The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “finding peace”

The Greatest Sin

NEW!in-shell

 

Pau

Of all the sins and injustices ever perpetrated against me, the second cruelest was being told “I love you” when it was known to be lie.

I lived for years believing it was true, when all the while I was nothing more than a convenience, a stepping stone, someone to be mollified until something better came along.

The reality of the lie shook me to my foundation.   It was more than a betrayal by a lover. It made me doubt myself to my core.  How was I not able to differentiate truth from lie? How could I have been so naive? Was I really that gullible, that desperate to believe?  How did I  miss the signs, which in retrospect seemed obvious. What did all that say about me, about who I was? About who I thought I was?

I never did get over it.  I could never bring myself to trust anyone again because I was no longer able to trust myself. I crawled down deep inside myself and let nothing and no one pull me out.  It was lonely but it was safe.

The cruelest sin of my life, the one that did the most damage, was the one I perpetrated upon myself.

What I could have learned, what I should have learned, is that there is no love without risk. The very nature of love requires flying without a net.

 

—————–

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Each Grain of the Sand

New!

 

 

praying-in-desert

 

Kem

My existence was not an easy one.  I, with my people,  lived in some of the harshest conditions on Earth,  with extremes of temperature and few natural resources. We were raised to battle others over what little there was. We fought fiercely out of necessity. We roamed the desert, living a way of life that our people had done for millennia,  herding,  trading,  traveling.

But despite the difficulties and uncertainty of such a life,  I remained  happy and peaceful.  My family thought I was simple in the head, and I suppose I was, but simple is not stupid.  Without bothering to contradict them,  I simply considered it a more intelligent way to live.

I reveled in every moment, every sensation. At prayer time,  I rolled out my rug to the east like the others, but unlike them, I did not say my prayers,  not aloud and not silently to myself. I did not occupy my mind with God, but rather cleared it of everything, making myself an empty vessel, allowing myself to be filled.

I smelled the air, infused with the scent of cooking fires and of the animals and of the other men,  sometimes of date palms and fresh water.  I felt the warmth of the rising sun or the heat of noon or chill of the wind after the dusk.  I noticed the shadows as they changed throughout the day and the colors of our shelters against the orange sand. I did not worry that God would punish me because I did not say the proscribed prayers.  I felt my own method was worship enough.

I loved the low humming of the sand when the wind passed over the dunes.  I was comforted by the familiar bellowing of the camels.  I listened for the skittering, hissing noise of the beetles in the quiet of the night.  I felt safe hearing the muffled conversations of women inside their tents.

Not every sensation was pleasant.  There was heat and thirst,  naturally,  but there was pain of an injury or insect bite.  There was illness and eventually the infirmities of age.  There was the terrifying, swirling, howling blackness of the sand storm.

There were many occasions to be afraid — of nature and of men — but I rarely felt fear.  I was prepared to accept whatever might be.  If it was my time to die, I was prepared for that as well.  I was at peace with myself and my maker.

 

___

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Show Me the Place

 

leonard

first published Sept 25, 2015
(And since it was Yom Kippur again this week,  I’m posting this one slightly out of chronological order….)

A post from me:

Wednesday was Yom Kippur. Although it’s been many decades since I observed the Day of Atonement in any traditional sense,  this year I spent all day listening  Leonard Cohen, who is, after all, a great rabbi.  Actually,  I listened to one song in particular  again…and again…and again, each time hearing it anew. The song, “Show Me The Place” is from the Old Ideas album.   I found myself moved more deeply than  any synagogue service or rabbi ever could.

LISTEN

The song addresses the struggle shared by so many of us; of trying to remain “in the light” while dealing with the necessary mundanities of real life – earning a living, having to interact with those who test our ability to forgive, to curb our anger at life’s indignities and injustices.

Most of Leonard Cohen’s work deals with his own quest for peace through love and spirituality; his struggle to overcome the depression, self-loathing, fear, cowardice, shame and sense of unworthiness which have plagued his entire life. His songs have always been filled with imagery of submission and slavery and supplication.

“Oh, take this longing from my tongue; whatever useless things these hands have done.”

        –Take This Longing  

I asked my father I said, ‘Father change my name’. The one I’m using now it’s covered up with fear and filth and cowardice and shame.”

     Lover, Lover, Lover.

In the 90s, he spent five years in a Buddhist monastery, where he eventually became an ordained monk. He credits this time of study and the Buddhist philosophy as having helped him greatly to understand his own pain and to ameliorate some of his emotional suffering.

By the late 90s, he was in a good place.  Then in his 60s, he had ample income from his music, and was able to devote his time to writing and recording, living a peaceful life of meditation and introspection  writing about the things that moved him without financial worry, insulated from many real world distractions.

In 2004, he discovered that his long-time manager, a trusted family friend, had embezzled millions of dollars, draining even his retirement account. There were lawsuits and counter-suits aplenty. One  can imagine his state of mind at this time. Ripped from a life of relative peace,   and thrust into nasty legal battles and heavy financial obligations to others. He had to go back on tour; back to working for others, relinquishing his well-deserved freedom.  (“There were chains, so I hastened to behave.”)   It’s easy to imagine him overcome with very un-Buddhist-like feelings of anger, betrayal, frustration, even hatred which must have been difficult to assuage. He may well have lost the ability to keep his depression at bay.

All those years of living in the light, of letting go of ego,  and suddenly, all the lessons feel lost to him. He tries to hold on as best he can, but can only salvage a shred of light – “a particle, a wave.”

In this song of supplication, he is entreating God to tell him where to stand so he can regain the old perspective, so he may once again live in a state of grace.

It is a song of supreme sadness and pain. It put me in a tender, weepy state. Nevertheless, I’ve been listening to it on repeat for two days straight.

For me (and I know many of you readers), it’s a constant struggle to forgive those who need forgiveness most; to open my heart to those who hate or who have hurt me. I work every day to separate the needs of my ego from the path of my higher self.   Although I would be most content spending my days in spiritual contemplation, I must work to make a living, often forced to deal with people who fill me with some very UN-spiritual thoughts.

This song is a hymn to that struggle in all of us – to hold on to the Light in the face of darkness;  to truly live in the light and not just pay it lip service. I don’t always win that battle, and the losses are always filled with pain.

Show me the place, where you want your slave to go
Show me the place, I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place where my head is bending low
Show me the place, where you want your slave to go

Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began

The troubles came I saved what I could save
A shred of light, a particle a wave
But there were chains so I hastened to behave
There were chains so I loved you like a slave

Show me the place, where you want your slave to go
Show me the place, I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place, where my head is bending low
Show me the place, where you want your slave to go

The troubles came I saved what I could save
A shred of light, a particle a wave
But there were chains so I hastened to behave
There were chains so I loved you like a slave

Show me the place
Show me the place
Show me the place

Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began

 

yom-kippur-prayer


FYI,  Leonard has a new album out next week.  Click to order.

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

 

 

The Lie That Was My Life

New!

cuckold

Ax

My entire life was a lie, and I didn’t even know it until I was well into my autumn years.

I was the youngest of four children.  As the baby of the family, I should have been the most adored and pampered, as is often the case,  but not so for me.  My father, in particular,  barely acknowledged my existence.  When he did, is was mostly to scold me or to point out the ways in which I was lacking.  There was no love from him.  My mother rarely came to my defense.  Though my siblings were usually kind to me, they were much older, and they no longer lived at home when I needed support and encouragement most.

The conclusion I drew from this mistreatment was that I was unworthy of praise and of love, a disappointment to all.  I was never quite certain exactly what about me was wrong but the specifics didn’t matter so much as how I felt about myself. I lacked confidence.  I second-guessed myself at every turn.  I mistrusted the friendship and love of others.  My relationships were painful and disappointing and never ended well for either of us.

I never doubted that the cause of my unhappiness and alienation was the result of my own inadequacies. I staggered under this burden, carried heavy on my shoulders, for most of my life.

When I was nearly seventy, my mother’s sister, lay dying.  My parents were already long gone. My aunt asked to see me before she passed on.

I sat at her bedside,  holding her hand,  and she told me the secret which she did not want to take to her grave.

Before I was born,  my parents’ marriage was faltering, and my mother had an affair with a man she deeply loved. When Father discovered her infidelity, he was deeply hurt and angry, as is normal in such situations.  If her situation had been different, she might have run off with her lover, but he was in no position to care for her and her three children. So my mother had no other option but to end the affair and humble herself before my father.  She begged for his forgiveness, promised to be faithful.   He took her back and she committed herself to being a good wife.

Soon after, she discovered she was pregnant.  Although she always maintained I was my father’s child, conceived when she returned to their marital bed,  she and my aunt knew the lie.   They justified the secret, believing it was in everyone’s best interest. Given the circumstances at the time, I suppose it was.  What choice did she have?

But my father was not a fool.  He did the calculations and discerned the truth.   Although it was never spoken of,  my mother and my aunt assumed he knew. As far as I and everyone else knew, I was the product of their loins, but it was in this lie where my own troubles were born.

And there, at my aunt’s deathbed,  I understood suddenly and clearly that my father’s disdain for me had nothing at all to do with who I was but only what I represented. Every time he looked at me, he was reminded of my mother’s betrayal.  How painful and humiliating it must have been for him to raise another man’s child, to feed it and clothe it,  to pretend I was his when he knew not an ounce of his blood ran through my veins.  Each time he looked at me, he was reminded that he was a cuckold. And my mother, too guilty to come to my defense.

My anger and hatred towards him evaporated and was replaced by pity and a deep, existential sadness that lasted to the end of my days.  I’d wasted almost my entire life believing a lie, oblivious to the damage it wreaked upon me.

 

___

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! Feel free to post/ask/suggest/comment.
-Adrienne

Short but Deeply Meaningful

NEW

 

my-locked-heart

Aya

(as usual,  Aya is short and to the point, but there is a lot to unpack here.)

Here is the pain in love:  to feel compelled to protect yourself from another.

——
If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne

 

(artist unknown. If you know the artist, please let me know. I will happily post a link to his or her page.)

The Look of Love

NEW!

old-married-couple

 

Le

There was a time when just the sound of his voice, the sight of his face, brought me joy.  His presence soothed me; made me calm,  allayed my fear and disquiet.  My heart leapt at his caress.  I slept better with him safe beside me.  He made me feel invincible.

But then, over the  years,  he grew distant.  Perhaps we simply grew apart.  In any case,  we became strangers occupying the same space.

And even though I was no longer pained by the loss of love, for it was gradual and mutual and impossible to get back, I missed the relief of unpacking my troubles to someone who was listening.  I missed how everything could be made right again by touch.  I missed falling asleep feeling protected.

I never took a lover although it was probably would have done me a world of good.  Not even after he died.  I felt too old at that point to even think in that way.

But strangely,  alone,  I started to regain my equilibrium.  Instead of feeling sad that he was not fulfilling my emotional needs, I began to learn how to fulfill them myself.   I was not alone long enough to learn all I needed to learn,  but these are lessons which I will have to learn another time.

 

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 
-Adrienne

The Real Tragedy…

MasksComedyTragedy

Aya (our resident love guru)

Like theater, the story of each human life is either comedy or tragedy. Certainly there is a mix of both laughter and sorrow in every life, but taken as a whole, each can be placed in one of these two categories.

The comedies end with the protagonist understanding the redemptive power of love.

The tragedies are those in which the protagonist never opens the heart to possibility, to risk, to intimacy, to fearless emotion, to the spiritual self.

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. Or come join the discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  New posts every three days.  Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward.  Would greatly appreciate sharing on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)  Thanks!

The Eye of the Needle

eye of needle camels

 

NEW!

Ipo

To achieve great wealth and power in a human lifetime, one must be almost single-minded in such a pursuit, desiring these things above everything else. These wants are driven by the ego — the gratification of rising above and having dominion over others. The satisfaction derives from the mistaken notion that greatness in one’s lifetime makes one superior to their fellow man.

But human achievement is not equal to spiritual achievement. In fact,  one usually precludes the other. The more one appeases the ego, the less one is able to develop spiritually.

Observe  the very rich, the very powerful — politicians and kings, religious leaders and giants of industry.  It is easy to recognize how disconnected many of them are from the purest part of their own souls.

They fill the void with the spiritual equivalent of empty calories – material goods, status, , with the game of bending others to their will. And although they may have greater ability to shape the world to their whim and even direct the course of history, once on the other side they hold no special status except as having been a tool to move along the story of humankind;  a tool of the universe.

However the desire for greatness is not the only way in which humans cater to the ego. Submission to any of the various manifestations of the self  —  insecurity, fear, guilt, desire, grief, anger, pain — prevents  the soul from ascending, from connecting with the greater universe. This is what blocks the soul’s path to true peace

To covet anything –even serenity and spirituality — is to accede to the ego.

sculpture by Russian artist Nikolai Aldunin

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

The Pleasure in the Pain

New!

 

crying eye

Ri

Life became so much easier once I learned to feel the pleasure in the pain. I do not speak of the passion of physical pain, which is not pain at all; I speak, rather, of emotional pain.

This is not to say I sought it out, but life is full enough of pain that there is no avoiding it. My life became easier when I no longer numbed myself to the inevitable. I stopped running from it wherever it found me. After time, I didn’t even bother to step out of its way.

I stopped fearing it. What a release to enjoy the beauty in sorrow! To savor the taste of my own tears. To climb down deeper into understanding on the rope of my pain.

Great emotion – both joy and pain – is opening. The heart is rent wide, laid bare without defense. No walls. No ego.   Only in this state — without ego — is it possible to connect to the universe.

I learned not to waste that state of grace.

 

 Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you enjoyed what you’ve read,   please share via email,  Facebook,  Twitter and/or other social media.  Much appreciated!   Thanks!

The Wisdom of the Shepherd

first published Sept 27, 2014

 

Ib

[While I was channeling The Liar, (the previous post), a different fellow came into my head as a clear and powerful a picture. (Most often, stories come to me in words or as feelings).   He is an adult man, a poor shepherd in ragged clothes, tending his flock. He sits on a rock, with his rifle close at hand. The terrain is bleak and mountainous. I know we are in the foothills of the Hindu Kush… Afghanistan or Pakistan perhaps.]

“I grew up with it,” he said, showing me his gun. “It was an extension of myself. It never left my side.  I learned to shoot as a child and so I was an excellent marksman. When I was out with my herd, I was always scanning the horizon and the skies for predators – wolves, jackals. Even a hawk could take away a small lamb.”

“I also watched the narrow paths leading into our valley, keeping my rifle trained on anyone I didn’t recognize until it was known whether they were friend or enemy. In this way, I, like everyone else, helped guard the safety of our village.”

All well and good, I thought “aloud” to him, but this is not really a story. It’s just an image, and I might just be remembering that image from a photograph.   I need more.

He then “showed” me his small house – a typical low mud and brick hut. He told me he had four children, two boys and two girls. The girls were married and living with their husbands’ families.

Sorry, but this is still not particularly interesting. Yet he was coming to me so strongly,  I felt he must have more to say.

Don’t you have a story, I asked. A lesson?

And then he started to wax philosophical…

===

Living in such a small, isolated village, it is impossible to comprehend the life of a person who works in an office in a big city in another country. And the person who lives and works in a big modern city cannot fully imagine the life of a person who lives in a small village.

It is difficult enough to understand the feelings and the suffering and the pain and even the joy of your own neighbor; sometimes, not even your own family member. Each human being is at the center of his or her own universe. The reality of others is completely abstract. You might as well be on completely different planets.

When the feelings and hopes and dreams and pain of others are abstract, and when their needs and desires conflict with your own, it becomes easy to vilify and hate.

To push aside your own limitations in order to see beyond the limitations of others is the path to compassion. But this takes a tremendous amount of work and energy, more than most humans are willing or able to expend.

It takes far less energy to hate.

Humans like to believe they are compassionate but they make so many exceptions, that they are not compassionate at all.   There are always others — a group or a class or an ethnicity or a nation — for whom they make exceptions.   “Yes,” they say, “compassion is good BUT those people….” are this way or do that.  They are somehow unworthy of compassion.

And how many humans can feel compassion for their enemy, especially if they are trying to kill them? But without compassion enemies are always plentiful.

People claim to want peace in the world as if it is the responsibility of nations or governments. But peace begins with compassion within ourselves. Each time we vilify others, even a neighbor or an old friend or a family member – even if we feel justified because they have done us grievous harm — we move the world one step further from peace.

====

Addendum:  Well, I have to admit, by these standards,  I’m not very compassionate at all!  Guess I have something to work on!

****

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

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