Ego’s Tap Dancing on the Way to Enlightenment

gilda-grayMy ego is a 1920’s flapper wearing tap shoes, dancing like mad, and singing at the top of her lungs trying to pull my attention away from soul work, back to the illusory dream.

I quit school six weeks ago. Life is just now settling down to the new normal and my ego is protesting. Down on one knee singing and pleading with me to just go back to sleep! Just let her lead the way and everything will be all right.

The program I withdrew from was a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. At fifty-three with a Master’s of Divinity degree under my belt and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion prior to that, quitting school doesn’t carry stress and guilt. I weighed the decision very carefully before I made it, I sought counseling and support for it, and I can always go back to it. However, whereas before I made the decision I was conflicted about staying in school, since having withdrawn, I have only experienced peace and contentment about it.

Here’s the kicker though that has my ego wanting to kick me in the tushie. I haven’t replaced school with anything requiring that level of focus, concentration, and seriousness. I have intentionally and with forethought not replaced school with some equivalent goal and my ego’s been pitching a fit about it. If I’m not striving after a worthy goal, if I’m a Master’s level drop out, I’m “nobody” as far as my ego is concerned.

And, truth be told, I am no-body. Though I haven’t yet had a robust experience of it but have only had tiny glimpses – just enough to get my attention – I know that who I really am is one with God, in unity with all that is. I know that I am not this body or this mind or anything my ego or others can latch onto that puts me in a box with a label. I am not “the striver” or “the woman who’s made a career of returning to school.” I am not the sweet, kind, funny, sometimes silly person people perceive me to be. I am not even “the writer,” “the author,” “the relationship coach” I’ve set out to be. What I am, the thing I’ve tasted every once in a blue moon, is the love that naturally feels compassion for all.

Gilda Gray elbow on knee head in handThe ego doesn’t like this conversation or the decision to quit school. But the weakening of my ego (the ego’s death) began long before I started school. It’s just that quitting was big medicine – enormous medicine – on this awakening path.

She’s stopped tap dancing…stopped singing at the top of her lungs. She’s sitting on a wooden box with an elbow on her knee and her head in her hand. She sighs and smiles a knowing, mischievous smile. She will accompany me as long as she can and that’s fine. She too is medicine on the journey of awakening from self to Soul.

 

 

 

GILDA GRAY. "SHIMMY". BY ALFRED CHENEY JOHNSTON. 1920's

The photos are of Gilda Grey. I actually developed the metaphors for this entry and then found photographs that were a near perfect match.

Gilda was a Polish immigrant who was a famed dancer in the 1920’s, she created a dance called “the shimmy” that was widely used in theater productions in the Roaring Twenties. F. Scott Fitzgerald references her in The Great Gatsby when her understudy shows up at one of Jay Gatsby’s parties. She went on to have a movie career and has a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.

( IMBD. Gilda Grey: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0336660/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm)

 

Spring Flowers 2014

If this arrives in your inbox, it is mostly photographs so you might need to click on permission to view the photos.

Well I just created my own gallery all by myself with these photos…This is an experiment, so I don’t know if it will go out as a newsletter or not. Since I subscribe to my own newsletter, I’ll find out in the morning. :-)

Increasing my learning curve on my computer and on the Internet always takes my breath away but it’s fun learning new things.

Whether this does go out as a newsletter or you find the page online, I hope it finds you enjoying the spring, finding healing in the new growth outdoors and within yourself, and peace of mind and spirit in the warmth and heat of the season.

Blessings,
Sarah Elizabeth

Review of When Your Life is on Fire, What Would You Save?

When Your Life is on Fire book image for reviewErick Kolbell’s new book When Your Life is on Fire, What Would You Save? is a unique inspirational book that got me thinking and feeling about what I most value about myself. I thought my readers might have the same experience with it and so I chose to review it here. Reading When Your Life is on Fire, What Would You Save might make you hold your unique lived experience (and you, yourself) as more valuable than you ever have before. One of my dearest and best friends is reading it. The book made her think of me. She suggested I read it. So I am and I am really enjoying it!

In it Erik Kolbell, an author, psychotherapist, and ordained minister, has interviewed thirteen difference-makers (folk like Alan Alda, Jane Pauley, Regina Carter, and Brenda Birkman) around this idea: if a house containing all your valuables, from physical valuables to the intangibles that make up who you are, was on fire, and with the confidence that your family members and pets were safely out of the house, and you had time to dash back in and save one item, what would it be?

As Erik says, “…in deciding what you would take (and by extension, all you would forsake), you are declaring a kind of values hierarchy. You are saying that with the exception of loved ones, this is the thing you hold in higher regard than all the other things – many of which you also hold in high regard – you could’ve chosen.”

It’s a fascinating question and the interviewees give profound answers. Because Erik brings little to no agenda to the people he interviews, it’s their answers shared in the context of their lives that get you thinking and feeling about what you most value about yourself.

When I first held and opened the book and began the Introduction, I had an immediate answer to the question that was, well, a little “hippy-dippy.” My answer was, “LOVE! My love is what I would save!” Well, love really doesn’t count because love is available to everyone. It’s universal – it isn’t uniquely mine, the one personal quality I would require for happiness in this life.

A couple of days later the real answer came to me in the place many answers come to me – the shower. While thinking about something else or nothing at all, there it was. The thing I value most about myself that I cannot imagine life without is my rich inner world. It has been my friend and companion my whole life long, always a blessing, many times saving me from boredom, others’ cruelty, and my own selfishness and thoughtlessness.

It adds flavor and layers of substance to nearly every experience and conversation. My rich inner world seems to be the stuff from which everything else about me springs forth. It is intimately connected to my writing and is the circuit through which God, my one great love, speaks to me and loves me.

This insight, brought about from just beginning to read When Your Life is on Fire, What Would You Save? helped me understand myself and even made me like myself a little better. Discovering the importance of this highest value added depth and meaning to the story of my life.

Reading the chapters that follow help me appreciate the human experience with even greater compassion and higher regard. Over and over again the one (or two) things these thirteen distinguished individuals value most about themselves are the things that make their unique lives work and thrive. It’s a testimony of the value of self-knowledge and self-inquiry.

It is a unique inspirational book that might change how you view yourself and how you experience others. I highly recommend it.

Taking Responsibility for Our Lives: a Spiritual Practice

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Cherry tree blossoms and stems soaked in rain (c) Sarah Elizabeth Malinakor years an essential part of my spiritual practice was taking everything negative or bad that happened to me and getting real serious about taking responsibility for it. Whatever showed up in my life, I had created that. I was taught this in a psychospiritual school back in the late-1990′s, and back then it did transform my life. The goal of the work was to transform us students from identifying as victims to identifying as creators. Though empowering, it turned out to not be enough and, on some level, it wasn’t real.

I discovered two things on that journey. 1) It was easier to take responsibility for the negative. For one thing, getting real serious about taking all that responsibility sometimes meant wallowing in it a bit longer. And, well, sometimes wallowing just feels really good. It doesn’t satisfy, but it can feel really good! 2.) I never really practiced taking responsibility for the positive. The positive felt like such grace and such a gift that it seemed arrogant to declare, “Oh, I created that too!”

That school and what I learned there was part of my spiritual journey. It lead to the path I am currently on, the path that I believe is just beneath the surface of all the others I’ve walked. That path is the path of awakening. I imagine that enlightenment is somewhere along it, but whether or not I reach enlightenment will be all grace, all gift.

Hydrangea in shadow (c) Sarah Elizabeth MalinakTwice a month Joseph and I sit in satsang with our current teacher, Alaya. She has given me a new way to perceive and experience the shadow side of my life. When it shows up, whether in the moment or in memory or as a projection into the future, it is showing up to be healed. She says, “Grace leaves nothing untouched. Nothing! Be tender with all of it.”

Which means just be present to whatever shows up: don’t resist it – don’t celebrate it – don’t embrace it – don’t identify with it because all those things keep one locked in separate self. The shadow arrives, just be. If just being with it brings me to my knees in grief, so be it. If it creates a sense of equanimity, restfulness, and peace, so be it. If feelings around it fall flat, so be it. This, by far, is the most peaceful and healthiest response to the shadow I’ve ever been taught. It is the main reason I chose her as my teacher.

brown leaves in snow  (c) Sarah Elizabeth MalinakTo say a little more about the psychospiritual school and why I found their teaching of how to take responsibility for our lives to not be enough – to even be unreal. In that school, personalities and who was in good standing with the teachers mattered a lot. It mattered too much. There was a great deal of attachment to processing feelings. Those of us who could really dive in deep, pulling out all kinds of toxic emotions, were held in high esteem. It invariably resulted in students sometimes either faking it or manipulating themselves and acting out but, more importantly, it kept us all strongly attached to our egos and our ability to perform well. Nevertheless, it transformed my life to the degree that it was the first time I was given full permission to feel my feelings and to do that in a community where we all did love and support each other. I will always be grateful for the school and its place in my life.

These days, though, life is showing up differently for me. This awakening path is all about recognizing the illusion of separate self – the death of the ego, if you will. One of the ways Alaya puts it is when anything shows up as a choice for or distinction between “this or that” then we are in the illusion of separate self. So focusing my attention and energy on how I created everything that shows up in my life means I am attached to the illusion, to separate self. It’s an ego conversation to spend energy, brain power, and emotion trying to take responsibility for everything that shows up, invariably judging it as good or bad so that I can create less of the bad and more of the good! That practice seems superficial and it no longer satisfies.

Cherry tree blossoms dripping water (c) Sarah Elizabeth MalinakThe farther along this path I walk, the less interest I have in ego conversations or separate self. Taking responsibility for my life by acknowledging that I am not separate from any of it requires a courage that runs deep and wide. It means I’m free to dive really deep without manipulating myself or anyone else!

Joseph and I were already on the awakening journey when I met Alaya. I chose her because her teachings speak to my soul and support this awakening path in a way that contributes to easy, natural breathing and beingness. And, like a healthy teacher, she says when a student no longer needs her, the student stops attending her satsang. No codependency there! It’s all Grace.

Relationship as Sacrament

1-Ocean just ocean taken from shoreSometimes I think of relationships, especially romantic ones, as the “final frontier” on the spiritual landscape. Relationship is so vital to humanity’s understanding of God and who we are in relation to God that it is built into all the major religions, from the most ancient to the most recent.

Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have one or more relationships between God and specific individuals as the primary route of transmitting communication, expectations, love, and compassion between God and humanity. And where the concept of God is missing from Buddhism, the relationship between teacher and student is valued as the primary route of transmitting truth.

A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual and divine grace. When we approach one or more of our relationships as sacrament then we are expecting to meet God there, to meet God’s love there, to express God’s love there, to be reminded that we are the Beloved’s and the Beloved is ours. Sounds like a tall order, right? That’s a lot to put on a relationship…

I believe that if we, at least once in awhile, view our relationship with another as a mirror of our relationship with God, we can be encouraged, inspired, challenged, and motivated to put more loving intention into growing ourselves up to be mature, loving human beings who relate to one another in mature, loving ways.

Jason Gould album cover 2012

I ran across a beautiful song – a song that has lyrics and music that tug at the heart and the gut – that gets at this idea that one’s relationship with another mirrors one’s relationship with God. It is written by Jason Gould along with Marsha Malamet and Liz Vidal.

Sung by Jason, his interpretation of the song and the intimacy the lyrics express between former lovers is titillating. And if you read it or listen to it from the vantage point of spiritual seeker and God, the intimacy expressed becomes down right thrilling.

 

It’s called “Morning Prayer.”

Do you remember the sound of my name?

How it rolled from your tongue like a poem of hope and heartbreak?

Warm as the sun and soft as a prayer

When morning comes does the sound of it still fill the air?

I know that our love was a moment of grace

And with one touch I was forever changed

Closing my eyes I can still feel you near

We bathe in the light of a flame that has burned for 10,000 years 

I’ll wait

I’ll wait until time disappears

I’ll wait right here

Will you forgive me all my mistakes?

Will you come lie with me and sing my soul back awake?

I ache to see you walk through my open door

To fall in your arms and know I’m not alone anymore 

I’ll wait

I’ll wait until time disappears

I’ll wait right here 

I still remember the sound of your name

It rolls off my tongue like a poem of hope and heartbreak

Warm as the sun it fills the air

Oh, my love, you are my morning prayer 

Do you remember the sound of my name?

In an interview with David Munk at Stargayzing.com, Jason said he didn’t notice the interpretation of the song as that between a person and God until he recorded it. I didn’t notice it until I read the interview and listened to the song once again! And then fell more deeply in love with it.

You can hear Jason sing it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=torfwGPgyEg 

4 Stone Hearts a Better cropped photo

 

“When she loved her husband, she was loving God. Every real love story is a love story with God.”

~ Deepak Chopra

 

When we slow down and imagine lover and beloved and Beloved (you, your lover, and God) ~ looking in his or her eyes is looking into the eyes and heart of God ~ being seen and heard is both being seen and heard by God as well as seeing and hearing as God ~ relationship then becomes a sacred trinity. And every moment, good or bad, becomes an opportunity to be more present and to dive more deeply into love.

In my own life I find that if I refrain from looking at this in terms of right or wrong – if I don’t use succeeding at it or failing at it as an excuse to judge myself – if I just let myself melt into the juiciness of being present in those moments when my relationship is a living sacrament, then my love, my life, my spirituality, my relationship with God and my relationship with Joseph are all fed. And I come away feeling grateful and full.