excerpt du jour ~susanka

Throughout the centuries, people have posed the questions “What am I doing here?” and “What is the meaning of life?” These are, of course, big and almost impossibly profound questions that usually lead us nowhere. But the older we get, the more urgent they seem to become.

There’s a wonderful teaching by Jelaluddin Rumi, the thirteenth century Sufi poet, which can help us see what we’re missing:

There is one thing in this world you must never forget to do. Human being come into this world to do particular work. That work is their purpose, and each is specific to the person. If you forget everything else and not this, there’s nothing to worry about. If you remember everything else and forget your true work, then you will have done nothing with your life.

Rumi goes on to explain that the raw material we are given through birth is an incredibly precious material that can be formed into anything at all. “It’s a golden bowl,” he says, “which is being used to cook turnips, when one filing from the bowl could buy a hundred suitable pots.” We’re using what we’ve been given for a far lesser function than its true capacity. We think we are being good, productive citizens because we are cooking up a storm in our bowl, but we’re not seeing what the bowl really is and what food that bowl could provide us if we knew how to look at it differently.

So there is one thing in the world, according to Rumi’s teaching, that must not be forgotten. Continue reading

post du jour – the crab bucket ~elizabeth gilbert

pathwriter’s note: Liz Gilbert hits the nail on the head again and again, whether she’s sharing her own thoughts or the thoughts of others. This is her Facebook post from yesterday (12/1/14).

THE CRAB BUCKET

Dear Ones –

A few months ago, I was on stage with Rob Bell — minister, teacher, family man, great guy — and a woman in the audience asked him this question:

“I’m making all these important changes in my life, and I’m growing in so many new and exciting ways, but my family is resisting me, and I feel like their resistance is holding me back. They seem threatened by my evolution as a person, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

Rob said, “Well, of course they’re threatened by your evolution as a person. You’re disrupting their entire world view. Remember that a family is basically just a big crab bucket — whenever one of the crabs climbs out and tries to escape, the other crabs will grab hold of him and pull him back down.”

Which I thought was a VERY unexpected comment to come from a minister and a family man!

Rob surprised me even more, though, as he went on to say, “Families are institutions — just like a church, just like the army, just like a government. Their sense of their own stability depends upon keeping people in their correct place. Even if that stability is based on dysfunction or oppression. When you move out of your ‘correct place’ you threaten their sense of order, and they may very likely try to pull you back down.” Continue reading

a beautiful heart

If you haven’t heard of the Humans of New York project, please do yourself a favor and check out the website. If you’re on Facebook, follow HONY. You won’t regret it. The photographer, Brandon Stanton, started out photographing random people on the streets of New York asking them questions like, “What was your happiest moment?” etc.  It’s amazing how such a simple idea could have such a powerful impact. I could try to describe it, but you really need to experience it for yourself.

For the last several months, Brandon has been traveling beyond New York (to India,Vietnam, Ukraine, Africa, Israel, and more), and the words of a 97-year-old woman in Jerusalem that he photographed really struck me and have stayed with me. HONY’s website would only allow me to re-blog on tumblr, so I’ve done a cut and paste.  Here it is (italics are mine):

jewish woman

“There have been very good parts and very bad parts, but in the end, I love life. Every night before I sleep, I ask God for three more years, so that I can make it an even one hundred. Then I recite a blessing that my mother gave me when I left her in Poland. It was the last time I saw her. The blessing is much more powerful in Hebrew, but it says: ‘Wherever you go, may people always recognize that you have a beautiful heart.’”

(Jerusalem)

post du jour ~gilbert – how not to be overwhelmed

HOW NOT TO BE OVERWHELMED.

Dear Ones —

So a funny thing happened to me yesterday at Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour.

Or, rather, a funny thing DIDN’T happen to me.

I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t overwhelmed. I didn’t walk around all day thinking, “I can’t believe I’m here!” or “I hope I don’t ruin everything!” And every time Oprah came near me, I didn’t squeal (internally or externally) “Oh my god that’s OPRAH FREAKING WINFREY, OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD I’M STANDING NEXT TO OPRAH!!!!!.”

Nope. I actually felt calm.

This is not what I had expected. Because that was a crazy situation, people — a giant arena, a big-ass spotlight, a potentially blinding amount of glamor, the possibility for humiliating screw-ups, and a lot of expectation piled right on top of me.

But I realized this truth, yesterday morning: If I turn this into a big drama or a thrill ride, then I’m making it all about me. Which isn’t fair to anybody here, and won’t serve anybody here. And I came here to serve.

Continue reading

post du jour ~lamott

pathwriter’s note: I count myself among those who grumble at Facebook when they change the format of the newsfeed or choose which of my friends’ posts I’m going to see. However, Facebook has also reconnected me with far-flung and long-lost friends, for which I will forever be grateful, and it allows me to connect with the brilliance of some of my favorite authors, like Anne Lamott, on a regular basis, without having to wait for the next book. I love Anne Lamott for her flawed, oh-so-human faith and doubts, her railings and rantings at God and the unfairness of it all (sometimes), her crazy-raw honesty. She says the things we all think and feel but wouldn’t dare say out loud, and she hasn’t been struck by lightning yet, which should make us all a little braver about saying some of those things ourselves. Her language is peppered with less-than-holy words, which I think a lot of us also think, even if we don’t say them out loud. I hope the language won’t put you off, that you will see through it to the heart of her words.

*******

Every morning these days, you have to ask yourself, What the hell IS it all about, Alfie? Or you pray for a sign that you absolutely cannot miss or misinterpret, the tiniest hint of direction and assurance.

Well? I got one.

It has been one of the worst week in years, and that’s saying something. You know exactly what I’m talking about, no matter how much you love your life and your pit crew; no matter how hard you strive to present a good face. It is so hard here. It’s like Old Yeller meets the Hunger Games; plus the parking is terrible.

Under the best circumstances, we are a nutty and sometimes violent species, on an extremely dangerous piece of land.

But one of the saddest things happened. We had to put my darling old dog Lily down. She died peacefully at home in my son Sam’s arms on Wednesday.

I think she was the closest I’ll come, on this side of eternity, to experiencing the direct love of the divine. You may know the feeling.

Through this love, Sam and I came through. We cried a lot, but agreed to let our hearts stay broken for awhile, because that is how light, grace and healing can get in, through the armor.

The next morning, I took Lily’s beloved ne’er-do-well husband Bodhi for a walk. I adore him, but he has tiny mental issues, such as aggression, and having eaten entire chickens, and 24 muffins once. Then, too sad to stay at home without Lily, we went out for a bite.

After eating sandwiches in the car, we headed home. I was disoriented, and so far behind on my daily life, after a month of Lily in decline, that Sam frequently consults A Place for Mom online. But a block from home, I got that Holy Spirit nudge, a tug on my sleeve, which urged me, as it often does, “Stop.” It’s given up on nuance. Continue reading

post du jour ~gilbert

glorious messAgainst BALANCE…

Dear Ones –

The other night at my event in St Paul, a young woman asked me about how I achieve balance in my life.

First of all, I love that she thinks I have achieved balance in my life!

Secondly, I felt the need to speak out once more against the subtle tyranny of the word BALANCE, which I think haunts and punishes modern women more and more every day.

We are constantly being told that we should be achieving balance — that we should somehow exquisitely be negotiating the relationships between our work lives, our home lives, our romantic lives, our health and well-being, our spiritual selves. You can’t read an interview with a famous woman these days that the journalist does not applaud her for having achieved BALANCE….and then if you turn the pages of that magazine, you will find ten more articles showing how you can achieve balance. too!

Be careful. Continue reading

post du jour ~gilbert

Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.
~Elizabeth Gilbert

Dear Ones –

OK, so I don’t usually quote myself on this page, but a reader asked me today if I would take a moment to further explain this idea that ruin can sometimes be a gift in our lives.

*takes a deep breath*

Let me begin by saying that the ruin I’m talking about here is not something I would encourage anyone to ever deliberately seek. I’ve seen people who chase darkness and destruction on purpose (sometimes for the glamour of it, sometimes for the romance of it, sometimes for the sheer self-hatred of it) and this is not a path that I am capable of endorsing for anybody.

No, I’m talking about the ruin that happens to you, without you ever seeing it coming. The chaos that sneaks up on you.

Because sometimes the bottom falls out of our lives. People leave us. Precious certainties are yanked away. We lose our health, our money, our gifts, our faith, our familiar surroundings, our trust. All the truths that we thought we could believe in forever suddenly depart us with no warning. The ground that we always knew was solid under our feet turns out to have been nothing but a trap door all along. (And then there’s another trap door under that one.) We disappoint ourselves. We are disappointed by others. We get dead lost. We are no longer longer recognizable to ourselves when we look in the mirror. It all falls to ruin.

And that, my friends, is when things start to get really interesting. Continue reading