There is so much more to a human life, possibilities we are normally unaware of, innate gifts we might bring to the world. To learn what they are, some of us have to be broken: confronted by something that compels us to surrender. Until then, we may have been reasonably satisfied with our lives, content with our own point of view. But when we’ve been humbled by storm or earthquake, illness or shame; by loss or just the ordinary process of aging, grace comes, and with it, opportunity after opportunity to deepen our way of perceiving, so we can ‘hear’ with more of ourselves.
Then, we learn to give the larger life our whole-bodied attention. We ask in the moment, What now? and listen with all our faculties. We dare to follow what allures us. This is the relationship that matters now: to move with the deeper movement ‘of the earth, of spirit, of the unknown’ in an unbroken intimacy with life. In this communion, we live in time and eternity intertwined, one day, one moment at a time.
We live in a Time of great upheaval, challenged on all fronts by conflicts in our world, our political systems, our religions and often those most difficult to see, the conflicts within ourselves. When what we know doesn’t seem to be working, life can seem dark, and we may feel lost and even afraid.
Times of darkness are choice points. They press us as individuals and as a species to choose from one of two ways to proceed: we can either change ourselves, meaning change our constant orientation to our thoughts, or render ourselves extinct.
We have in us, have had bestowed on us, everything we need to respond to the Time in which we’ve been born. We just need to know where and how to look,where to put our attention. There is no room for creativity in minds chock full of old ideas and old views. Perhaps, instead, we might let ourselves be lost and not know. When we’re lost, we can do three simple things: Create a quiet moment, a clearing in the forest of our activities. Sit in the stillness without trying to figure anything out. Turn our attention to the simple movement of our breath and let the thoughts drain away. And in the spaciousness of not knowing, allow the New to unfold.
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. Blaise Pascal
www.annehillman.net Art by Joan Brady
The ground is saturated here in California. The small lake over the hill is brimming, and there’s an unmistakable scent of warm mud in the air. I know that smell in my bones: After every March thaw in New England, we’d put our lawn chairs on some bare ground between patches of snow and sunbathe. We knew it wouldn’t last: it would snow again in April. But the smell of mud held a promise of new life and we reveled in it. We lived our little bit of spring in the midst of winter.
Once in a while, we get a glimpse of something new half-seen in another person or an event, a promise of something that wants to be born. It signals a different take on things and a manner of living it fully. Even in the midst of discouragement and fear, all of us can develop skills that will lend energy and impetus to that kind of creative possibility.
It is very difficult to see the many kinds of suffering around us and to live with the infinite slowness of change. We want to solve these problems and get results. Much as we long for solutions, they don’t always happen on our watch. Then it’s easy to become disappointed, discouraged, and afraid. Fear is a powerful god. For some of us, the more natural response to fear is to recoil, give up, or get cynical. Others may be more likely to take sides and try to trounce the opposition. These old kinds of reactions, the winter we live in, are taking a huge toll on all of us. But there is a more creative way. The alternative, when things go very wrong, is learning to give our attention to two things at once: To focus directly on the pain (rather than denying, ignoring or repressing it), and at the same time, hold it in a much larger awareness than thought. This capacity to embody and live from a mind that is not divisive, but instead heals, is available to all of us. You can find several examples in Awakening the Energies of Love and The Dancing Animal Woman. Even as things fall apart, we need to hold the larger vision, together. We can hope to live spring in the midst of winter!
In these early days of December, as a soft rain falls in California, I remember the first snowfall in New England; how it blanketed the earth and muffled sound—and silence became a spacious and holy presence. As the winters progressed, however, and we shoveled snow and pulled soggy socks from our children’s feet, that dark stillness often brought depression. We forgot that it held promise, hid something deeper: new life gathering itself to be born. We live in a dark time. Many of us have sought to help solve some of the immense difficulties confronting us, to learn the truth of each situation, and to grow in understanding. We’ve taken stands on countless issues and made the best decisions we knew how. But we are beginning to see that the kinds of solutions our cultures have to offer are blunt instruments—and we begin to realize we need more refined means of resolving our dilemmas.
Even as conflicts escalate the world over, we can lend the weight of our presence to a different kind of action. We are learning that it is possible to integrate a more subtle form of activism with social action, and that one can flow quite naturally out of the other. We’re discovering in groups of all kinds around the world that our lives are deeply joined; that we can participate at a level of sensibility that is complementary to problem solving and does not seek to make one side right and the other wrong. Entire groups are awakening to this truth as they dare to take the position that they do not know the answer. Instead, they choose to embrace opposing views, give focused attention to the silence, and trust. Then a common voice may arise.
This week, the Indigenous Peoples of the World are gathering in Fort Collins and Carbondale, CO at the same time the UN Climate Change Conference takes place in Copenhagen, the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne, and the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded President Obama in Oslo. In any group in which you have more than a casual membership, I invite you to set aside conversation for a short time, postpone closure in your own mind, and listen in the silence for something new. After all, it is that time of year, and as nature has always shown us, it is out of darkness that light is born again.
As the excitement about the presidential debates builds, I think it is important to realize that any â€œchangeâ€ promised by either candidate depends on much more than a leader. It is a matter of setting a new direction: The hope for any real change in our lives lies in the awakening of the If we have made up our mindsâ€”if we believe what we know, and know what we believeâ€”we will not have even begun to address the biased thinking that keeps us all so thoroughly programmed for conflict. . Such an awakening transforms the quality of all our relationships, and as we develop the skills that lead us in that direction, we may come to embody a â€”one that has long been misunderstood. This ; it is a great powerâ€”an intelligence which has long been present inside us. Accessing it, however, depends on our willingness to proceed. If there is any real hope for usâ€”man and woman, Arab and Jew, East and Westâ€”it doesnâ€™t lie in the rising up of a great leader. The Time of the hero is past. No rescuer will come to solve our conflicts for us, or fill the deep crevices of earth with oil again, or season poisoned land with sweetness. But if we are willing to step forward and begin to change our mindsâ€”to let go of our own certitude, be it religious or philosophical orscientificâ€”we will have joined the legions who are contributing to a new kind of consciousness, one that sees differently. This is not the same as thinking differently. It is the conscious emergence of a radical transforming power of Love can alone create a true human community. In his words, â€œThe may be the only energy capable of extinguishing the threat of another fire, namely that of universal conflagration and destruction.â€ This kind of Love unifies. Its evolution is already happening in all of us and is described in Awakening the Energies of Love: Fire for the Second Time. Â that holds both sides of a conflict in its embrace. According to Teilhard de Chardin, the
Filed under Change by Anne Hillman