"The important thing is this: to be able at any moment, to sacrifice what we are for what we would become." - Charles du Bos
This one is personal.
Our practice of the Keep Up Spirit continues through September. As we come into the second half of the month, the keep up spirit starts to take on a deeper meaning. We can keep up a physical effort - finish the long bike ride, clear out all the closets - but then there is the work that is more personal. Deeper and darker. Can we keep listening to the long conversation that pushes old buttons? Can we hold our own voice steady to remind us we are enough, we are accepted, we are loved, even when old habits of mind would whisper otherwise?
Sometimes I am too entrenched in my own patterns to know what needs to shift, but sometimes I make progress. This week I share a personal note to illustrate the transformation possible from keeping up.
My husband and I separated almost 2 years ago. In honor of how much preparation and ritual went into coming together, we had an UN-marriage ceremony in the back yard. We wrote each other vows as to how we would treat one another with respect and care. We read them in front of a bonfire. We buried our rings under a sapling. The kids were a part of it all, and we were available to them to answer questions and keep as much as possible open and discussable. Today we've set up our house so that I sleep downstairs. We share the living areas and the kitchen. The chores and the laundry. Still very much a family.
However, there is effort here. To remain in a setting that you have ceremoniously declared to be not what you would stay with means that you are staying with challenge and suffering you are familiar with -- and very often triggered by. It is the deepest practice of self-transformation i could ever imagine. I have many many old habits of mind and heart in our shared company no matter how consciously we respect and design our separation.
"The Holy Spirit's temple is not a body, but a relationship." - A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson
My darkest shadow is a tendency is towards anger. We had had a scheduling misunderstanding and I was ANGRY. I wanted to be angry. I wanted there to be a consequence for what he'd forgotten, and my deeply ingrained family habit was that my anger was the 'right' consequence.
"To teach is to demonstrate." - A Return to Love
I didn't express my anger, but as I sat to compose a text message later in the day I came face to face with a radical choice. To show anger, to choose anger, to punish with anger, would teach that anger in the face of mistakes was what I wanted to foster in our relationship.
That morning teaching at the studio I'd felt clumsy. My words had felt unclear. The sequence felt inadequate. Did I want my students to get angry at me because I wasn't at my best? I knew I could do better. I would come back clear and strong next class. They trusted me. Big smiles of gratitude for what they had found and received. They hugged me on their way out. I didn't need a consequence to find my footing again, I needed acceptance so I could forgive myself and return clearer.
I looked at the text message I was composing and thought to myself, "I will keep UP. I will demonstrate what matters most to me. I must model the behavior I wish to receive." It wasn't easy, but it came from the strength of mind our practice prepares in us.
"Relationships are reborn as we let go of perceptions of our brother's past... Our perception of someone's guilt only keeps them stuck in it... When people behave unlovingly, they have forgotten who they are. The job of those who are awake, is to remain awake, and to remind them. Kindly." - Anger, Thicht Naht Hahn
When we keep up, we will be kept up, Yogi Bhajan taught. The act of writing back with care and forgiveness made for connection. His response to me was relief and gratitude for my not choosing anger. And in the days since, we have experienced a real evolution to both be more caring and own our mistakes. The outcome is a step towards one another. Later, calm and with ownership for my own initial flawed response made of anger, I shared what I had felt. He could hear me without defenses. We could communicate rather than blame or resort to old stories.
"The kama yoni is the species which has the privilege of performing actions which can thus change the course of its destiny. She can seize resolve. She can take positive command of all the resources available to her, and evolve." - The Four Desires, Rod Stryker
I have long ago made a commitment to myself, to my community, to show up as fully as I can. If I keep up, if I keep trying and listening, I will be kept up by the incredible relief and support I felt as I chose to respond with kindness. I felt it in my body. The familiar flush of anger was seductive, but this was wholly different. I felt deep relief for the guidance I had found in contemplation before responding.
May you keep up what matters most to you. Even when challenged. Notice your habits and turn them into choices. Live towards the world as you would have it move towards you.
With much love, Martha