A Time to Pause

My 24 year old daughter is a second year choir director and music educator at a small, rural middle and highschool in Southwest Virginia.   During the same time I was attending a workshop on neuroscience and coaching last week, talking about and personally experiencing transformation, three young students at her school also experienced their own version of it.

In two separate car accidents over three days, this life of theirs on the  Earth plane ended.

This was not the first time senseless, incomprehensible tragedy struck so close to my daughter’s heart.  On April 16 2007 as a freshman at Virginia Tech she was eerily close to the massacre that occurred there.  She was one floor above the room where two people were killed in the dorm;  she lost two dear friends she knew from her high school; and she (and her friends she lost) also attended the same school as the boy who was responsible for all of it.

Yesterday when I spoke with her, she said she felt she was right back there at April 16.  Her usual effervescent demeanor had diminished to something beyond sad;  She sounded numb.  Like she had just received a shot of anesthesia to her soul.   Perhaps having reached a sort of “tipping point “ in the compounding of young lives lost close to her and her ability to process all of it.  The emotions become so overwhelming that is becomes hard to know what to feel or how to feel it.

This time she is one of the “adults” in a position of stewardship over children’s broken and bewildered hearts while unsure how or even if she should make room to tend to her own.

I read once that from a spiritual viewpoint it is a fallacy to say that people’s lives are “cut short” when they die so young. That from this point of view we all are really only here a short time in relative terms anyway, that each of our souls have come to do its work in whatever time its here, and that our life is fully lived for this lifetime no matter how long we inhabit our physical form.  In this regard, “time” is really irrelevant.

Yet, even if we buy into this notion and understand our true nature as spiritual beings,  we are still having a human experience. In that experience it is so hard to comprehend the death of a young person that seems so random and to us as humans – so senseless.

I have wondered if the purpose of these souls who come to Earth and leave soon after is simply to remind us.  Without them, we would forget.  Or we would just not have the context, the alternative view,  to understand whats really important.  We would forget-  that all there is really-  is love; that we are all community and family and need each other;  that we are more alike than not; and that when there is loss we feel and we feel deeply.  And in doing so, we see in each other what is inside of us.  Without this “reminder” , the vortex of chores, and petty gossip, and worrying, and comparing and competing with one another would sweep us away into an illusion that this is what life is and all its about.  We would not have a reason to PAUSE…..  And it is in this space – this pause – that we sometimes, often, more often than not – create something from loss that has a countervailing gain that would not have been created otherwise.

So I do not think it is any coincidence that it is during Thanksgiving week that this tragic loss has occurred.  It is the quintessential timing to PAUSE.    Time to pause and let these souls that have passed on in this way serve to remind us about GRATITUDE.  I mean the kind of gratitude that we need to PAUSE to take notice of.  Gratitude for the sheer privilege of having the experience of being alive and of the gift of Life itself.  Of knowing what a sun looks like to rise and set and for my eyes to have the ability to reflect the beauty of the purples and blues and orange that paints the sky when it does.  Of being able to bear witness to the changing phases of the moon – each phase with a beauty and mystery all its own.  Of watching the cycle of a leaf turn, then die, then be reborn again.  Of knowing what the cool grass feels like under my feet.  Of knowing what the sky looks like in its clear blue purity and then when its being rearranged by puffy clouds and in other times when it mother nature feels more dark and stormy, I get to see that too.  Gratitude.  For my heart that beats and knows how to love and how to cry, for my brain that thinks and creates and for the “Programmer” that has programmed it to perform the miracle it does.  Gratitude for a human spirit that brings me to my knees in awe –  in the knowing of the resilience of that spirit, in its oneness,  and its ability to make meaning out of what in the moment seems senseless and beyond repair.

When we pause….  like this…..    sorrow can be transmuted joy, to the kind of joy that still honors and celebrates the preciousness of these three lives and the meaning they can give to ours and that allows us our sadness and pain to co-exist alongside our reverence.  In doing so, I think it helps to make it seem less senseless.  I thankful to these three souls for teaching me this, reminding me and mostly – for making me PAUSE….

Im Afraid Not to Worry

Dwelling on the past, anticipating and worrying about the future. Sound familiar?  What good does it do since all we have is now?  All it does is lead to anxiety, stress, maybe even physical and emotional disease and distress and keeps us from experiencing our joy.

Seems to make sense.  Especially from a spiritual viewpoint.

Yet,  one of the most daunting “challenges” I find myself facing on my spiritual journey is that of overcoming WORRYING, and not just not worrying butobsessive worrying

When it comes to “worry”, every spiritual teacher I’ve “consulted” says basically “don’t do it”.  More than that, there’s just no reason to do it. It’s useless, doesn’t change anything and is wasteful, negative energy.
It seems you cant be a spiritual person and worry at the same time

Now there are lots of things I’m learning about being on this spiritual path that I “get”.  I understand it intellectually and believe it to my core but often am challenged to integrate these into my operating system.

But of all of these, the one that is the hardest for me to absorb or agree with is why I shouldn’t worry or how not to worry.  I’m just not sure that I agree that worrying doesn’t have any positive outcomes AT ALL and that is a complete waste of time and energy.  Even more than that, given my observations of cause and effect, I have gotten to the point where I actually am afraid NOT to worry.

I know this sounds like spiritual blasphemy and contrary to all Universal Laws of Nature.  And even though Ive got plenty of anxiety and neuroses to support my need to worry, I dont justify it on those grounds even though I do it on those grounds.  Not at all. The reason I’m afraid not to worry is because I haveproof that when you do, it helps.

I bet this is true for you too.  Whenever I have worried the thing that I worried about happening doesn’t.  Therfore, it just seems to risky to take the chance not to.

Eckhart Tolle – one of my favorite authors of spiritual enlightenment says you dont need to “worry” about paying your bills.  You just have to pay them.  I guess thats true.  But I’m not so sure that worrying about paying them doesnt create the impetus necessary to actually pay them! I have gotten to the point of believing in the “power of positive worrying” ( an alternate version to the power of positive thinking) so much that I’m even worried about writing about worry – am I committing heresy by suggesting that worry might be okay in the writing of a blog that purports to promote the tenets of spirituality – love not fear, peace, faith, gratitude, and that thoughts have energy???  YIKES!!! I’m getting worried right now just writing about worrying about this.

Okay, okay – so I can see how this kind of worrying can start to get out of control, and take hold of you and create stories in your head and be energy draining and life limiting.  But I still have the “evidence”.

What Would Eckhart Tolle do?  On this one, I know what he thinks.  And I already know Ive punched some holes in his theory (HA!).  I wanted to consult with the real guru– my mother.  Now my mother will tell you that I exaggerate her “worrisomeness” but I can also tell you that she has been one of the staunchest defenders and best examples.

So I interviewed her to get her perspective.

Here is what I learned

Basically, there are two types of worry

Worry Type #1 –  “Handwringing” – Handwringing is fretting about things you cannot control unless you stay home or plan to arrive three hours early to wherever you are going “just in case”  (which I often do).  To those who suffer (and you know who you are)it is like having a plantars wart in your head that wont go away.  Even I would have to say, it probably doesnt do much good except to drive you and anyone within earshot of you crazy.

Manifestations of this kind of worry look like:  worrying about whether the bill I just put in the mail will get paid in time even though I sent it three weeks early; whether there will be a tsunami that will hit – you know because there is like a one in a trillion chance it could – on the I-81 corridor when I have to drive to see my kids next weekend; whether my boss, relative, friend is mad at me or thinks I’m foolish or stupid because they gave me this funny look that I just know was directed at me and was because of something I did or said or didnt do or didnt say- I just dont know what it was but if i think hard enough maybe I can drum up something — its just not possible that something could be going on with them ( or their boss, relative etc) or maybe that it was just not a “look” at all.

I mean, is it really necessary to worry about the left turn I have to make ten miles down the road just quite yet, especially when I have a GPS (or two) and looked at the map first?  Or to think about whether my tv, internet will still be working and my house still standing everytime I return from a trip?  ( and of this latest writing having written the former sentence over a month ago – just to prove a point — I returned from almost a month away on Christmas Day to find my condo had water damage from three stories above.  I WASN’T worried about it- and see what happened!)

I think even I could be convinced that maybe this kind of worry isnt the reason the tsunami didn’t happen and probably wouldn’t have happened even if I didnt worry.   My rational mind “gets” it.  Im just still not so sure my visceral mind can’t stop taking some comfort in it anyway. But thats why I’m on the path.

Worry Type #2 – Mother Worry

What I learned from my mother – and from being a mother – is this – there’s another kind.

its about the “intention” thats behind the worry. And thats not so neurotic or crazy but maybe just a sign of something else.

my mother worries because she loves me
my mother worries because she cares
my mother worries because she wants me to be safe
and she wants me to be happy

like on one else on Earth wants me to be happy.

I worry for the same reasons about my kids.

Eckhart wouldnt know this. Oprah wouldn’t know this because they are not a parent.

Worry is part of the way a mother (or father)loves.  Its like “chicken soup” – it can’t hurt and it just might help. Its a little extra insurance. And your kids get to know someone cares.  And knowing thats the case, not only am I afraid not to worry, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sorry kids.

As my mother (and her mother and her mother’s mother) said “just wait- someday you will understand… (especially when they start driving.)”….