Introducing: On Being Confused. Or Conversations Between Me, Me, and You.
I am overjoyed to announce that these vignettes, or tête-à-têtes, or ‘conversations between me, me, and you,’ are no longer waiting for me to get to you!
Well, that’s not entirely true, a number of them are still waiting. But these two are ready! And available in the Shop:
So, what is ‘On Being Confused’? It is a series of conversations, musings, ponderings – on various topics: on life, on living, and most of all on being confused. (And of course seeing our way through that confusion.) It is what philosophy used to be, what it should be, and what it is in our natural state of wonder: what is this? and what is that? and what the *#$@! is going on in this incomprehensible thing we call existence?
Let’s think on things for a second together. (Click here to see more.)
And apologies for being M.I.A. on the blog for the past months, been throughly entrenched in making these longer, more intimate pieces available to you.
I do hope you enjoy! (Seriously, follow this link to check ’em out. )
“Wishes are recollections coming from the future.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
My girlfriend sent that quote to me yesterday. She said she thought I would like it. She was right.
It makes me smile.
I’m a ‘what if…’ kinda human. I like to play that game. And I especially like to play it with thoughts like this. So:
What if wishes were recollections coming from the future?
How that change the way you think of your wishes? How would that change the way you relate to them? Stop and think about it. Play the game. It is a totally different tenor of dreaming.
Inhabiting a world wherein a wish is a recollection from the future incites a totally different backdrop against which you wish your wish. Try it. Play with it. Take it like a pill, once a day, or a like a green juice – it’s really healthy. Especially for your ability to dream (creativity and imagination included), but no less so – or maybe because of this, also for your heart and your life.
RELATED POST: A Dream is Half a Prophecy
“Ignorance is not knowing anything and being attracted to the good. Innocence is knowing everything, and still being attracted to the good.” Clarissa Pinkola-Estes
We tend to think that ‘ignorance is bliss’, because increased knowledge inevitably brings with it increased sorrow, pain, and despondency; and that innocence, while beautiful perhaps, is essentially a state of profound vulnerability and powerlessness. We must protect the innocent who are incapable of protecting themselves, and who, in their naivete, will be abused, misused, and desecrated by the realities of life. We ourselves masochistically seek knowledge, while at once envying and despising the ignorant who exist freely without the burdens and weight that are amassed with every new bit of knowledge.
I mean this is the general interpretation of Genesis right?: So long as we were innocent, we existed blissfully in the Garden of Eden. Then came the malevolent and cunning serpent who succeeded in tempting us – or okay, just the Woman – in eating from the tree of knowledge. And: ousted. Immediately. Expelled from Paradise, doomed forever to roam in the anti-paradisal reality that is the result of knowing. Yikes – not only is ignorance truly bliss, but it is also, in this narrative, a virtue. (Our sin was wanting to know, and our punishment: knowing.)
Horrible mixed message we end up sending here to our children, each other, and ourselves: Ignorance is despicable and wrong; but it is also the blessed state we lived in (and hope to return to) with God in Paradise. Knowledge is virtue and power; but our desire for it is also our greatest sin, and your heart will break a little more with every each and every new truth you learn about reality. Enjoy!
Amen (‘-and,’ as she says, ‘a little woman’) for Dr. Pinkola-Estes who, in characteristic fashion, sheds light onto the dark: ‘Ignorance is not knowing anything and being attracted to the good. Innocence is knowing everything, and still being attracted to the good.’ These statements express the completeness of this circle:
Innocence is not about being hopelessly naive, and knowledge, not something that leaves us hopelessly jaded. Not necessarily anyway. Not if we keep going. Not if we move past knowledge, to profound understanding and wisdom, which is always compassionate (and not, despairing). If we continue the journey past mere knowledge we end beyond naivete, and beyond blind trust and faith, (which can and do often come at the expense of our physical well-being). If we complete the circle, we end not in despair, but at fully conscious faith and trust. We come to empowered innocence: innocence that knows everything – and is still attracted to the good. (Note: It’s a circle because it is a representation of the evolving mind. Ever evolving, ever transforming (new areas of) ignorance into knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment.)
Knowledge is, or can be painful, yes. But it is also empowering: now we can choose the good, whereas before we were simply acting out, unaware. It can feel disempowering, because we get stuck looking the unwanted reality in the face. Because the more we know, the more we know what is lacking, what is bad, what there is to be done, how hard it will be, and how small we really are. All this we learn and more. The question is: do we have it in us to know all we know, and even to learn more, and still move towards the good? It is the ever faithful – and, I should add, courageous – child in us that says, ‘Yes.’
She’s not wearing the frog on her head because she’s silly or foolish. She’s wearing him because she knows she’ll need him where she is going. She knows full well where she’s going. – And she’s going anyway. Can we do the same?
What is the right thing to do?
We want to do the right thing. And I’m not necessarily talking about the ethical or moral thing. We can be a little more gritty, a little more earthly – a little more personal than that. When I say we want to do the right thing, I mean: we want to make the decision, choose the action, take the course, that will give the best outcome. Let’s say for ourselves, and ipso facto, for all life around us.
But what is the right thing? That always seems to be the difficult question, our sticking point – the place we get stuck. How, in any present moment or circumstance, do we know what the right thing to do is?
Now this is a big question, and I’m not going to pretend to answer it now for us all, once and for all. I am a firm believer that the impossible is possible and still, I’m not a lunatic. Instead, I just want to point something out; because I think we think we get stuck on this question more often than we actually do. We think we are unsure about which action is the right one to take; when in fact we are unsure about its consequence or result.
Now wait. Was that sentence confusing?: We think we are unsure about which action is the right one, when in fact we are unsure about where it will lead. But isn’t the definition of ‘right’ action, especially the way I characterized it above, that it leads to highest and best outcome? Well, yes. But thinking about it this way is bound to get you stuck, because, unless you are willfully clairvoyant, you never know what the outcome of any action is going to be. So if you try to test your choices and decisions by predicting outcomes, it is always going to be a game of probability: it’s gambling, and it feels that way – risky, and uncertain. (And, unless you get a rush from this kind play, it will feel disempowering too.)
There is a difference between knowing what the right thing is, and knowing the result of taking that action. You have a better chance of knowing the former than the latter. I suggest feeling it out instead of thinking it out. Thinking it out tends to get us stuck in the trying to find certainty about where a particular path or decision will lead. We can think, conjecture, guess, but we can’t know, and so we get stuck. Feelings provide further information.
A few days ago a client came in who, in her own words, was deeply confused about the right thing to do, and in turmoil as a result. She recently left her full-time job to start her own business, and took a part-time job that was visibly sucking the life out of her to make ends meet until her business could pay the bills. She was trying to make it work. It wasn’t working. She could see that. She came up with options. And got to the sticking point: but which of them is the right one? stay? start investing in another part-time? start investing fully in her business? Not knowing, and needing to know, had her stressed, anxious and verging on fried.
I asked her to tell me, not what she thought the right thing to do was, but what she felt it was, and she had a surprising amount of information for someone who was supposed to be ‘completely lost’. High-quality information. She wasn’t actually confused. Unbenounced to herself she would blush every time I pushed her to answer the question, betraying the extent of her knowledge about what was right for her. Incessantly she tried to override this information, this knowing, by repeating: ‘But I don’t how it will end up!’
But this we never know. This cannot be what it means to know the right action/decision/choice in any given moment or circumstance. Choosing well is not about probabilities and predicting the future – unless you’re partial to the gambling routine. Choosing well is about letting go of the future for a moment, so that you can come back to the present and really soak in and soak up all the information contained in it. Choose well and you will get to where you want to go, inevitably.
More often than not, when you do not know what the right thing to do is it is because you are afraid to take the action (and so you literally block it out of your awareness). More often than not, even repression isn’t wholly effective, and you do know. You do kinda, sorta know. You have an inkling. More often than not, when you have an inkling, its more than an inkling. You call it an inkling, you know its a good hunch, and in fact its the truth. But for those less often than most situations, when you really do not know, you can go a long way to figuring it out by relating to your choices through your feeling – not thinking – function: how does it feel to make that decision? To say ‘Yes!’? To say ‘No.’? Then you can use thought, not to try to predict the final outcome, but to project yourself into the experience, and relate to it through your feelings. For example: how would it feel to take that job offer? Picture yourself saying yes – how does it feel? Picture yourself going to work there every day, in and out – take a mundane, extremely typical snapshot in the day – and imagine how it would feel to be living this.
You can tell a lot from your feelings, just as you can tell a lot by watching another person’s reaction (their feelings). I could literally see my client start to wither as she spoke about going to the part-time job; I could see her with more false hope but still essentially the same posture when she thought about trying to find a new part-time job that ‘worked better’. Like a flower turns and moves toward the sun, why do we overlook that we too – beyond our egos and conscious awareness – we too are organisms, that on automatic pilot move toward our suns. Trust your feelings, your intuition, your gut. Trust your posture. At least be curious about them.
‘Are you working as hard as you can? Why?’
Sounds like a question Michael Scott (Former Branch Manager, Dunder Mifflin Inc.) might ask us in one of his talking heads. And although it did make me laugh out loud, The Office isn’t actually where I heard it.
I read this question in a Laughing Sage Wellness Group (phenomenal holistic women’s health clinic) curriculum. And it made me laugh. One of those buddha belly, koan laughs. You know, where you think you’re on the right page, going along, understanding everything – when you suddenly get slapped up-side the head from the opposite direction:
‘Are you working as hard as you can?’ ‘Yes!,’ my internal monologue kicks into high gear, ‘Yes I am. Wait … well, I’m trying anyway. Trying really hard. I guess I could try harder in some ways. I guess I could do better… maybe I’m not really working as hard as I could. … I guess, I mean, I’m probably not. Okay, I know, I’ll try harder. I’ll work harder. I’ll …’ It is absolutely astonishing, and indeed even miraculous, that all these thoughts can surface instantaneously, in addition to sequentially, between the end of the first question and the beginning of the second: ‘Why?’
‘Okay, you, little eager-beaver-bunny, why are you working so hard? And now, even more: why so eager, maybe even desperate, to work as hard as you can?’ I look up to see that instead of reading ‘good and virtuous student’ reflected back to me on the zen master’s face it plainly says ‘fool’.
Why do we try to get to this?:
Because, you know, you could always do more, try harder, until you can’t. Until it’s absolutely impossible. – Which brings you somewhere in the near vicinity of the image above.
Don’t get me wrong. I know why we try hard, and even why we try as hard as we can sometimes. I know the virtuous and even intelligent reasons, like integrity, or taking the risk and finding the courage to really throw all of yourself into something, or to express dedication and devotion. I know these reasons, and they are good and true.
The trick is to make sure that this honest and earnest and good, part of yourself isn’t being co-opted and used in service of an agenda that isn’t your own. That it isn’t being exploited. Like when a wife says to her husband, ‘If you really loved me you would …’; or a father says to his son, ‘If you were a man would …’. And because we are, or at least want deeply to be whatever it is they are throwing around, we get coerced into taking action. We get coerced into proving it. In the case of working hard, we get coerced into proving that we are worthy. That we are worthy of success. That we are worthy of the fruits of our labor. That we are not ‘entitled’, but entirely responsible for our success. And we are no longer trying hard because it feels good and we want to, but in order to prove our worth. And to justify our existence. It’s insidious. And it’s propaganda. Sad, sad communist-Russia-style propaganda. Look:
Work hard. Try hard. Even try as hard as you can sometimes. But do it because of how good it feels to break a sweat. Not, to prove you that are not lazy, or to prove you are deserving. That conversation is a losing battle, because you could always do more. (And this has more to do with the existence of time, as a dimension, than it does with human laziness.) The only way to resolve that conversation in your life, i.e. to make it go away, is to shut it down. Like really bad advertising, or maybe you’d want to call it ‘good’ advertising: it’s low and manipulative. It’s not sophisticated, and it’s not even in the realm of truth. You don’t need to answer it, you don’t even need to engage: just slowly, or better yet quickly, walk away.
‘If you are not nervous in an interview, then it is the wrong interview.’
A girlfriend of mine, maven behind Goddess Huntress (your best on-line resource for high-end, non-toxic beauty info and products), recently told me this was the best piece of advice she received in college. Clearly she’s a smart girl.
If you are not nervous in an interview, then it is the wrong interview. What does that mean?
It means, that when you are on the right track – the one leading you to the bigger, better, more fulfilling place you dream of when you allow yourself to dream – you get nervous. Why?
Because you care. Because this means something to you. (And that’s a good thing.) You’re invested somehow. Maybe your hopes and dreams are involved, maybe your stability and comfort, maybe your self-esteem. Maybe, yikes, all of the above. And so your heart goes pitter-patter as it recognizes the potential gateway to the fulfillment of its desire.
The genius of this piece of advice is that we can use our butterflies as a form of guidance, letting us know that we are on the right path: ‘Gold,’ it proclaims, ‘ahead.’ We can use our nervousness as a flag. Not a red flag, but a green one: This way! You’re on the right track. This is what you want. Something that really means something to you.
In this way can use our fear to show us the way forward – if, that is, we are going for our gold. After that all we need is the courage to go forward and, done and done. ;)