Gentleness

I matter. While happiness simply for its own sake may not be the best primary goal, all other things being equal I am better happy. My happiness matters. It is so good for me to be reminded of this today, because it is not my conscious understanding, a lot of the time.

I imagine there are some people who feel the opposite- pebbles rather than clods– for whom it would be salutary to be reminded to take consideration of the feelings of others, from time to time. I know which I am. Knowing I am a clod, and being Blake’s clod is what I wish to be, what I respect, whereas being a pebble I find repellent and hard to imagine, I approach this Dalai Lama quote which I found on Alaina Mabaso’s lovely blog. I don’t know whether the Dalai Lama said it, either, but bestdalailamaquotes alleges he did:

When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.

Perhaps from Buddhism I could learn enlightenment, but not from facebook memes even if they quote the wisest man in the world. Sometimes other people are thoughtless and careless, and put me out. Even Ingres, Venus Anadyomene- rising from the seaif they should not have been so careless, it may be easier just to sort the situation than to persuade that person s/he is wrong and should make amends. This is part of accurately seeing what one can change and having the courage to change it. At the CAB, I dreaded hearing “It’s the principle of the thing” or that it was not for herself the client was concerned, but for all the others who might suffer similar injustice: because in both cases I thought the client was deluding themself. I was never as cynical as my lecturer who said “Principles are to be encouraged, because they make money for lawyers”.

I am not saying Alaina is wrong, merely riffing on the subject because I had nothing else to blog about, thinking as I type. On her second quote,

If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.” ~ Yogi Bhajan

it may just be a semantic point that it is better to respond in conscious awareness rather than to react emotionally, especially in a potential conflict situation. Etty Hillesum- I keep thinking of this story– having no way of responding to the anger of the shouting man, pitied him. Sometimes there are “things we cannot change”, though temperamentally you may be more likely to think that, or more likely to hurl yourself against every immovable object, or chaotically to get it wrong both ways. While “Think it possible you may be mistaken” is good advice, some people do that too much too. Virtue is the golden mean.

And I matter. Oh Christ, thank God for the reminders of it!

Arabian Nights

The Arabian Nights are full of changes in fate and fortune. The bull finds the donkey in a clean stable with good food, and congratulates him. The donkey advises the bull to pretend to be sick when brought out to plough. The bull does, and the owner uses the donkey to plough all day instead. So the donkey tells the bull that he heard the owner say, if the bull is sick again he should be given to the butcher. So when the bull is taken from the stable next, he runs away. I love the cynicism of the donkey, and the way the outcomes baffle his objectives.

The wise man does a favour to the king, and the king distrusts him: for if he could do me good so cleverly, he could harm me as easily. “Betray him before he betrays you” advises the vizier, and they have the wise man beheaded. The head speaks, and advises the king to read a book: in turning the pages with his licked finger, the king ingests poison from the impregnated pages, and dies.

What is female beauty?

Bazille, Woman in moorish costume

He saw a lady of medium height, with jutting breasts, beautiful, comely, resplendent, with a perfekct and well-proportioned figure, a radiant brow, red cheeks and eyes rivalling those of a wild cow or a gazelle. Her eyebrows were like the crescent moon of the month of Shaban, she had cheeks like red anemones, a mouth like the seal of Solomon, coral red lips, teeth like camomile blossoms or pearls on a string, and a gazelle-like neck. Her bosom was like an ornate fountain, with breasts like twin pomegranates, she had an elegant belly and a navel that could contain an ounce of unguent.

Great learning may benefit you little:
-Do you know any craft by which to make your living?
I told him, “I am a lawyer, a scientist, a scribe, a mathematician and a calligrapher.”
-There is no market for that kind of thing here. No one inthis city has any knowledge of science or of writing and their only concern is making money.

So he gives the man an axe, and he becomes a woodcutter.

Inexplicable misery afflicts people:

By God, the Merciful, surely my affair bewilders me;
I do not know the source of sorrows that have surrounded me.
I shall endure until endurance itself cannot match mine,
Continuing until God closes my affairs.
I may be conquered, but I shall not show pain,
As a thirsty man endures in a hot valley
I shall endure until endurance itself learns
I can endure what is more bitter than aloes,
Itself the bitterest of all,
But bitterer than all this would be for patience to betray me.

It gives wise advice, such as these five injunctions:

Do not be on intimate terms with anyone, for in this way you will be safe from the evil they may do you.
Injure no man lest time injure you, for this world is a loan to be repaid.
Keep silence and concern yourself with your own faults and not those of others.
Be on your guard against drinking wine, for wine is the root of all discord and it carries away men’s wits
Guard your wealth and it will guard you. Do not overspend.

Carl Wuttke, Oriental streetSuch wisdom may bring acceptance, but not the happiness I find in trust and relationship.

And now I am clear

Essence process day 16

I wrote, I am unsure where I am with this, and now I am clear. I realised this morning,

 
No-one can hurt me if I love and care for 
and respect myself.
Therefore, no-one else has ever hurt me.

Gentileschi, St CeciliaArguably this is not true of children; but by the current legal definition I came of age thirty years ago. So, with Ruth, where did that situation come from? Four years ago, overseers considered looking after me- I was quite needy- and Ruth took me out for lunch, and we walked together several times.

What do I Want? If I find Ruth’s emails like sandpaper rubbing at a sore, I want them to stop. So I must consider my attack carefully, in order to make them stop. However sweetly and smilingly I approach her, I would not come from love, just from an attempt to gain the moral high ground and shame her into stopping.

If I can accept them- this is Ruth, yes, Ruth does feel a need for things to go Right within the Area Meeting, I am happy with my actions as AM clerk or can see a way of improving- then I can come from Love, and seek a warmer, less fearful relationship. This morning I saw this as a “necessary confrontation”- I must establish boundaries and take my power; my self-respect and proper functioning requires her to behave how I consider appropriate. And now I don’t. I will see her in January.

Coffee this afternoon with my wise, delightful friend Liz. I told her what I had been doing, and she got it completely. I told her “no-one can hurt me” and she understood. Taking a little courage, I held her gaze and stated my affirmation, and she smiled delightedly and said Yes.

-You’re a different person from the one I met four years ago. You were anguished.
-Yes, I said, and enraged.
-And now you’re not.

I have gained permission to be myself. I have gained respect for who I am, and do not wish to be otherwise- at last! I am so grateful for the space and time I have to process all this. Liz agreed, and helped me to clarity about Ruth.

It was quite lovely, affirming myself to Liz. And- it is my responsibility to affirm myself: if I cannot, no-one can do it for me. I want to communicate this Blessing to others. I take care with Holy things- and it is a challenge! Communication is my gift, and my delight!

Wisdom

Henriette LorimierYou can choose a ready guide, from some Celestial voice…

Here are two sites which email me a Thought for the Day. The Wisdom Commons is by Valerie Tarico, a rationalist atheist formerly an Evangelical Christian who collects bite-size quotes from eclectic sources. Recent examples of “The Daily Wisbit“:

Even Socrates, who lived a very frugal and simple life, loved to go to the market. When his students asked about this, he replied, “I love to go and see all the things I am happy without.

Jack Kornfield

Not only must the most privileged feel they are brothers and sisters of the most destitute, but the most destitute must feel as well that something within them makes them equal to the greatest sages and geniuses.

Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov

True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power.

Milan Kundera

One Spirit Interfaith offers daily inspiration, such as

Life has taught me that it knows better plans than we can imagine, so that I try to submerge my own desires … into a calm willingness to accept what comes, and to make the most of it, then wait again.

– Julia Seton, By A Thousand Fires

I know that a new and kinder day will come … And there is only one way of preparing the new age, by living it even now in our hearts.

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life

Dalai Lama in ViennaI get a lot like that from facebook, along with the politics and jokes. Here is the Dalai Lama:

When you talk, you are only 

repeating 

what you already know; 

but when you listen, you may 

learn something new.

But I thought, when I try to articulate thought and explain it to others, I gain understanding; and when I listen, often I only hear what I already know. These wisdom-tidbits are not the meaning of life, but they can stimulate my thought for a moment, giving pleasure and even perhaps insight.

Also recommended: Mark Simpson‘s poem shares.

Lovely blogs

I have been given the One Lovely Blog award, by Sugar-Coated Angel. She is 17, and shares valuable wisdom, self-knowledge, and jokes, well-written. I am fair pleased. I am supposed to praise my nominator then to write seven things about myself, but given that most of this blog is about me, it is all here. Let me tell you of some lovely blogs found recently. In no particular order:

Large Self– thoughts on energy and healing in the 21st century by Cathy Ulrich. I came across Cathy with her post on “Bumper-sticker philosophy, saying “Disrespect reality! It is just the outpicturing of your beliefs up to now.” Practically, I function like a naive realist, and these are the reminders I need, in a clear and humorous style. The photograph is hers.

I have just found Julie Hansen Intuitive, who writes on psychic phenomena, reading and perception of people and situations. Her word “Clairvoyant” disturbed me a little, but it simply means clear-seeing. These are skills I wish to develop. Part of the current spiritual revolution is the increasing recognition and valuing of such skills.

I found Mindy through a comment, and have posted on that. I find her blog beautifully expressed, wise, varied, and on interesting subjects.

Letting go takes a lot of work!

Or, maybe, it’s the holding on I’ve done till now that has taken so much energy.

Small Letters is full of good stuff like that.

Her comment was on Fairy Bear Confessions, which teaches me and stimulates my thought about God, from a Christian perspective.

Beth Zwecher is 57, and writes very movingly about caring for her mother at the end of life, in Middlescapes, “A blog about caregiving a frail elder, life in the middle years, the search for one’s inner athlete, and baking as a path to enlightenment”.

Novia Olam is Kenyan, still living with her parents. Her web address, Sapphiqueer, is bold, Out there, when gay lovemaking is illegal, so that gay people have little protection against violent bigots. Her coming out story is moving.

Also beautifully bold is Evelyn Ortiz. “Evelyn Ortiz has spoken”- I love that. If I say I love reading teenagers expressing how to get on in the world, that could seem frightfully condescending or sardonic, but I mean it literally and genuinely.

I value Tsena’s poetry, but it is this line that I love- “I used to shake my head at the people who would claim that major tragedy turned out to be a gift in their lives; I thought they were nuts. Now I join the ranks of those whom I called Nuts.” Such an about-face is a powerful move towards wisdom.

Fear no Weebles! Madame Weebles is a middle-aged Reiki master doing wisdom-stuff- all my kind of thing- with a lot more humour than I manage to cram in here.

All so far are women! Robert Moores writes on Basic Humanity from a rationalist perspective. He is currently reading and commenting on the Bible.

Duncan Aldridge, whom I met at the Field of Love, a 5Rhythms camp in East Anglia, is exploring masculinity. He says, “I only hope that the vulnerability is a channel through which we can come closer together relationally and emotionally as men and women.” Personally, I find my “vulnerability” my only source of strength.

That is eleven. Perhaps I can keep back four nominations for later.

The strong man

Jesus said (Matthew 12:29, New International Version)

Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.

One problem with interpreting the sayings of Jesus is the long tradition of spiritualising them. Why should this not just be a political statement? Then, it would fit Syria perfectly. Syria belongs to Basher Assad, his Daddy gave it to him and he does not want to let it go.

Not Al-Assad. This is a Quaker thing. The “Al” means “the”, just as “The Campbell” is the chief of the clan Campbell, or Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw is a crown vassal, entitled to be named by his estates. It is a sign of nobility. No nobility in Basher. Quakers do not use titles like that.

Onywye, where was I? Oh yes. If you consider the New Living Translation of the same verse, it enforces a spiritual interpretation, unless you see Basher as the Devil:

For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger–someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.

So, what is the context? What are the parallels? Luke uses different words to say the same thing, at 11:21-22:

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.

Both passages are in the context of Jesus justifying his healing a demon-possessed man, when criticised by Pharisees, and are followed by the phrase “Whoever is not for me is against me”.

Clearly, the Gospel writers did not have a scribe noting down the actual words of Jesus. They felt free to convey the sense with different words for their own purposes. So, the long speech which Jesus gives is unlikely to be a single speech. It has been crafted by another source, common to Matthew and Luke but not Mark, and possibly this verse is a discrete saying, unconnected in Jesus’ original teaching to the casting out of demons.

In any case, I may give it a spiritual interpretation, that you need someone strong to cast out a demon, or a political interpretation, that you need someone strong to cast out Basher Assad. Truth and justice have no effect on him. Picture credit.

Advices and Queries

The Advices and Queries are among the greatest treasures of the Quakers. Initially a way of enforcing good behaviour, one can trace their development over the 19th and 20th centuries to a summary of our wisdom about the Good Life. The person who introduced me to Quakers gave me a copy, and I keep a few in my flat, now, to give out. Meditating on these 42 paragraphs in turn brought me to my Quaker meeting. I particularly love paragraph 33:

Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?

Shortly after transition, I visited the meeting in Chester, and this was read at the start of worship, as it is the custom to read one of these paragraphs in worship in many meetings. I broke down in tears, and was consoled. It is the mutual respect and cherishing in our life together at its best, and imbuing the whole document, which fits us to live up to paragraph 27:

Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak.

Paragraph 27 continues,

When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God’s guidance and offering counsel to one another?

We are enjoined to make decisions together, each of us seeking not our own interest or our own way, but the good of all, and where relevant the good of the wider community.

Different Yearly Meetings have different versions of A&Q.

Rejoice always

 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians chapter five. One of the earliest documents in the New Testament, universally thought to have been written by Paul (unlike the letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon which are disputed) it prefigures the power of positive thinking, and with “pray continually”, being in the moment.

More positive thinking from Paul in Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Charles Wesley:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

-Charles Wesley, from “Hymns for Those that Seek and Those That Have Re­demp­tion in the Blood of Je­sus Christ”, 1747. Christians say that every baptised person has something of God in them, and Quakers believe that of Everyone. In my meeting, we sang this recently because the tune is so good, though some demurred over that last verse. Quakers are not particularly interested in afterlife- but then I interpret the hymn to mean that Charles Wesley was also writing of the new creation, here on Earth. As was St Paul in Gal 5 22-23:

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Experiencing and creating Heaven, here.

When I look around

A hadith of Isa Masih: “The world is a bridge, so pass over it and do not inhabit it.” This is close to the Gospel of Thomas, saying 42: “Jesus said, ‘be passers-by'”. The Gospel of Thomas was lost from the fourth century AD until 1948 when the Nag Hammadi Codex was unearthed. I quoted saying 42 to a friend, who said, “What about the Good Samaritan?” 

There is a similar idea in Matthew 8:20: “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” That could sound a bit threatening, though. I prefer “Be passersby”. I have no home, and that has to be alright. It has been so far, with my own capacities and the Love that has surrounded me.

Ani de Franco, “As is”:

When I look around
I think this, this is good enough
and I try to laugh at whatever life brings
Cos when I look down
I just miss all the good stuff
When I look up
I just trip over things

The Hoffman process

The Hoffman Process is wonderful and liberating, because it gives a whole week of catharsis after catharsis, and tools to access the subconscious and its wisdom.

The image is a symbol of the human being as “quadrinity”. The circle is the body, encompassing the whole. The large rhombus is the spiritual self, and the other rhombuses the emotional being and the intellect, all interlocking. The process gave me another view of different aspects of the person in dialogue, sometimes in dispute, and so validated that perception in me.

My disagreement with the Hoffman process is that it demonises the “dark side” as an enemy, where I see it as an “inner critic” which may be made a friend. However they are certainly right that the inner critic must be dethroned from dominance before it may be a useful member of the committee of the self.

And, since doing the Process, I have spent a number of evenings in the houses of other spiritual seekers, sharing our growth and process. It is a powerful tool in shedding habitual, inherited patterns of behaviour, and gaining choices over how to be in the World.

There is a lot on personal growth stuff here. If you are interested in Hoffman, you may also be interested in the Human Awareness Institute.