Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A reflection.

Another Kallah, another two year cycle of spirituality comes full circle.

I have drifted significantly in the last two years, spiritually in particular. I have learned many things, some of them lessons I needed to learn, and some of them lessons I probably should have avoided with some applied common sense. Some were hard, and some were even harder. I have started to really See people, to See the events and dynamics around me in a way I hadn't before because I allowed myself to be too affected by rose-colored glasses. Some optimism is, I truly believe, an absolute necessity. But for optimism to be effective, you have to apply it to the real world. Not the world of potential, or the possible world, or the world you want things to be but they aren't quite there yet. I'm not sure of a way that this lesson can be taught verbally...I learned it in a very Zen way, actually. I was shocked into a state of higher awareness when I found out that someone I trusted and liked was not the person I thought he was. That the darkness I saw beneath the surface had far more hold than I believed, even unto beating up his girlfriend. They have reconciled since then, for better or for worse, but the lessons I learned were unforgettable, not just from this one event, but from observing and interacting with my environment after reaching this new awareness.

Three Lessons

First, that people give hints about the conditions of their insides. Just because you only see a tiny bit of insecurity, or cruelty, or immaturity, does not mean what you see is the totality. People are icebergs, and if you see a little, you cannot assume there isn't a lot. You can't assume there IS a lot either. But it is that uncertainty that should guide my consciousness. Often, you just don't know about people. And that should require more caution and observation before trust is earned, not less.

Second, that certain behaviors and perspectives are toxic, and there is nothing wrong with eliminating people from your social dance card who perpetuate toxicity in any form. Life is too short to be spending time and energy on people who reward loyalty with divisiveness, or friendly intentions with betrayals. And what's sad is that this lesson probably speaks to every single person who will ever read this. We have all experienced this. Sometimes it is a parent, a sibling, a friend, a lover...anyone in your life can betray you. Your responsibility to yourself is to make every possible effort to choose your friends and lovers carefully. I am learning to minimize my risks through social triage.

Third, and possibly most important, is compassion. All of the above lessons are as dust and sand unless you simultaneously apply compassion and understanding. If I stop spending time with someone and then think in my head (or say to other people), "That person is such a jerk; they don't deserve nice things" then I am also being a jerk. Obviously when we are hurt by someone, there is a certain amount of venting and release of pain that has to happen, in safe and trustworthy contexts. But if several months down the line I'm still harping on the same people for being horrible, worthless people, then I need to take a step back and look hard at myself and my motivations for saying such a thing. Every person has their own story, their own perspective. Reasons for doing what they're doing. And even if their reasons don't make sense to me, I am not the one who is utilizing them. Figuring out where someone is coming from, why they act the way they do, is an absolutely essential part of coming into communication and healing with someone. Sometimes, this is not possible. Sometimes, the person does not themselves know why they do what they do; they act without deeper consideration. Sometimes instead of healing communication between two people, all you get are scars. But without that initial drive to understand, to understand without judgment or imprecation, all you get is bitterness. As Yeats said, "Gaze no more in the bitter glass...for all things turn to bareness...thy tender eyes grow all unkind /gaze no more in the bitter glass."

Aside from improving my vision and perception of the world and people around me, and adjusting my priorities in accordance with my refined principles, I am coming to really feel like I'm carving out my place spiritually. My future is now, almost. By the end of this year I will be done with undergrad, and hopefully starting next year I will begin my Cantorial training. Spiritual leadership. Music. Lighting the way for others and myself as best I can. Becoming a vehicle for the ideals and philosophies that I feel are the connecting lines between all us dots. I was awaiting this Kallah conference with some anticipation... I have felt for months that I am on the verge of some sort of breakthrough. I have been getting bombarded with the signs of it too, déjà vu all the time, and dreaming vividly every time I fall asleep. My brain is in overdrive, processing things subconsciously, figuring things out, creating new spaces and places for me to explore consciously. I hope.

We are just what we are. It is who we become that we can influence by our choices and our practices and our convictions. We each live in our own Now, and that Now cannot be changed. It's our Now. But, by acknowledging humbly the things about our Now that we would like to adjust, we can work each moment to create new practices and new habits. We can form ourselves into the person that we want to become. And that person is still us, taken in the context of the whole picture. Just because right now I have a problem with, say, a short temper doesn't mean that THAT is who I will always be, and I should just hate myself for being so terrible and uncontrolled. It means that I am dissatisfied with my Now. That I need to begin practicing patience perhaps by counting to ten before speaking when annoyed, or whatever works. There is no reason to hate myself because I am also the person who successfully moves beyond such problems.

We are not discrete particles divided up into seconds, minutes, hours, years. The me of two years ago is just as much ME as the me right now. What reason, then, would I have to hate myself knowing how much potential I have?! I have come so far, and fought so hard, and worked so much at making myself into the best person I can be. I will not ever be perfect. And I don't want to be perfect! I want to be in full communication with my potential, to be constantly working toward whatever new goals I set for myself, to be aware of how my perspective shifts with lessons and experiences gained throughout my life.

In this moment, I have friends I adore. I have family, both old and new. In this moment, even though there is much uncertainty and even fear, there is also the surety of knowing that I write my own story. In this moment, this deep breath before the next plunge, life looks good.

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