This morning as I opened my eyes, I thought...it's just another day, and it's sweet and fun that on the calendar in our civilization this day is my birthday. I notice, we're rather joyful about birth.
The beginning of something, the start of something new, the movement that happens after gestation and ponderings and unseen growth.
And there's nothing like being born out of suffering and into awareness or learning or insight about something....whether it's small or very big. I'm so glad I bumped into whatever suffering I encountered (and will encounter again) and that somehow it led to wanting out, to wanting freedom.
Every time I do The Work either with myself or in the presence of another inquirer, a little birth happens. Sometimes painless and natural, sometimes....not so much. But it's worth it, soooooo worth it.
So looking on my calendar, here comes some dedicated time scheduled for The Work with others.
If you're within driving distance of Seattle: Sunday, Feb 10th 2-6 pm we'll do a half-day mini retreat here in my living room. (Reserve your spot here.)
It's been awhile since friends have come together for a little retreat on a Sunday afternoon. I can't wait.
Because there's nothing like taking a few hours to sit with a situation and gather together the stressful, unedited, judgey, nasty, desperate, sad thoughts about that thing or person we're at odds with.....and slow the mind's reactivity down.
That slowness is one thing I notice happens every single time I do The Work.
Sometimes in the past, I wanted to write with such vigor and intensity about a situation, person or condition that my pen was smashing into the paper and tearing it up.
Sure that what I'm thinking is true--certainly feeling like it is. What I love about The Work, is we get to go there.
That's step #1 in this birth process out of suffering. Just like so many spiritual teachings or teachers offer us: turn towards the pain, go into the pain.
How? Start by writing a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.
All the rage, fear, anxiety, nerves, sadness, loss, upset, troubled feelings all emanating from that incident, that encounter....we get to see them all, written on paper.
There isn't any thought to hold it in, or hold back, or start changing your mean thoughts to something kinder right now, or start saying positive affirmations, or criticize yourself because you're freaking out....
....The invitation is simply to write the thoughts you're thinking about that person or thing down.
The simplicity is almost so weird, it's like....that's it? That's all? Really?
But I've found so much wisdom coming out of the answers to the four questions on these thoughts I wrote down.
The process begins with the dumb, childish, embarrassing thoughts...the ones you prefer not to mention, the ones you don't want to admit or to share.
The process begins by confessing, sharing, admitting, opening up to your painful thoughts.
That's it. We turn towards the disruption we feel in our hearts about what's been difficult in any way in our lives, and name it.
"Our avoidance of pain keeps us locked in a cycle of suffering. The Buddha said that what we take to be solid isn't really solid. It's fluid. It's dynamic energy. And not only do we take our opponents and obstacles to be solid; we also believe ourselves to be solid or permanent. In the West, we add the belief that the self is bad. That night I spent meditating, I discovered that there is no solid, bad me. It's all just ineffable experience." ~ Pema Chodron
So today, if you're noticing you haven't sat down and started The Work yet on THAT situation (you know the one)....schedule some time to start.
If you seek a longer period of sinking into self-inquiry and investigating more thoroughly....come to a longer retreat.
And today, in honor of the beautiful poet Mary Oliver, I share with you this lovely piece that a friend in The Work sent me today. Happy Birthday to us all.
“Early Morning, My Birthday”
The snails on the pink sleds of their bodies are moving
among the morning glories.
The spider is asleep among the red thumbs
of the raspberries.
What shall I do, what shall I do?
The rain is slow
The little birds are alive in it.
Even the beetles.
The green leaves lap it up.
What shall I do, what shall I do?
The wasp sits on the porch in her paper castle.
The blue heron floats out of the clouds.
The fish leaps, all rainbow and mouth, from the dark water.
This morning the water lilies are no less lovely, I think,
than the lilies of Monet.
And I do not want anymore to be useful, to be docile, to lead
children out of the fields into the text
of civility, to teach them that they are (they are not) better
than the grass.
Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1 (1992)
*Spring Mental Cleaning Retreat May 15-19, 2019 Read more and register here. Lodging is already half reserved so if you'd like to stay in the retreat house, be sure to make your request soon (fees for the rooms are on the info page).
*Breitenbush Summer Retreat. This year my co-facilitator guest is the absolutely lovely Tom Compton. Join us at this gorgeous place in Oregon for 4 nights and 5 days. Early bird rate through April 14th but the sooner you book, the more normal lodging choices you have.
*Save the date: east coast Autumn Retreat November 6-10, 2019. This year's fall retreat on the east coast of the US. We begin Weds evening and end Sunday noon.
Much love to you on this glorious new day, Grace