A Modern Mystic

Musings on life, work and contemporary spirituality


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To struggle or not, that is the question

There is much written here and elsewhere about letting go, or what I am currently calling “releasing the struggle.” For too long I have understood these terms theoretically, only applying them on the meditation cushion or when some major life catastrophe occurs—divorce, job loss or illness, for example. Lately, however, I have begun to more easily cultivate a release of the minor, moment-to-moment struggles. This has changed my life.

flower path

A new path

 

What do these mundane relinquishments look like?

Here’s an example from my life this week.

♥♥♥

With a particular outfit in mind, I go to my closet to get dressed for the workday. I soon realize, with some annoyance, that the grey slacks I intend to wear have a torn hem and that I really don’t have the appropriate red sweater to pull the whole thing together. Hmm. I look at the clock.

“Lots of time,” I think, “Why not stop at a favorite shop on my way to the office?”

Another voice in my head immediately objects about spending the money. Next comes the opposing thought, a justification: hadn’t I just received an unexpected check?

I decide on the plan and pull out my sewing kit to mend the pants. “What? No needle? I could swear I had one in here.”

Soon I am looking through the house for the emergency back-up sewing kit. I find it in my step-daughter’s bedroom. Sure enough, here are the needles. But what’s this? An empty package where the scissors had rested? Angrily I make a mental note to ask her to track them down. Meanwhile I am no closer to getting my pants hemmed, I have messes to clean up in three different rooms where I’ve been searching, and I have used up the time I had budgeted for the shopping expedition.

I go to Plan B: the brown skirt and black blouse, same shoes, hose and jewelry. I realize that this outfit is much more appropriate for the appointments I have during the afternoon. Everything is in perfect shape and I am dressed and ready to go within moments.

At this point I’m laughing. I realize I have just struggled away 45 minutes of my day. How similar that is to what I do on my zafu many dark mornings! I now clearly see that there was another choice: to notice that the slacks were not going to work and to just flow to the next outfit. What a tone that might have set for my day, far more important than grey or brown, slacks or skirt!

This is how life is. We can, in every moment, choose struggle or ease. This is what it means to let go.


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Being at home with fear

Lighthouse, Cape Mears, OR

Lighthouse, Cape Mears, OR

A friend called yesterday. She’s been trying to decide whether to move after accidentally finding the house of her dreams. It’s not an easy thing these days, to buy a house, put another on the market, get a new mortgage. I listened as she brainstormed ways to get the financing. She wanted a fool-proof plan, an air-tight  assurance that her mission would succeed.

Needless to say, I couldn’t offer that. I couldn’t tell her how to go about the process in a way that ensures all the pieces will fall into place for her move into that new home.

I listened more with an ear to hearing her discomfort, her fear and her need for control. How many times a day do I have the same fears and needs?

It seems this is the perfect time for listening. The Chinese call it the year of the Rabbit. With their long ears, sensitive whiskers, soft and gentle manner, the rabbit is the perfect symbol for taking it easy, staying quiet and allowing the wafting scent of the situation to enter our senses. We can really be as quiet as a rabbit, opening ever so gently to hear just what we need to know.

Instead we’re prone to distraction. Anything to take our minds off the complete vulnerability of the present moment. Anything to shout-out the whisper-soft voice of our heart. We’re taught to override our fears without giving them a second thought, and that habit makes our tiny terrors loom much larger outside ourselves in the form of political terrorism, financial insecurity, chronic health and well-being issues.

After our conversation, my friend faced her fears. She  realized her own discomfort in not having a Plan B if she should sell her present home and not qualify to buy the other. And when she presented her fears to her partner, something miraculous happened. In the space of his desire for the new house and her fear of taking the risk to get it, an option appeared that they had not considered. Plan B seemed obvious and approachable. The path opened when they faced their vulnerability together.

It doesn’t mean they’ll get the house. But it no longer matters. They are in a place of detachment, choosing the comfort of the present moment as their home for now.


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Some thoughts on 2011

 

Tara in the snow, 2009

Just like the quiet beauty of a longed-for snowfall, there is something magical about the first week of the year. I’d like to share a few of my thoughts that they may be the seeds for our positive thinking in 2011.

The themes for the year are releasing struggle, listening, and trusting the abundance of life.

The simple joy of the holiday season seems to spill onto the pages of my pristine 2011 datebook. My most ardent wish is that I trust the empty spaces more than frantically trying to fill my days with hustle and frenzy, struggling to manage all my commitments. Indeed, the first Monday of the year did not go as I had planned, but brought a theme of Let Go. A co-worker was laid-off, a plan in my home was abandoned, a client made a move away from me and toward a new strategy for himself, an old friend surprised me when I let go of my judgments about her.

Sound scary? I certainly react with fear at times. What I have come to realize, however, is that I cannot let go of only what I perceive as bad. If something is bad, is its opposite good? When I am honest, I admit that I have no idea.

The secret is to release the struggle to sort it all out,  to keep the good and the bad segregated, to spend my days filling-in the ledger book in my karma account.

Release the struggle. Every struggle. Struggle looks like “yah, but…” Releasing it looks suspiciously like “——–” listening. How simple is that?

There is an abundance unlike anything I have ever known. Gifts are falling from the sky. The right words appear magically. Several conflicts were averted yesterday just by staying present to my own thoughts and feelings and stating them simply. New plans materialized that were even better than previous ideas. A grounded surety has begun bubbling-up like a healing hot spring.

Is this the right path for 2011? I don’t know. Stay tuned. It will change.

 

 

 


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2010 in review–thank you readers!

Although I aspire to many more posts and views in 2011, 2010 was not bad considering I worked full time and had little energy left over for writing. Nonetheless, I’m happy that so many of you found my words helpful.That’s truly what it’s about for me. So if you find something here that you like, by all means please share the link and leave a comment. In the mean time, the statisticians at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of my blog’s health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 3 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 32 posts. There were 3 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 6mb.

The busiest day of the year was March 24th with 49 views. The most popular post that day was About Carrie.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, networkedblogs.com, astrologyexpressed.wordpress.com, linkedin.com, and healthfitnesstherapy.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for carrie ure, coward archetype, apollo archetype, apollo greek god, and lion archetype.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

About Carrie March 2009
1 comment

2

The Archetype of the Coward: Facing Fear Part I March 2009
7 comments

3

The Archetype of the Coward; Facing Fear Part II March 2009
4 comments

4

The Apollo Archetype June 2009
3 comments

5

April Fool’s Day; The Archetype of the Fool April 2009


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From the New Age to the New Economy

Trinket cart, Jodphur, Rajasthan, India

I get my best ideas in the shower and this morning as I lathered up, my mind was adrift in thoughts about marketing.

In our modern marketplace with instant access to information, it’s not always easy to set oneself apart. (For more on this topic read the wonderful Trust Agents by super-blogger Chris Brogan and wunderkind Julien Smith.)

I’m in the process of writing a marketing campaign for a client in a very competitive industry. I’ve been immersed in market research, which yesterday included a conversation with one of her referral partners, a residential real estate broker. An astute business woman, she told me that the most important criterion for referring her customers to my client over one of her many competitors, besides doing an expert job, is that she thank their mutual clients for the business.

I called my realtor friend, not only because she is highly respected in her field, but she is successful and has surrounded herself with other successful professionals. In an industry that has lost its shirt in the past several years, my friend is busy, productive and still getting referrals. Sure her income is down, but she’s personally thriving and she’s still in business, unlike legions of others in our state who have returned their broker’s licenses since the market crash of 2007-2008.

I truly feel that the simple and humble attitude of gratitude is what will continue to set apart the haves from the have-nots in our New Economy. Gone is the heyday of our collective trust in the impersonal corporation. Hello to the age of personalizing business through the Internet, where there is nothing to hide. Of course that’s what social media is all about. And the social media craze has so much to teach us about good old-fashioned values like gratitude, love, staying connected and reaching out with community service.

I’ve got to run, but stay tuned for more ideas on how to infuse your life and your business with more gratitude. This is a wide open topic, a New Economy babe being swaddled in the arms of  its New Age mama.

 


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What’s faith got to do with abundance?

Artisan village children, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

I offer this story in the hope that generosity begins to take hold, one small act at a time, during this era of questioning and searching in our worldwide economic crisis.

No matter what one thinks of the new age lexicon that has made beautiful, simple concepts like abundance, gratitude, and prosperity into the war cry of the entitled, the fact is that there are two types of people in the world: those who are genuinely grateful for what they have and those who haven’t a clue about gratitude. And if we take just a moment to reflect on our own experience, we might be surprised to see how closely our attitudes and our circumstances line up. A recent experience illustrates.

In my work as a Spiritual Companion, I meet people from many walks of life. I listen to many and some folks come to me for readings. Most want advice about how to negotiate issues that threaten their security—financial livelihood, relationships and health.

A new client—I’ll call her Jane—recently contacted me for a reading. She described her situation as urgent and I agreed to see her on short notice. A beautiful, intelligent and articulate woman, her issue revolved around her job, a temporary position that had already run half its course. Although she worked in an exciting and challenging field, she complained of being unhappy, unheard and disrespected in her work. She also expressed concern about her precarious financial situation.

We discussed her fear about even being able to pay for my services. Regarding the lovely, sweet and capable figure before me, I saw no reason to worry about being paid, however. I told her that for now I would accept whatever payment she could afford. She agreed and we scheduled a reading for the next day.

We spent an hour and a half together, and afterwards Jane asked me if she could pay me the next day, which happened to be payday for her. I agreed and she went on her way. The following day arrived, and although she stopped by for a cup of tea, no payment was forthcoming.

I did, however, receive a check later that day. Another client, Sandra (also a pseudonym), a successful business woman, had sent me approximately the same amount as my normal fee for a reading. In a lovely note, she stated that there was no reason for the payment; she simply wanted to express her gratitude.

I couldn’t help notice the juxtaposition between the attitudes of Jane and Sandra.

Now I’m not going to use a magical New Age argument about causation that has me gazing into my crystal ball to determine the monetary flow around my business arrangements. I would like, however, to point out a number of observations

In the trio of players in my story, Jane has not yet discovered the secrets of generosity. Sandra has mastered them. I have lately noticed my own financial steamship turning in a positive direction while working with these principles.

In the Buddhist tradition that I follow, Greed–the idea that I cling to what I have or chase external things to make me happy—is a form of negative thinking that leads to suffering. Along with Anger, it is one of the most pressing problems of our times. Although the newspapers report daily on the greed of a few at the top of the financial food chain, when we truly examine our motives we can see that we all suffer from clinging and chasing behavior. In fact, since the economic downtown, every one of us can understand suffering from the kind of unhappiness that has us holding tightly to what we have. The economists even measure it in an index and report it on morning radio news programs.

What to do? Should we try harder to maintain our secure status in the world of work, real estate, retirement accounts? Should we spend less money in an attempt to protect our comfortable lifestyles? And what about the poor souls who have already lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings?

The answer we seek is simple, even while it rubs against the grain of everything we have practiced, everything we hear, and everything we have been enculturated to believe. The answer is to practice Faith.

By faith I mean, not religious blind faith, but rather faith in our own good thinking. This is faith in the innate human ability to program one’s actions with intentions that are basically good. While this is not something most of us were taught, economic times are ripe to try something as new and radical as this ancient Eastern idea.

Now, before you begin the rationalist eye roll and toss my argument into the dumpster labeled “Tired New Age Thought,” think this through: reacting to a perception of lack in one’s life, focusing on it, nurturing it, coddling it, surely keeps it alive. Our focused attention is essentially the computer program that runs this machine called the human body. Focusing on more positive thoughts of abundance, generosity and prosperity, consciously or unconsciously programs our thoughts to encourage prosperity-producing actions.

Back to my example above: who are the winners and losers in my story?

For myself, I performed an act of generosity when I offered Jane the reading, knowing that she has limited funds. I also exercised faith in my ability to make a living while occasionally offering my services gratis to those in need. Indeed, the money for my time and effort arrived from an unknown source. It took a second act of generosity to apply those funds to a person in need.

For Sandra, who has been working with these principles for some time, she has come to realize that when she feels gratitude and performs generosity, she consistently makes choices that bring her the financial success that she needs.

Put another way by the Tibetan teacher Tulku Lama Lobsang on a recent visit to Portland, “Thinking ‘give’ makes you happy because when you say it, you feel that you have it. Likewise, if I think ‘take’, it’s because I don’t have it.”

That’s how it feels. And how it feels is exactly how we program our unconscious.

Our third person, Jane, has unfortunately found herself in a difficult spiral. Unable to honor her agreement to pay me whatever she could afford for my services, there naturally occurred a rift or coolness in our acquaintance. No longer trusting her as a person who keeps her agreements, I am not inclined to offer her further services at this time. Instead, generously offering whatever was in her means, even if just a dollar, would have built good will between us. I would have had the chance to share with her the little miracle of the unknown benefactress who had paid her way. This could have further added to her faith that when we intend to help others, people naturally step in to contribute. Unable to see and understand the suffering that her own greed causes, she has missed an opportunity to step one foot out of a dire financial predicament. Luckily life will offer her many more opportunities.

 

 

 


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Everything is temporary

Fall leavesWell, I’m back, and astonished to see my last post dated exactly a year ago today. I took a yearlong hiatus to earn some money and find a more secure financial footing in the world, something an avowed mystic must do if she is to keep body and soul bound as one. St.Theresa of Avila called it “peeling potatoes.”

Indeed, after deciding to heal my precarious relationship to money, I registered with my neighborhood temp agency, took the first job offered, and that’s how I came to work in the banking industry. Where else to learn about money than at the bank?

Although I was unclear about the nature of my money ills, a year at the Big Bank clarified my issue. Like a long course of radiation and chemo-therapy, the stultifying routine and dearth of beauty, sweetness and light killed-off my creative urge and left me too exhausted at night to pen blog posts.

I left my job several weeks ago and the charred stubble of my creativity is now happily sprouting new life, for I learned an awful lot this past year that I’d like to share.

The main insight of my 300 days as a temporary worker came on my first day on the job. I arrived at the massive suburban office complex on that dark fall morning only to discover that I would be working in a department called “Subordinations.” The term refers to a legal maneuver that enables borrowers to refinance a first mortgage while leaving their second mortgage in junior position on the deed. Not being familiar with banking jargon, I assumed I was there to get my ego kicked to within an inch of its life.

Bring it on, I prayed, let’s get this over with.

My friend Jane, herself a freelancer, reminded me this morning why I took a job at the wrong end of my pay scale and ostensibly beneath my skill level. As I sat nursing my cup of tea she bemoaned the dearth of decent part time jobs to tide her over the holidays. “Why should I take a job that pays $13 an hour?” she whined.

Having just quit one of those jobs, I had the answer: because it shakes you out of your routine and destroys the sense of entitlement that prevents one from understanding the value of a day’s work.

I’m not saying I liked it. I did not like accounting to someone else for every minute of the day. I resisted following instructions. I rebelled against the rules and regulations that constitute banking “compliance.” I detested the lack of privacy, the fluorescent lights, the vending machines, and being chained to my computer forty hours a week. But it was the slap in the face that I needed.

I did, in fact, come to enjoy the process of getting up every morning, moving in rhythm with the bulk of humanity. I learned to appreciate the small joys, a smile from a coworker, or the discovery of a more efficient route home during rush hour. And it felt so good just to relax and learn, even mundane things like a new computer skill or technique for cutting through HR red tape. I even learned to touch-type, a class I’d eschewed in high school because of the big plans I’d made for myself.

At the bank I made it my mission, each day, to be open to whatever happened. I pumped-up my observer muscles and sharpened my listening tools. I stretched my sense of gratitude all out of proportion and wore it like a comfortable baggy sweater. Soon I had enough cushion in my bank account to call myself a freelancer once again.

But I did not give my notice at the Big Bank until I was ready to approach my chosen career path, not with the idea that I deserve to be paid for what I do, but rather with a sense of awe that when I do what I really love, others value it too.

I realize that I could easily end-up in the temp pool again. And that realization, of the impermanence of everything, including my current employment status, keeps me grateful for the things money can buy as well as the things it can’t.

I’m so happy to be back in the blogosphere…it’s a much lovelier place to be now that I can type!