A Life’s Work

A grateful heart
grows in size
as it gathers in
all the goodness
that surrounds

A cynical heart
licks its wounds
as it shrivels 
and becomes saturated
with complaints

Perspective is all
that separates the two
both can be formed or found
in any circumstance
or station of life

Let us not be fooled
by the feeling
of not enough
lest it linger on despite
all we continue to acquire

The mind may hold habits
that are hard to break
of looking for lack
feeling justified when
it always finds what it seeks

Creating illusions
of darkness and depravation
despair solidified through
misunderstanding and fear
disguised as certainty

Failing to see the joyous truth
that the mind's fruitful efforts
merely prove it's own power
to shape our reality
through sheer focus

Nothing has been lost
it's not too late
to turn the tides in our favor
and refocus our gaze
toward the sun

The source of light
that has formed
the shadows
we fixate on
yet fail to see fully

Finding balance
so we may behold
the beauty of duality
becoming like water to withstand
the push and pull of reality

The deep hollows made by hardship
leave more space for love to fill
our laughter resonates deeper
through the caverns carved by sorrow
may we cultivate a container that can hold it all
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Connected

Why do I see this body
as the limits of my container
the pieces of matter that comprise me
continue on into the cosmos

even the air between you and I 
is saturated with shifting energy
carrying currents of information
through supposed emptiness

connection is everywhere I look
from the veins and tissues of this body
to the veins of mycelium and root systems underground
to the streams and rivers snaking across the earth

the illusion of separation is still poignant somehow
despite the new science that shows we are one
could I learn to feel beyond this form?
can I lift the veil of this life?

to recognize myself in all that I see
is to relinquish this unruly fear of reality
freedom is remembering a fate intertwined
uncovering a deep compassion for all of existence

To love myself is to love the world
to love the world is to love myself
we are inextricably intertwined
we are one in the same

A Soul Confined

Consciousness drips into these physical bodies, these vessels, so small and cramped. The universe is separated and confined inside of flesh and bone and electrical signals. We squirm and stretch and try to remember why we feel so strange now. Energy that once knew all, is left alone and cut off, forced to see through an unfocused, limited lens.

Some souls, young souls, are easily persuaded to forget about this flowing source from which we’ve been torn away. They smile and slip seamlessly into their new roles, happy, lighthearted, supposing they are whole. The old souls are not so easy to let go. A vague memory lingers of something more, of a connection now lost, of freedom obscured and shrunken down to fit within these new forms.

There is not enough space in here. My soul shuffles and feels suffocated by new boundaries and earthly limitations. This fear, this isolation, this uncertainty, these are all new, they aren’t right. The formless memory of the limitless expanse once inhabited causes friction and doubt. Blinded by the illusions that permeate and penetrate every perception, we anguish in confusion and discomfort. Why am I like this? I wasn’t always like this. Something is different. Something… something is wrong.

Unable to accept the new parameters of living consciousness, unable to feel these new forms of connection offered to us, will live in a surreal state of stupefaction. Equally frightened by life and by death, we float through the foreign rituals expected of us, always wondering, why? What is this? I can’t quite understand. I know there was a time when I understood. Why can’t I now?

Tasked with learning to trust, learning to follow the open-hearted ignorance of those that seem to flourish here. Allowing their smiling faith to support us and carry us through our fear. We don’t have to understand right now. Our job is not to understand, but to experience. These small, fragile, confining containers are gifts to be enjoyed and explored. Vehicles of vastly new, unlimited perspectives.

Let us not be afraid of that sense of something more. It is still there waiting for us. We have not been cut off, just reconstituted. We are these new bodies for now, but it will not always be so. When flesh and blood falls away, we are freed, not forgotten. We will all find our way back to that deep, soothing hum of all there is. We’re still a part of it even now. Trust in that oneness that flickers in your heart from time to time. Your soul is not mistaken, the sensation is true. Let it be a comfort to you on your journey and let it hold you above the painful illusion of an ultimate end. You don’t have to be afraid. Keep going.

Suspicious of Stillness

For the last week or so, I have been feeling overwhelmed with all the things that I want to do that I just don’t have the time for. It feels like this list of “one day”s grows longer every moment, yet nothing ever seems to get checked off. I see it trailing behind me whenever I look over my should like an ominous tail. A tail I feel compelled to measure over and over again to make sure it’s all there and I haven’t lost track of any of it. The most interesting part is, intellectually I know I’m only looking outside of myself in an effort to “fix” something inside of me.

Past experience has taught me that even if I were able to finish all of these things crowding my mind, new ones would easily press in on me to take their place. Not only that, the satisfaction and peace I imagine will be the result of completing my checklist, is never what I expect. In the past it has only been a mere shimmer, a glimmer of contentment, quickly covered again by new concerns and goals to achieve.

You’d think I’d be able to learn from the past, to acknowledge these lived truths. No matter how urgent and overwhelming each item feels, that is just an illusion. Not only that, but that rushed, pressured feeling I seek to alleviate by wiping away all these tasks will not be affected. That feeling is inside of me. Nothing I alter or change in the world outside is going to adequately address that inner turmoil. It may provide a momentary distraction, but it will surely bubble back up to the surface of my awareness.

I was reminded again of that fact yesterday evening. As I was washing the dishes and preparing soup for my lunches this week, a pleasant sense of calm and contentment settled over me. I was enjoying myself. My mind was focused and still. “Everything is exactly as it should be.” Never had that mantra felt more true. I found myself in that delicious flow state, but that nagging little anxiety mosquito would not allow me to rest there. It buzzed by my ears, trying to pick apart that peace.

I caught myself searching for that sense of urgency and overwhelm that I was so familiar with. As if it must still be there somewhere, as if I had misplaced it. I smiled in spite of myself. Why did I feel the need to find my discomfort? Sadly, it almost feels unsafe to be without it. I have learned to trust my feelings of dis-ease more than feelings of peace and stillness. At what point had I decided that the former was more true, a more accurate representation of reality, than the latter? Why did I not feel inclined to do the reverse and seek out that calm state when I noticed myself spiraling?

This was a reminder that even if I were to accomplish every single thing I hope to accomplish and I reach that place of ease I’m longing for, I won’t trust it. I will continue searching for more problems that need solving, and because of that, I will inevitably find them. So when I find myself fretting about all of these random things left undone, I must remind myself that it’s not about whatever I’m fixating on. It’s about the feelings themselves. It’s not a signal that I must act to change the external world. It is a signal that I need to work on trust and surrender.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always had a dysfunctional relationship with trust. I seem to trust others almost to a fault, never even suspecting that they may be untruthful. However, I can’t ever seem to trust myself or the universe to take care of me. Despite the fact that it always has, that I always have. I’m beginning to wonder if these feelings have something to do with my OCD tendencies.

When someone with OCD performs their compulsions, it is in an effort to dissipate feelings of anxiety. I’ve heard people suffering with OCD say that even though they know it’s not true, they feel they must touch the doorknob five times or walk in a particular pattern across the room to prevent some kind of natural disaster or to protect their loved ones from harm. They understand that this is ridiculous, yet they cannot help but be compelled to continue doing it. I feel similarly about my own situation.

It may be a more vague, shapeless sense of dread, but it is still there. I always have this foggy sense that if I don’t stay ever vigilant, if I don’t make sure I keep my life perfectly organized, and accomplish these random things that my reality will descend into utter chaos. I’m not sure exactly how I imagine this will happen, but the fear is always there. I guess I’ve convinced myself of an irrational slippery slope argument. If I start to let things slip through the cracks, for example not keeping up with cleaning my home, then it will continue to get worse and worse until it is unbearable and impossible to set right again. Then expanding upon that unlikely scenario, I tell myself that everything else in my life will start to break apart too. Ultimately resulting in: I will never be happy unless I can take care of all of these tasks I’ve thought of that need done. Even though, like the OCD sufferers, I know it to be untrue, I can’t help but believe it.

Just as with OCD, the only way to alleviate these irrational fears, is to show yourself that the outcomes you fear will not occur. Only through repeated, conscious effort to resist the compulsion can we teach ourselves that we don’t need to be afraid, that everything will still be okay if we let go. The irony of trust is that you’ve got to practice it to strengthen it. Even though those initial efforts to trust seem impossibly scary and reckless. We’ve got to trust that it is safe to trust. Even though that little voice inside is saying: What if it’s not? That is when we’ve also got to trust ourselves to be okay in the event things do go awry. I know that all I can do is try my best to focus on what I am able to accomplish, and practice trusting that the rest will still be there when and if I find the time for it.

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Grasping

As someone who finds comfort in consistency and knowing what to expect from one moment to the next, it has always been hard for me to accept that the nature of this existence is change. I’ve often heard that depression is the effect of living in the past and anxiety is caused when one tries to live in the future. I think this is quite accurate. Anxiety is mostly a shapeless, murky panic of the unknown. It is the fear of losing control. Although any control we think we have is merely an illusion regardless.

I am hopeful that beginning therapy in January will give me some new tools to cope with this fear. For so long now I have tried to handle my mental health on my own. I stubbornly maintain that I already know what I need to do. I just have a hard time making myself do it. However, I am not longer sure that’s true. I would welcome some new strategies. And I want to try them even if I doubt their ability to help me at first.

I am not sure where this deep distrust of the world around me has come from. I have always been in a fairly good position in the grand scheme of things. This world has always taken very good care of me. And I have always overcome the obstacles that I did encounter. It may sound stupid, but life is really one big trust fall. You have to let go. You have to stop grasping. You have to face your fear of falling. You have to trust in yourself. Trust in the universe to catch you. It might be scary, but it’s better than dragging your nails in the dirt all of your life. And my fingers are practically nubs right now.

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