I recently posted an article by Ram Dass HERE that stirred up some emotion. Seems like many of us really connected with the same line: “So it is that we must weather that dark time, the period of transformation when what is familiar has been taken away and the new richness is not yet ours.”
I got some beautiful responses describing varying spiritual practices that people lean into during these times of transformation when the path can feel so unclear. I was deeply moved by the number of people who seem to have grasped this concept of being the watcher.. observing their emotions and reactions to things and recognizing the deeper more meaningful roots behind the surface emotions like fear and joy. I’ve come to be sure for myself that more watching and less judging is a powerful strategy and I’ve also finally surrendered to the realization that these times of transition are holy, sacred and reliably moving me to something more meaningful and significant.
My dear friend Joy has been a longtime student of the divine. She’s over and over again humbled herself to the greater wisdom teachings of many masters and she continually turns her will and her life over to something greater than herself. Check out her essay on being the watcher as she stands in the center of the exact space Ram Dass was talking about. Her strength, awareness and sturdiness within this space is exactly why we all practice in the first place, it’s the reward we seek:
These are some holy days (aren’t they all? But I don’t always notice). Right now, I’m not employed as a “therapist”. I’ve been one for almost 30 years, so unzipping that part of my identity and setting it aside has been an incomparable gift. Let’s just set that over there for a minute.
I guess maybe I’m a “writer”. I write every morning and I am getting paid for some of what I write. So if I get paid for it, is that what I am?
I could be an “animal lover”. One of the first things I do every morning is snuggle with my 95-pound lap dog Labrador, Buddy. Buddy insists on this. I sit down; he pushes his head into my torso and requires me to love on him. He gives me a tiny lick, then whuffs on my cheek for a second with his whiskers. Five minutes of ruffling his fur. Then he’s done. For now.
All these things I do, or don’t do. All day, day in, day out. I know I’m not that, or this, or this other thing. I’m the one watching the whole show.
Feeling the rhythm of these days is grace filled and magical. I don’t really absolutely “have to” anything at any particular moment. I get to choose, consciously, what I do, what comes next and what comes after that.
Don’t get me wrong; there are still some “have to’s”. Being human and RESPONSIBLE (in capital letters because if I’m nothing else then, “For God’s sake I’m at least responsible,” says the German DNA stamped indelibly into my entire being) means there is, in fact, still stuff to do.
I get to pray, meditate, read, watch silly TV and some good shows, walk, re-organize my entire garage or just that friggin’ catch all drawer in the kitchen. I can step through my day, one thing, then the next thing and notice that when I’m awake, present and paying attention, everything is utterly spiritual and completely mundane at the same time.
One of the great things about my spiritual practice is the 5 times a day prayer periods that depend on the movement of the sun to determine what time that prayer period starts and how you do the prayer for that period. This keeps me tuned in to the changes in the light as the sun swings through the sky.
And I get to hang with my people.
I am graced with some remarkable friendships. I have the people I call my “tribe” who I choose to spend time with; they are my touchstones and my running buddies. I love them because they are who they are….unique, smart, compassionate and funny. But most of all, I love the vibe, the experience I have when we are together. Somehow, our combination creates a space where I see everything in a new, fresh way.
Hanging with them, everything is fascinating, curious and delightful. That lady in the flip-flops going into Wal-Mart…amazing. What might she buy before she heads back to her trailer? And that man with the professor sweater on – he’s perusing the organic vegetables with a focus that is palpable. Is he quoting Proust as he picks up the baby carrots? Euripides? Or just thinking about his shopping list? What might be happening in the realities I’m witnessing?
What makes him different from the flip-flop lady with the family size pack of Little Debbie snack cakes? Is he different? Or is it just my judging mind that makes them seem so wildly diverse? Are they really the same species? Am I? Who are these people and who is the looker seeing them?
When I get with my peeps, I sit back. I look, I see and I use my sense of wonder to make the associations. I find fun and enchantment all over the place, instead of categorizing, dismissing and overlooking the people, places and things I encounter. That mom with her fussy kid isn’t holding me up in the line at Starbucks. Regular me says, “and why doesn’t she take that little guy home for a nap anyway, Mom?” Wonder me, hanging with my tribal members says, “what’s going on here? Look at that kid’s scrunched up face. Check out the mom’s exasperation; she looks tired”.
I like wonder me better than regular me.