Revisiting Illusions

I find myself reading some of my old blog posts under a different pen name. Before I shut down that site and concentrate on “one only” I want to capture some of the posts.

Some habits “die hard” and being authentic and truthful no matter what is one I find challenging. Do you say nothing when the truth, as you know it, may hurt someones’ feelings?

I read a book called “In Durga’s Embrace” written by Swami Durgananda. The story is about a woman’s journey through the practices and philosophies founded by Swami Radha. In one chapter Swami Radha asked Margaret ( who becomes Swami Durgananda) to write an essay on the lies she tells and the games she plays in her life. At first, Margaret resists thinking she doesn’t do those things. Then as she starts to write she discovers her illusions.

Slight truths that make yourself look better and benefit you somehow. Games like making sure someone is watching when you are busy at a task or doing something you want attention for. Acting in a certain way or saying something without being sincere. It made me think of my own behavior at times. What I have done to sway a situation to make me look perhaps better than I am. It was a good lesson in awareness for me.

I have often heard people saying that they didn’t have a choice. Whatever happened without them having control. They were slaves to circumstances and not accountable for their actions. Lack of choice is an illusion. We all can decide for ourselves what happens next. The key is that I may not always like what happens next if I make the wrong choice but I know that I am in the driver’s seat. I am exercising free will.

I want to create authenticity within my practices,interactions and words. Act on what I truly believe to be beneficial for me and others around me. Going with consensus or the flow no longer serves the direction of the path I choose to follow.

In social media it’s easy to hide behind illusions of filters for selfies, only showing happy events or sharing things that make your life look amazing. Only show the positive because that’s what your friends and family want to see. Is that true? If it is then what does that say about us and those we associate with?

How do we know joy unless we can recognize sorrow? Is happiness something you can maintain everyday all day long? Maybe if you are medicated or have reached a state of pure bliss. The rest of us will have to settle for a balance of happy and not so happy times.

I understand within myself the need and desire to be authentic and aware. Share what I know, ask for guidance when I don’t know and try very hard to cut through the illusions. Narratives created to appear better or greater than my life actually don’t serve any purpose to me anymore.

I have stood in Mountain Pose for a few minutes as the sun comes out from behind a cloud. I recall my room in Buddha Loka at the ashram that overlooks the lake. This is real, this is grounding me. This shows me the benefits of living firming planted in what I know to be beneficial to my soul. This is the being my essence recognizes and rejoices for me to use a practice to help me gain clarity to express my authentic self.

A big point for me coming to the ashram was to gain back the routine of practices. Infuse the effects into my mind and body enough times to crave it daily. I notice that I am a different person here than at home. I am happy and content. I need to consider why the difference happens and whether keeping up with my practices can help. I know that I am more grounded in truth when I practice functioning from my center.

What illusions remain at home that need surrendering and letting go of? 

It’s tough to cut through illusions. Life has a way of distracting us until we forget what drew us to look under the cover. When we look, sometimes we question what we are trying to see. It all looks so mundane and tolerable. 

There is nothing like trying to plan and move to fruition a family Christmas dinner to bring back the messiness that is swept under the rug for 364 days of the year. Can we all just put aside our differences and hug it out at dinner?

Some of the best Christmas dinners involved a food fight when I was younger.

Our parents have passed away but six of the seven siblings are still alive.

It’s my hope that we can set aside whatever is keeping us apart to come together to celebrate the season. We have the rest of the year to be authentic.

Three Is A Crowd?

I am reading a second book by Robin Wall Kimmerer titled “Braiding Sweetgrass”.

The first book I read of hers was “The Gathering Moss” and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thriving through mutual growth

A few pages into “Braiding Sweetgrass” Robin dedicates a chapter to what she calls the “epiphany of beans” and then moves onto a chapter called “The Three Sisters”. The chapter talks about compatible planting of, in this case, vegetables that are complementary to each other. Specifically, corn, beans and squash are the ones she mentions. Nature has an amazing ability for reciprocity and finding balance with sustainable relationships. The partnership here starts with the corn. They grow tall and thin with shallow root systems. The beanstalks wrap around the corn for support and take advantage of spreading upward with the cornstalks. The corn seem to accept the hitchhikers and separate their leaves to make room for the bean vines. The Indigenous theory on the “Three Sisters”  states that when planted together these plants can feed the people, feed the land and feed our imaginations by telling us how we can live together.

She goes on to talk about the theory that starts with the planting of the corn which shoots up vertically as fast as it can soaking up water and producing sugars. The bean comes next but takes a different root by firmly planting itself with deep roots before it seeks to go upward. The squash comes later and is last to germinate.The birth order is critical to the successful relationship of the trio. I recommend the read as it’s utterly fascinating to learn about this type of gardening techniques. The method is as old as time and yet not commonly practiced or known.

Further she talks about the intimate relationship between the sisters and how they embrace and support each other in order for the greater good. Without the support of the corn, the bean would be unruly on the ground and at risk by predators. The squash provides shade and reduction of weeds while enjoying the corn provides spots of sunshine strategically placed back on the squash. The corn roots are fine and fibrous and make a shallow network where they drink their fill of water. They provide a channel for the excess water to flow downward to the roots of the beans. The squash taps into the excess and there seems to be enough for them all to thrive better together than apart.

Plants are amazing. Beans grow oxygen-free nodules to house bacterium that shares nitrogen with the plant. This nitrogen enters the soil and helps to fuel added growth to the corn and squash. It has been proven that these plants do better together than grown separately. I am sure there are more examples of these combination growth methods to explore.

I find myself wondering about this phonenom. I come from a family of six girls and one boy. There are three girls, a boy and then three more girls. I am second to the last in the grouping. We seemed to rotate our friendships as we grew. I would hang out with my sister who was two years older than me the most. If I was to label us as plants I wouldn’t say we fit neatly into the “Three Sisters”.  What I noticed is that as we get older the message from the sisters rings true.

In The Pursuit Of Happiness

I have been thinking quite a lot about the definition of “Happiness”. What does it mean? How do I define it and/or how do others define it?

As I reflect, I see a pattern forming. I am most happy when there is a sense of calmness, being present in the moment and a state of contentment with the situation that is unfolding.

Can I maintain this state of happiness? Would I want to if I could?

If you are anything like I have been in my life, the narratives in my head used to go something like this…

“If I save enough money, work hard, put in my time at my job I will experience the freedom to be happy”.

“ I will sacrifice my time, energy and mind space now in order to build my tomorrows’ happiness.”

“ I am happy-ish, that’s good enough for now. Yes, I recognize that I am not pursuing my passions but there will be plenty of time for that later in life”.

The human condition is an interesting concept. We are bombarded with suggestions as to how to be happy. I only have to think or mention something and pretty soon commercial ads start to bombard my social media accounts and email giving me advice on how to purchase that feeling or complete that thought process. It’s almost spooky  how much the algorithms are voracious in their appetite to consume us. We can buy an artificial state of euphoria anytime we choose and most of us now remain in that space 24/7.

What advice would I give my twenty year old self on happiness?

  1. Changing your situation does not change your ingrained habits.
  2. If you are looking for happiness outside yourself you are never going to find it.
  3. Being happy all the time, to me, is a red flag. There is a reason we are able to experience a range of emotions. The body and mind need to release these pent up feelings. Find ways to let them express themselves, whether it’s by crying, exercising, yelling on a mountain top or just talking to someone about them. Embrace the full spectrum of possibilities. It’s what makes us self aware.
  4. Buying things, working harder, keeping yourself occupied with projects and other people’s drama does not improve your state of happiness. It can help to distract you for a while but eventually it will catch up to you.
  5. Stop waiting for that “someday”. If you don’t pursue your passions now, take it from your almost 60 year self, you won’t do it later in life either.
  6. You will never regret the effort of the time you spend interacting with family, kids and friends.

Being happy isn’t meant to be permanent. Experiencing sadness, anger, anxiety and any other emotion is part of the package. Suppression of feelings isn’t healthy nor good for preventing wrinkles and, in my case, worry lines between my eyebrows…lol.
As I get closer to sixty I find myself just starting to understand a little about life. I have made my share of mistakes and missteps. On reflection, I think more about times I could have been more present with others who are important to me. It has taken getting older to realize how fleeting those moments can be and the impact they have on my… “pursuit of happiness”.

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