Today would have been my mother Selma’s 93rd birthday. Born on March 27, 1924, in Philadelphia, PA, her parents and older brother Jim (he of the ‘Uncle Jimmy Parking Spots’ that I reference…he was our family parking angel and by invoking his name, I ALWAYS find the perfect parking spot anywhere I go.) welcomed her into the family. She was adored by everyone. One of her uncles used to call her “Sally up the alley,” since many of the family members lived in the same neighborhood and she would run down the alley to visit. Bright and creative, she loved music and sang in her High School’s acapella choir. Our home was filled with albums and singing was a daily occurrence. Silly songs like Mairzy Doats and Three Little Fishies , filled the air. She would come up with all sorts of ideas for engaging my sister Jan and me with learning experiences. Reading, writing, creative games, drawing, building things with Lincoln logs and coloring, were cleverly disguised ways of preparing us for life. When frequent doctors visits became necessary due to asthma, we would use waiting time perched on the exam table to do flash cards, say and spell words, infusing knowledge along with allergy serum.
You know how many parents say that they can’t wait for their children to go back to school at the end of the summer? She cried because she said she would miss us. By no means was she a ‘helicopter parent’. She gave us mostly free reign to tool around the neighborhood on our bikes as long as we checked in periodically. She knew that we would get dirty, skin our knees, and make messes that she taught us to clean up. She and my dad encouraged confidence and resilience. My favorite ‘momism’ was “Walk in like you own the joint, with head held high, shoulders back, making eye contact.” I would add, “knockers up.”
Throughout my life, she was my most ardent cheerleader, telling me I could do anything I set my mind to. Her encouragement sometimes took the form of telling me to “Knock it off!” when I perseverated on problems, getting caught up in worry. I can hear her voice in my head when I need to know that all is well. She had her que sera sera attitude, as she used to say, “What will be will be.” She called people dear to her, “Babycakes”. I sometimes volleyed back, referring to her as “Mamacakes”.
On birthdays, we would sing a special song based on an iconic card created by Sandra Boynton. No matter whose big day it was, we could count on a phone call serenade. When my sister’s birthday occurred a few days ago, I called her and she answered and said, “Okay, I’m ready,” and I regaled her with a version of Hippo Birdies….
Before she died on November 26, 2010, we had many talks about death. Initially, when placed in hospice care, she was fearful and cried, saying she didn’t want to die. As her departure date approached, she had many portentous dreams that she would share with me, asking at the end of each one, “What do you think it means?” I would respond, “Mom, what do you think it means?” She would always smile and admit that they were breadcrumb clues to her journey. I treasure those last seven months of her life, as I was able to fly down to Ft. Lauderdale to be with her for days at a time. Still hard to believe at times that she isn’t a phone call away. I do talk to her in my heart and head throughout the day. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see how much I look like her. When I do, I find myself pulling myself up straighter, putting my shoulders back and standing, ‘knockers up’.
Hippo Birdies in heaven, Mamacakes.
Lately, I’ve been contemplating those three topics and the ways in which they intertwine. For many, desire has a taboo flavor to it; a sensual feel and along with it a rush of breath and palpitation of the heart. When I think about desire what comes to mind is something for which I have a passion. It could be an encounter with another person (sexual or otherwise). It might look like a pull to visit another country. It could present itself like a calling toward a particular profession.
Intention includes the steps toward seeing it through. When I set an intention, it is about envisioning and inviting in a wanted outcome. Perhaps that takes the shape of getting up, suiting up and doing to the gym. Each morning, I verbalize the same one: to have extraordinary experiences and connect with amazing people. By the time my head hits the pillow at night, I have done just that. I sometimes list my intentions and then extend them to goals, followed by action steps.
Expectation….now that’s a tricky one. The word calls to mind, control and belief that things need to turn out a certain way in order for me to be happy. How many times throughout my life have I gotten what I asked for? Admittedly many. Partly because I worked hard for them and partly because I have been surrounded with people who want me to be happy. The times when expectations weren’t met, I have had to contend with disappointment, followed by a reconfiguring of my beliefs. Kind of like a GPS telling you, “recalculating” when you make an unexpected turn. I always get back on track in the process.
How about combining all three into what I think of as a desire- fire? In order for me to have a successful outcome, it feels essential to be positively incendiary about it. I ask myself what it is that lights me up from the inside and turns me into a human sparkler. Usually, it has something to do with creativity or being with people or animals. The challenge is letting go of expectation for a particular outcome. What I have discovered is that if things don’t turn out the way I, in my infinite wisdom, think they should, there is usually a reason for it. When I look back at the unfolding of events, I can see a pattern that inexorably led me to this moment. A pretty sweet one most of the time.
Others in my life have their own take to share:
“Hmmm… desire is a want, no? Intention is your mindset, as in you are set on a desire? Expectation is a tricky one for me. Expectation with others can get you into trouble, and perhaps with intentions, too. I see expectation as one knowing…knowing better than another? Knowing better as to how something should come about? Expectation is something that I strive to release, yet I believe that things will come to me. I fully admit to bouts of circular logic, it is my way.”
” In the human world, desire is primal, a force to be reckoned with; expectation is ego-driven and thus closed to listening and receiving from the divine cosmos; and intention requires consciousness, that which is fundamental and universal.”
“I believe the answer is in the question: DESIRE is the generalized emotion which leads to setting the INTENTION. Once intention is set, EXPECTATION leads to some form of manifestation–depending on the focus of intention and expectation. There may be an unconscious thought which pollutes the intention or expectation. I.E., we can set an intention with the affirmation, “I am abundantly blessed with 6 figures in my bank account”. But if we undermine that affirmation with thoughts of lack, we will get more lack–because the spoken intention isn’t aligned with what we actually believe. Expectation in the spiritual sense is knowing there is a Supreme Good, and that good is my Truth. Now living that is an entirely different matter!”
“Desire is just something that you want to have or do, intention is when you have a plan to do it or make it happen, and expectation is an unconscious believing that something or somebody will be a certain way.”
“Desire is an emotion…a mild to obsessive craving or drive to have or do something. It gives us motivation to move and do and become. Intention is the thought and/or plan that arises in us when we become conscious of our desire and make a decision to do something about it. It could manifest as prayer, a spoken vow, a contract, or simply the actions that lead to the desired end result. Expectation is where we foul ourselves up. It’s natural to have desires. It’s productive to have intentions. But when we forget that the Universe does not bend at our whims, we start to feel that our prayers, vows, contracts, actions, hard work, whatever..entitle us to the outcomes that we have our hearts set on. When we buy into beliefs like “hard work always pays off” or “God loves one group of people better than others, and I’m in that group because I pray..” or even “life is supposed to be fair” we set ourselves up for disappointment. Expectation is the root of suffering, if you ask the Buddhists. Nothing in life is certain, no matter how much we may want it to be. Attaching to feelings of entitlement over situations or people will bite you in the ass every time.”
“Desire: is how we “want” it. Intention: is how we’re working towards it. Expectation: is how we’re thinking it’s all going to turn out. Manifestation: is how we’re driving all 3 forces into reality. Gratitude is the grease that allows the Universe to help us and that really must be the first cog in the wheel.”
“Desire is a feeling process. Intention is a declarative mental process. Expectation is a belief process.”
“Desire = “Want” Intention = “Want to” Expectation = Suffering”
“None of them are real. But the only one I can relate to is intention. When I put out an intention it is a driving force underlying everything I do, say, and feel. I make things come up in my life through my intentions. Expectation is a cancer. It will rot your every move. Desire feels like lust to me. Maybe jealousy rooted in something you see that someone else has that you don’t. You really don’t need your desires. You lust after them. I desire a Harley.”
“Desire is what we want, but it gets a bad rap. There are legitimate desires. I desire to live. I desire love and connection. (Some may desire to be left alone) . My Guru once said, “How can I fulfill your desires if you don’t give them to me?” Interesting. Intention is the focus and power to create.The greater the force of intention, the more one molds the Universe. (“For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move” He was speaking about intention. Abraham titled a book “The Power of Deliberate Intention”.) . It is one of the greatest gifts we have. Expectation in the best sense is the belief that one’s intention will manifest. Therefore they are linked. Expectation in a negative sense is projecting outcome based on ego needs.” I have an expectation that someone will respond in a manner I want.” “I expect to get this job”. In a Buddhist sense, this creates suffering.”
Many of us were taught that we required an intermediary to have a spiritual encounter. Clergy, saints or an intercessory such as Mother Mary or angels would ferry a message for us. Perhaps it arose because somewhere down the line, a person denied their worthiness to commune one on one with the Creator.
There is a rabbinical story that illustrates the nature of prayer when shared from a pure heart.
“One day, this a shepherd boy was passing by a synagogue and heard people inside praying. He came inside to join them. The only problem was they were all praying from prayer books. The shepherd boy was essentially illiterate, though he did know how to say the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Not knowing what else to do, he stood in the back of the synagogue and yelled out “Aleph! Bet! Gimmel!” until he finished the entire alphabet.
Two of the worshippers were so offended that they went over to the shepherd boy and were about to escort him outside when the rabbi told them: “Stop! That boy’s shouting was more precious than any other prayers said here today! His prayer went straight up to Heaven!”
Some of my most potent ‘Godversations’ are as a result of the certainty that my thoughts and words will be heard. I learned long ago that prayer is portable and need not be confined to an edifice such as a temple, mosque, church, synagogue or monastery. It is my way of taking what is in internal and making it external. It isn’t about seeking intervention from an outside entity that (vending machine style) grants my wishes. Instead, it is a means of aligning with the divine, so that it and I are in synch. Sometimes events unfold at lightning speed and at others, with deliberate slowness. I have learned to ride the waves of the first and trust in the timing of the second.
When I posed the question to friends of various faiths, these are the responses that ensued.
“I struggle with what I believe G-d to be so my direct conversations or prayer tend to go out to the universe in general.”
“Yes, I truly believe that I have a direct line to the Divine Lord. As I have been so blessed to have seen Him.”
“As with conversations with humans: 2 ears, one mouth. Listen in that proportion.”
“According to their own data base and are at best 60 percent accurate. Doing so is simply human nature, as everyone’s belief systems and experiences are unique and form the foundation for extrapolating and communicating information. I encourage people to trust their gut feelings and communications rather than that of an intermediary. I prefer to teach people or provide them the tools they need to empower themselves. Accountability and responsibility for one’s own journey is monumental in their process of growth and spirituality.”
“yes! go to the source.”
“All Jews have an interpersonal connection to G-d. He listens, but I guide myself after I explain perplexing situations and listen to myself on the matter.”
“Yes! In fact, my newest book is the second in a series of “Godversations.” Unlocked And Unleashed: The God Within You is the first book helping us with Direct Connection to the Divine, and my book launch for the second book is here: http://chireya.com/launch – Fall In Love with the Beloved Within ~ Online Book Launch Party.”
“I do !”
“I definitely have a direct divine connection.”
“My belief is that the Divine is within no matter what path.”
“My experience is that it’s not so much a conversation as listening.”
“That is the premise of my book Winds of Spirit. 65000 words to the topic.”
“I was taught I was talking to myself.”
“Yes, I have a direct line to the divine as everyone does. We are all part of the divine. I was taught (being raised Catholic) that I could speak to God through prayer or pray to intermediaries – angels, saints, Mary. When I pray, I use prayers from all religions. When I meditate, I have direct contact with the Divine.”
“What else can it be?”
What are your thoughts?
I have been following the wise words of someone I refer to as a ‘fellow clergy-dude’. His name is John Pavlovitz, a pastor in North Carolina. His blog called Stuff That Needs To Be Said is bold and brazen; just the kind of talk that I imagine Jesus would have given two thumbs up to. At the risk of offending his fellow faith folks, he takes on hypocrisy and hatred with a daring that, if they paid attention, might have them reconsidering their political positions. If the opportunity arose to sit face to face, I would consider it an honor. He holds accountable his brethren who voted in the current administration for supporting someone whose values are the polar opposite of the One they claim to follow. I applaud him wholeheartedly.
Pavlovitz used the term ‘holy discontent’ in a recent blog post– and I echo it vehemently. Being spiritual doesn’t mean accepting the ‘it is what it is’ mentality and relinquishing personal accountability for standing up to hatred and harm hurled at others. It is my belief that we were born with free will and the right and responsibility to use it wisely. It seems to me that we are called on to act in concert and partnership with the Divine as we practice Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World in Hebrew)
Since the unfolding drama and trauma post-election, each day brings with it questions for me to answer: can I any longer live lightly and loosely and act as if only in- the- moment happiness matters, or do I need to have as my more solid purpose to take positive action as part of a ‘resistance’ and a corollary to the Serenity Prayer and change what I can’t accept? It is not a move on, get over it, business as usual kinda thing. If this current state of affairs has had an upside, it is that formerly complacent people (and I include myself in that group, sadly) have become better educated about what is going on, and have been more courageous in stepping forward and speaking up.
I don’t want to get mired in depression and anxiety as I had initially. In my work as a therapist, I have seen clients who were experiencing those states and I did my best to shepherd them through it. As I was encouraging them, so too was I cheerleading myself. As I held space for their fears, so too did I offer inner compassion.
I feel empowered by taking inspired action. I engage in sacred activism.
I do it through writing, speaking and hugging. How do you express holy discontent?