The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

A Path With A Heart

                                       

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by anthropology student Carlos Castaneda,  came into my life in the 1970’s  although it was published  in 1968. Autobiographical?  Allegorical?  Both?  It didn’t really matter to this youthful spiritual seeker who gobbled up these writings like the mystical meal that they were. My favorite portion is offered here:

“Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary.

This question is one that only a very old man asks. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
      
 Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”

Each day, as I set my bare feet on the ground, taking a step out into the world, there is before me, always a choice as to the direction I maneuver my life. I can dig in my heels and refuse to move forward. I can walk the path alone or in the company of dear ones. I can welcome people along some of the trail and then veer off solo. I can invite in new journeyers. I can plot a course and follow it definitively or I can willingly or reluctantly take detours, enjoying the scenery along the way. Believe me, I have done all of those and have found reward in each, including digging in my heels, since it showed me clearly, the areas in which I had set roadblocks and needed to clear away space in which I could move forward with greater ease and grace. The thing is, there is no ‘there’ to get to. The joy is in the journey.

Just got back from the wedding of the daughter of a dear friend,  named Gary. It was the wedding ‘that almost wasn’t’ (for today at least), since the venue was smack dab in the middle of hurricane-land. All of us kept holding a vision that the weather would clear and that the ceremony and festivities would go on as planned. Long about noon, I met up with my friend Ken and together we drove the remaining 40 minutes or so, with the residual wind whipping around the Jeep en route. The gray clouds would occasionally step aside while the sun-glow attempted to push its way through. By the time we arrived, the venue was packed, as the other guests had weathered the storm as well and were smiling in anticipation of the joyous occasion. As a minister, over the past 12 years, I have officiated at a few hundred weddings. It is rare that I am simply a guest, so being a ‘civilian’ was a different kind of experience. I could relax and just enjoy it; basking in the beautiful energy of it all. As I often do, I mused at the winding path that led me to be dancing with, talking with, laughing with, enjoying food with friends, including Ken, Phil and Janet whom I have known for years, as well as folks I just met today.  When my husband died 13 years ago, Gary showed up from our interfaith community to sit shiva with us. We became friends after that and now here I was celebrating his daughter’s marriage. Clearly a path with heart we both stepped on. Wishing Julie and T.J. showers of love and blessings that rival the waters that fell from the heavens in anticipation.

Walking out of the restaurant to the parking lot, Ken and I noticed the brilliant sunshine and light winds and were finding it remarkable how the remnants of the storm were gone…hard to  imagine that 24 hours earlier, the view was quite different. I shared my favorite line from the movie The Neverending Story…”It’s like the nothing never was.”

When all is said and done, I can use the heart as a map and compass to guide each step along the way.

ww.reverbnation.com/artist/song_details/2428086 A Path With A Heart by Michael London

Cookie Face

 

                                                                     

 

Life is all about juxtaposition. Light and dark, laughter and tears, sadness and joy; blended together in a huge mixing bowl, stirred by the celestial chef. Today was such a day in which the bowl was filled to overflowing with all of the above. Predictably unpredictable time at my full time job as a social worker in a psychiatric hospital, with needs and expectations of patients and families calling to be met.  Left to attend the memorial service for my friend Beth Rotondo Hadrava who passed a week or so ago and on the way stopped to eat dinner . Enjoying comfort food soup and sandwich and smiled at the tow-headed three year old boy who was making the rounds to each table, asking each of us “What you name?”, as his mother was waiting in line getting their food. Every one grinned back at him and volunteered their moniker. One my way out the door, I passed their table and noticed the tiny ambassador chowing down on mac and cheese and a big mini rainbow candy flecked cookie. I asked him his name and with crumbs tumbling out, he answered, “Ian”  I introduced myself to his mother Lisa, commented on how friendly her son was and then went on my way.

When someone I know dies, I find myself with a keener appreciation for my life and the people in it, as well as an awareness that time is fleeting. As I was driving on winding Edgehill Road en route to Bryn Athyn, I experienced a similar sense of something that occurred after my husband Michael had died in 1998.  Back then I had felt a rush of warmth flow through me and heard his words in measured tone, “This is what heaven feels like all the time. You don’t have to die to experience it.”  I called it my ‘transfusion from heaven’.  This evening it returned and I was again reminded that there really is no separation between this world and the next, except in our minds.

Arriving at the gothic Bryn Athyn Cathedral in which Beth’s service was being held, the peaceful feeling continued. Towering against the pale blue, cloud dabbled sky, it welcomed in the several hundred people who came to honor her. Hugging our comforting hellos, in many ways, it felt like ‘old home week’ since there were folks from the overlapping soul circles in Beth’s life. She had an exceptional way of drawing people in and creating community all around her.  She was raised as a member of The New Church, founded by Emmanuel Swedenborg who was an 18th century theologian, philosopher and scientist. He had a spiritual awakening, experienced visions and powerful dreams and communed with angels  What I know of the teachings is that the focus is in taking the spiritual and making it practical, being of service, and living as an incarnation of love itself. They also believe that the spirit lives on beyond this earthly plane. Beth lived that fully; in her calling as a Homeopath, in her nurturing of friends and family, in the seva that she offered. A few tears, but mostly a feeling of awe that such a life existed and will always be, regardless of the form she takes.

At the end of the service, I found myself gazing at the circular images on some of the stain glass windows and remarked to myself how the multi-hued design reminded me of little Ian’s cookie and how we had indeed come round-about to the sweetness of life in the midst of death in the midst of life.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cdnF3NUSCY   Heavenly Day   Patty Griffin

Fall Down Five Times, Get Up Six

                                                                        

I was thinking about my father Moish, (who passed in 2008) the other day as I was telling a friend about the way he always encouraged us to excel at whatever it was that we chose to do. My father was not a formally educated man, but a wise one who knew about people and the ways in which, when nurtured,  they grew beautifully. He put his heart and soul into all of his relationships and everything else he did as well. Graduating from Bok Vocational High School in South Philly in 1942, he joined the Navy immediately afterward as an Electrician’s Mate. While serving, he also became a Golden Gloves Boxer and he tells the story of sparring with pre-Hollywood fame Charles Bronson. Who knows if it was family legend or if it truly happened..it made for interesting conversation. Alhtough I am not a fan of boxing; I admire his dedication to life long athleticism; running, jumping rope, bicycling and even into his 80’s; working out at the gym.  On occasion, when my younger sister Jan and I would butt heads over something as children, my dad would put the gloves and protective equipment on us and offer us a chance to ‘battle it out’ that way. Of course, we would swat at each other, never connecting. I joke now that it is a good thing I was; even then, such a pacifist, since I could have developed a mean right hook. So many people experience learned helplessness and give up before they have a chance to succeed. I was offered the gift of learned resilience from both of my parents; each in different ways. My mother’s attitude was “What will be, will be, so why worry?” which didn’t preclude walking the talk and instead invited inspired action. My father’s mindset was ‘you do what needs to be done in all aspects of your life.’

Three incidents came to mind from my childhood during which, in the face of fear, my father showed us that we could pick ourselves back up and continue on. The first that I recall was when I was 7 and he was teaching me how to ride my bike sans training wheels. I was so excited about that transition, since it marked a time in my life, when I was beginning to feel like a big kid. Perched on the seat, daddy holding the back of the bike and running behind me as I pedaled down Pheasant Lane in  the suburban South Jersey town of Willingboro, I told him he could let go. As he did, I wobbled and immediately crashed into the tree in the front yard.  Ouch!  After making sure I was uninjured, he said, “Ok, get back on the bike and let’s do it again.”  And so I did, being bolstered by his belief that I was capable of mastering this skill. Because he had confidence in me, I had confidence in myself. Within minutes I was zipping down the street, riding like the wind~

Scene two took place when my family went to a ranch in Milford, Pennsylvania called Malibu (just looked on line and it’s still in existence!) The four of us; my parents, sister and I were riding our noble steeds. I still remember the name of mine…Ruby.  I was about 10 and Jan was about 7 or 8. We were heading back down a rocky mountainous trail and the reins on the horse Jan was riding….snapped… and the horse took off like lightning. Terrified, she clung to it for dear life. My father; a city boy who was not accustomed to equine behavior, was close behind, yelling for the horse to stop…of course the horse only picked up speed. He knew his destination, as he headed for home. When the horse arrived in the corral, he slowed and then halted. Out of breath, my father checked on Jan,  and along with staff from the ranch, lowered her to her feet and as he had with me when I fell off my bicycle, got her back on the horse; a different one, if memory serves, and led her around the corral.

The third time involved my mother. We were on another family vacay, heading back East from a visit to my Uncle Dave, Aunt Annette and cousins in Chicago. In Indianapolis, our blue station wagon was hit on the left rear quarter-panel by a white Corvette, narrowly missing the gas tank.  The ‘vette crumbled and our car was left with a dent, but still drivable.  Jan sustained a minor shoulder injury and I remember watching an episode of the original Star Trek while we were in the ER. Hours later, as we continued our journey, again my father, after being sure my mother was able, encouraged her to get back behind the wheel and drive for awhile. And she did.

What all of these events had in common was that my father was certain that he didn’t want us living in fear, so, kindly and with compassion got us ‘back in the saddle’. From him I learned, not just about strength, but resilience; that marvelous ability to bounce back no matter what. There was never focus on failure, only re-creation; seeing everything as life lesson from which we could gain experience. That has served me many times throughout the years, as when faced with challenges and tempted to crumble, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again.

 

www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6MtmkqPbps

The Four Purposes of Life

                                                                  Four Purposes of Life cover

 

Way of the Peaceful Warrior was a pivotal read for me in my twenties as I consciously began my transformational journey. The story of a much younger Dan Millman’s experience into deep exploration of  ‘paradox, humor and change’ with his mentor; a gas station attendant whom he called Socrates, set me on a path that I am delighted to be meandering through to this day. It wound inexorably to the 52 year old woman who is immersed in discovering and uncovering purpose and meaning. That is why Dan’s new book called The Four Purposes Of Life: Finding Meaning And Direction In A Changing World, is such an important compass, map and guide all in one.

Since you are reading this blog, then chances are, you too are wondering what life is all about and how you can discover/uncover/recover your own reason for being alive on this planet at this point in time. Compact,  the book is portable and can fit in your purse or briefcase. It is a wonderful reference as simple to use as it is inspiring. Dan begins by observing that life seems to be moving at such a pace that it is often hard to keep up with it. Unless you have been living in a cave, it’s likely you have come to that realization as well. He invites the reader to ask themselves what they want, how they would know if they had their desires come to fruition, what it would mean to their lives once that occurred and then what their purpose might be.

He breaks them down in this way:

1. Learning Life’s Lessons which suggests that this Earth is a school in which we are enrolled and for which we are charged to bring in daily messages and insights to which we can apply to further our growth. Can you tune into the messages that the teacher (which is life itself) is offering, knowing that your ‘textbook’ is being written as you go?

2. Finding Your Career and Calling which offers an opportunity earn a good living while also doing good in the world; what I think of as ‘right livelihood’ work.  Imagine what it would be like to be living your passion and purpose on the job; doubly rewarding.

3. Disccovering Your Life Path  which asks the reader to explore both strengths and challenges, using both to fulfill their mission here on Earth. Can you embrace both?

4. Attending To This Arising Moment brings with it the grand chance to honor this here and now instant, since this really is all there is to do.

My favorite parts of the book are the anecdotes; those snippets of wisdom that emerge from the real life experiences of people Dan has encountered. A fun story is about a man named Kevin, who in the 1960’s took his passion for playing frisbee and parlayed it into an idea to become a  Frisbee goodwill ambassador in what was then the Soviet Union. I’m certain that in addition to bringing in income, he touched so many lives with his enthusiasm, that the ripples are being felt all these years later.

Dan quotes his old mentor Socrates in a section of the book that has him holding on to boxes and then piled on top of them cans of engine oil until finally his arms gave out and he dropped them. Chagrined, as Dan often seemed to be during that phase of his life, he acknowleged that it was a test of some sort that he had bumbled. Soc says “Life is not about success or failure, it’s about stretching yourself. How will you ever know your limits until you have tested them? And how do you test them unless you’re willing to fail brilliantly?”  Failing, brilliantly or otherwise, is not something most people are inclined to want to do, but Dan frames it as if it is a worthwhile endeavor.

He shares an example of the importance of finding meaning and purpose as illustrated in one of my favorite movies: Groundhog Day in which Bill Murray’s character Phil re-lives the same day multiple times until he gets it that the way to have a truly rich life, is to strive for self improvement and doing service all at once. 

Dan encourages the reader to be mindful with all that they do. A consummate quote collector, with words of wisdom liberally sprinkled throughout, he shares the verbiage of a Zen sage:  ” When I’m hungry, I eat; when I’m thirsty, I drink; when I’m tired, I rest.”  Simple as that…no worry, no fuss.  Just do the next thing in front of you.

The Four Purposes of Life is a powerful tool inviting the reader to do the next thing to do. In the hands of one who chooses to create a more fulfilling existence, it can carry you to places you have only ever dreamed of going. Travel well~

http://youtu.be/YaZzOICIa0w 

 www.peacefulwarrior.com

 

 

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