could do that and still be on time. I had a momentary debate between the part of me that likes to complicate life, and the part of me that said “my purpose here is to watch my daughter dance. Just do that.” The second voice won out. When I got to the store after the recital, I was told that someone had not ten minutes earlier bought all the lemons. Poetic justice? Not really. My need for lemons was neither poetic nor a matter of national security.

Here’s the important part of the story. The recital! It was AMAZING. My 6 year old did her thing. She was so beautiful and poised, and loved performing her moves. I was completely transfixed by her. The recital lasted all of about 3 minutes, the culmination of several months’ preparation. For those 3 minutes, I had this incredible sensation that this was the most significant moment of my life. I knew that I would achieve nothing more lasting in my whole life than soaking up the presence of that moment. It was all of everything, full of grace and beauty.

Something peculiar has washed over me since arriving back from Australia. Everything feels less complicated. The calm of being on vacation has stayed with me. Two physical effects have pleased me. 1. I have never recovered from jetlag more quickly. 2. I lost weight on vacation, while eating whatever I wanted to eat. I almost always put on weight on vacation.

I don’t know this for sure, but I can’t help wondering if my body is maintaining healthier levels of cortisol than it has in the past. There is one other physical effect that I hesitate to mention, lest I speak too soon. All my life, I’ve wanted a six pack. I’ve never even come close. Suddenly, I see two little dimples (just below my man boobs). It’s the beginnings of a two pack, and fills me with great pride and joy. Just today I heard someone say that high cortisol levels can lead to an oversized awning over a man’s toy store; an ample liquid grain storage facility.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I feel better than I have in a long time. Meditation no doubt helps. Diet is crucial. Exercise helps. Perspective is essential. But most importantly, dwelling in gratitude for the incredible joys and privileges that fill my life, becomes a beautiful cycle. Calm leads to more calm. Cortisol balance leads to greater life balance that balances cortisol levels and so it goes.

It’s all there in front of me, and it’s not complicated. I could wish for nothing more than to dwell in many daily moments with the contentment I had while watching my sweetie dance. My family is the greatest cause for gratitude in my life. Every one of my family members mirrors something essential and beautiful, spiritual beacons in my life. We don’t get it all right. But we do our best.

I’m so pleased to be able to introduce our new family blog. It’s called “At Home With Spirit”. Meg and I want to share some of our attempts to raise our kids to appreciate the beauty and power that surround them, as well as sharing their ability to frustrate and inspire us, all within 5 minutes. Meg has written the first post, and it’s typical of her; fun, spirited, profound, wise and beautiful. Check it out.

"Miracles happen every day. Not just in remote country villages or at holy sites halfway across the globe, but here, in our own lives. They bubble up from their hidden source, surround us with opportunities, and disappear. They are the shooting stars of everyday life. When we see shooting stars, their rarity makes them seem magical, but in fact, they streak across the sky all the time. We just don't notice them during the day, dazzled as we are by sunlight, and at night they emerge only if we happen to look up at the right place in a clear, dark sky. Although we think of them as extraordinary, miracles also streak across our consciousness every day. We can choose to notice or ignore them, unaware that our destinies may hang in the balance. Tune into the presence of miracles, and in an instant, life can be transformed into a dazzling experience, more wondrous and exciting than we could even imagine. Ignore it, and an opportunity is gone forever." Deepak Chopra

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thoughts about Faith in a Rabbit Hole

Im very grateful to Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Campbell and Alice in Wonderland for helping to clarify some thoughts about faith. Alice taught me that asking questions that don't need answers creates a new perspective. She took Joseph Campbell's advice and jumped, only to discover that her own curiosity provided a parachute like cushion. Sharon Salzberg put flesh on an idea that makes all the sense in the world. Faith comes in several different varieties; bright faith, verified faith and abiding (or unshakeable) faith.

Bright faith beams at the possibilities of life. It is pure optimism. Many children have bright faith. It is beyond their comprehension that life will not bend to their will. We get jaded and lose it at some point. Bright faith is appropriate for children. For adults, bright faith can come close to blind faith. Mature faith is never blind. The problem with blind faith is that even though faith can move mountains, you need to see which mountain needs to be moved.

Verified faith includes a memory of past survival and achievement. It is learned wisdom. Verified faith works closely with doubt. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. They are two sides of one coin. Doubt sharpens faith, and faith affirms doubt.

The Buddha told a story that showed the movement from bright faith to verified faith. He compared faith to a blind giant who meets up with a very sharp-eyed cripple, called wisdom. The blind giant, called faith, says to the sharp-eyed cripple, "I am very strong, but I can't see; you are very weak, but you have sharp eyes. Come and ride on my shoulders. Together we will go far."

Abiding faith is unwavering in the face of change. Abiding faith doesn’t expect life to remain stagnant. It is in tune with a purpose that doesn’t depend on circumstances. It is one with the flow of life. It manifests in whatever way is effective in the changing circumstance.

Read the whole sermon, and let me know your own story of unshakeable faith.