Dharma is not about credentials. It’s not about how many practices you’ve done, or how peaceful you can make your mind. It’s about how naked you’re willing to be with your own life, & how much you’re willing to let go of your masks & your armor & live as a completely exposed, undefended, & open human person.. –Reginald Ray (thanks to MakeBelieve Boutique for this quote.)
This summer is a time of great change, great sorting. Not only do I personally know several close friends and family who are moving location, including myself, but it also is what is up in the collective right now. From what I have gathered, now is a time of a huge shift in humanity, a “great sorting” of what is important to keep and what is important to let go of: on the physical, emotional, mental, and soul level. Even if you are not physically moving from one place to another, it is likely that you are feeling some need to sort through your life, your things, to dust off the corners of your home, mind and heart,to clear it out, clean it thoroughly, get rid of everything you simply have outgrown, outworn, and no longer need.
‘To everything there is a season,’ says a passage in the Bible. This summer is the season of change. It is a time for letting go, releasing the past, and making room in your life for what is new, what is relevent and interesting to you now. Take a good, hard look around you with your most discerning eye. Then take a breath, and dig in. Get to work and sort, let go, without too much sentimentality if at all possible. This is easier for some of us than others. But try, nevertheless. Later on you won’t regret it, nor miss what you let go of now. The new is waiting to be birthed, but it needs room and breath. Give the new in your life space and a clean place to be born.
A little anecdote for you, Dear Readers. Some of you may know that I had taken a two month hiatus in Wisconsin this spring, away from Denmark and my husband, to be with my daughters during their last months in the town where they have lived for the past five years. It was a quite emotional time for me, and several times I went up to the attic of my dear friends’ home where I stayed, to go through my boxes of stuff which they have graciously let me store indefinitely as I go about my life in Denmark. You can well imagine the kinds of things I have there in the attic: boxes of books, papers of various sorts, art supplies, artwork, and the like. It was the books and papers which I sorted through the most, deciding which ones I wanted to send home to Denmark, which ones will need to be tossed out in future days. I came across some photographs from about 27 years ago, that a photographer had taken, of me dressed up in various outfits. He was building his portfolio at the time, we had met at a party somewhere, and he asked if I would be willing to model for him in exchange for some free photographs. Back then I was interested in becoming an actress, so I gladly said yes, thinking I could use the shots for my own acting portfolio. Well, the photos turned out fine, and needless to say, I never did become a professional actress like I had dreamt of then.
Just for fun, I brought a couple of these old photos home for my husband, to show him a side to his wife which he hadn’t experienced. There is one photo which is particularly striking; a young, sophisticated version of me, with big, teased, 80’s style hair, makeup, a sexy outfit, and a whole lot of attitude. The young woman in the photo was good-looking and certainly wanted the world to see her. She might have been a really good actress, had she pursued it. But when I look at this picture, I see other things too. I see someone who wasn’t always kind, who was self-centered and demanding. A woman who was anything but humble. And even a quite spoiled brat at times. Beauty without wisdom. Superficiality instead of depth. Searching for answers to life’s questions through dead-ends like sex, a desire for fame, a need for intimacy without being willing to be completely vulnerable. That young woman had some adventures for sure. She made sure to have as much fun as possible, at times at others’ expense. She had a lot to learn about compassion, sacrifice, kindness, selflessness, humility. It was a long road for her to become the woman who is in another photo on my desk, the woman whom she became many years later.
There is a resemblance between them, of course. But the photo of the older woman is the one which I like best. She has character, for one thing! She has been through the winding roads of life and is still smiling, still beautiful. She has learned how to love, to really love, others. To put them first, at least some of the time. She has had her heart broken wide open, to allow love to flow in and out. She gave birth to three amazing daughters. She experienced great loss, suffered pain and heartbreak, all of the usual things which one experiences by the time they have lived half a century. She is not bitter, but rather the intense polishing by life has made her soul shine brightly. She has learned how to completely surrender to love, to really cry, to see the beauty of people beneath their rough facades. She has learned to accept Grace as a continuous presence in her life.
The person I was and the person I am now are related but not the same. There is a part of me which has been the same always, since I was a child. But the fifty year old woman has gained wisdom and it shows in the picture. Vanity has been replaced by empathy. The sorting took many years, but the process is nearly complete.
Dear Readers, none of us knows exactly what lies ahead for any of us, individually nor collectively. Life will continue to surprise us in all kinds of unexpected ways. This summer, I encourage you to take the time to sort out your life. Re-group, get a new plan, revise an old one. Throw out stuff you don’t want or really need anymore. Give yourself breathing space. And once you have some, fill it with music and dancing, with celebration, with prayers, with gratitude. For everything you have been given thus far, and for everything which will come. Love it all, see it all as blessing. You are a human, being. What could be more wonderful, more worthy of becoming, than more and more yourself?
I know the voice of depression still calls to you.
I know those habits that can ruin your life still send their invitations .
But you are with the Friend now and look so much stronger.
You can stay that way and even bloom!
Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions’ beautiful laughter.
Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From the sacred hands and glance of your Beloved
And, my dear,from the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.
You are with the Friend now.
Learn what actions of yours delight Him,
What actions of yours bring freedom and Love.
Now, sweet one, Be wise.
Cast all your votes for Dancing!
(Hafiz, Cast All Your Votes for Dancing from Karl Duffy’s Mindfulness blog)