In Sweet Company

“I have a willingness to see that even in the midst of bad times, there is something good somewhere that I can appreciate. This facility has allowed me to have quite a wonderful, productive life.” — Katherine Dunham, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE

I collect quotes, pearls of wisdom, pronouncements about what my heart finds beautiful and true. I scribble them on errant scraps of paper and crumpled gum wrappers then tape these precious little jewels on my refrigerator, my computer, my mirror — on all the flat surfaces of my life to puff them up. 

Today, I came across a quote I actually discovered several years ago, a lovely strand of words that have opened my heart like a flower on more than one occasion. Life is like that sometimes; when you least expect it, it will tell you its secrets.

This is the quote that revisited me today: “Even within the Great Openness, the limitations of the world must be loved and respected.” 

What these words mean to me is that God — the Great Openness that is unobstructed beyond all measure — is present and unconstrained, awake and ready even in the darkness and in the ties that bind.

Learning to love and respect this aspect of God is an acquired taste, one that is totally dependent on my perspective in the present moment — a process akin to what quantum physicists refer to as “wave -particle delusion,” i.e. sometimes energy appears to be a wave, sometimes it appears to be a particle, but no matter which way you look at it, it’s inherently the same energy. Or, as I often say to my self when I feel restricted by any number of the world’s limitations, “Margaret, if you really believe God is omnipresent what’s the problem here?” 

The problem, of course is always me — that I do not yet love and respect my current limitation, that I see lemons rather than lemonade, that I forget how my past limitations always always always — eventually — catapult me into the Great Openness. It takes time to develop the ability to move from static, riveted “particle awareness” and surf the liquidity of the wave. It takes practice. But, as Miriam Polster, the brilliant and beloved psychotherapist I interviewed for IN SWEET COMPANY said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” (This, too, is a quote worth collecting.)

Leadership doyenne Margaret Wheatley, another woman I talked with for IN SWEET COMPANY, added to my quote stash one fine day when we talked about what she calls “the necessary heart of chaos.” She said: “To see chaos as having a heart, as a loving process, is really foreign to our culture.  … When you’re trying to control the world as we are here in the West, trying to use life for your own ends … you end up thinking of chaos as your enemy. Chaos can release your creative power in the same way that necessity is the mother of invention. When things get extreme, when the old ways don’t work anymore, that’s when you get your most inventive.”

For me, the rub is getting to the other side of the necessity, the urgency, the chaos; waiting for the moment when the particle becomes the wave. I become impatient; I grumble. My mantra becomes, “Give me a break!” Today when I read this quote, it provides me with a new and unexpected grace: I realize I do not have to wait for hindsight or until something happens that shifts my consciousness to love and respect the limitations in my world. I can do it now. Right now. Right here. Done.

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