Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Giving Up On Once-And-For-All

I’ve been reading through old journals, finding the ends of threads for the book I am writing.  It’s a humbling experience. Repeatedly- sometimes only days apart- I have written in celebration and gratitude about realizing an insight or perspective that seems to clear all confusion and offer new possibilities for health and happiness. The humbling part is that the content of these insights are often very similar, if not identical to each other.  

Reading, I groan and think, “Oh good grief! When am I going to get this once and for all?”

My friend, Peter Marmorek, teaches an online writing course. One of the warm-ups he uses is- “What is the lesson you keep learning over and over throughout your life?” The question assumes that forgetting and re-discovering things we feel are significant is a universal experience, and so perhaps not the personal failure we sometimes fear it is.

We spiritual types are fond of phrases like, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” So why are we so frustrated with relearning a core truth, with “not getting anywhere?” Haven’t we already said there isn’t anywhere to go, that it’s about being here, now?
I think our frustration is harboured in a secret, semi-conscious, and very human hope that there is a. . . . place (inner or outer) on the other side of some critical spiritual or psychological experience or insight where we will be. . . .different than we are, transformed into someone who consistently embodies the spiritual values we hold dear- like love and compassion.

Is there no truth to this? Are we doomed to repeat patterns of misery, misunderstanding and the co-creation of suffering? 

Makes you want to just open a bag of Hersey Kisses  (dark chocolate of course) and lay down on the floor for a few moments. . . . or a week.

It’s a tricky business- leaving room for possibilities without grasping for signs of progress.

I often hear from people who’ve had experiences they feel are awakenings- experiences of knowing at a bone-deep level the beauty of life and their place in it. Often they are concerned, if not downright frantic, that they're not going to be able to hang on to the feeling or perspective their experiences have offered. They tell me, “I am afraid I am going to forget.”

Sometimes I reply, “You will never forget.” Other times I write, “You will forget, because that’s what humans being do- we forget and remember, wake up and go back to sleep over and over again.” Both things are true. We do forget and remember- but on some level we never go back to sleep quite as deeply as we once were, after we've had a moment of being truly awake. This is how we learn and grow, in an ever-spiralling meander. I suspect that most of the time we are too close, our noses pressed up against the details of managing daily life, to see the bigger pattern clearly.

In The Awakened Heart, author Gerald May calls our moments of insight and awakening “remembering love” and “homecomings.” He reminds us, “. . . . it is one of the most precious experiences of living: to have been kidnapped by some worry or striving and then suddenly to gracefully returned home to the present moment, reminded of love.”  He lays aside wanting once-and-for- all learning, writing: “If the one great homecoming were to happen too soon, I would so miss all the many little ones.”

I go back to my journals and begin to see the blessing of repeated homecomings- no two truly identical, each one slightly nuanced but always buoying me up and pointing me back to remembering and reconnecting with Life and Love.  

Oriah (c) 2012


  1. My training in energy medicine, firstly through the experience of T'ai Chi, serves me well. I remember that life is a refinement process, through which I, in time, with ever more grace, continue to circle, and become more conscious, less resistant, more open and flowing with every pass I make. With cheerful indifference, I make my circles and passes, and discover that I am yet where I once was, but with more and more awareness and that transforms it all. As always, thanks for your vulnerability and grace in sharing deeply Oriah

    1. Love how the practice of T'ai Chi mirrors and deepens that inner process. :-)

  2. So much truth to this, Oriah! And yet I never thought of it quite like that. I, too, get frustrated with myself for repeating old patterns that I know do not serve me anymore. And yet, each time, the frustration happens sooner and sooner and more firmly, and that MUST mean some growth is taking place - I am becoming aware of my "going to sleep" sooner each time. I loved the line: "We do forget and remember- but on some level we never go back to sleep quite as deeply as we once were, after we've had a moment of being truly awake." The first moment I can remember "awakening" is after reading Ekhart Tolle's The Power of Now, followed by A New Earth. Incredible texts! I have not been able to see life the same since... though I continue to fall asleep often. But I catch it more often as well :)

  3. Reminding myself that those mountain top well as those experiences that are some of the lowest in my life...are just that, only experiences, is what helps me to walk gracefully on this journey. They are not facts, either way. Simply my experience that I label as good or as bad, coming and going like the weather. I suppose this takes a bit of the "high" out of things, but likewise it takes the "low" out of things and therefore I spend more time evenly present in my days. Attaching so much value to these things, for me, only leads to, well... attachment - which inevitably leads me to suffering (disappointment, feelings of failure, hopelessness, panic). I think what I am trying to say is that it seems easier to me if I don't give any of it too much weight. I look at my experience, allow myself to FEEL the experience, and then move on. When I do this there is no panic to hold onto a new awakening nor is there fear of some horrible thing never leaving my life. I became very ill about four years ago. Having lost the life I loved, coming to this realization was what actually gave me my life back. Understanding those feelings of intense fear, hopelessness and grief helped me to also put those "highs" into perspective. It IS that very place of home (present moment) that we return to, and for me, this is a place of great compassion - especially toward myself.
    Thank you Oriah, for another wonderful message.

  4. Oriah, thank you for always giving me such hope and inspiration. Thank you for this different perspective on learning and relearning. You always lift me up and deposit me so tenderly into the lap of the Beloved.

  5. The Gerald May quote perfectly explains my weekend. From kidnapped by worry to freedom.

    1. Hi
      I take my spirituality and my journey oh so seriously.
      Reading your blog made me giggle with joy! Encourages me to lighten up!
      Now I can laugh lovingly at me and the twists and turns I get myself into in my path towards the ever elusive enlightenment!
      Many thanks

    2. Wendy, I can think of not higher praise than helping each other to take ourselves a little less seriously. Glad the blog encourages giggling :-)

  6. Glad I stumbled upon your blog today. I was surprised to see a quote from Gerald May too. I was privileged to work with him for a short while in 2000 at the Shalem Institute, before leaving to work for the Omega Institute where I crossed paths with you and the Invitation. Indeed we do forget and remember, over and over again. Blessed homecomings made all the sweeter from the longing and the agony of our sense of separation. Namaste and thank you for your work.