Sunday, April 20, 2008

A New Earth...A Powerful Awakening

I'm thinking about awakening tonight and what that really means for me and for each one of us. This idea has been following me around for the last few months, leaving me with the subtle feeling that I'm getting very close to making some sort of breakthrough. I don't really know what this is about just yet but my gut tells me that it has something to do with completing a lesson and moving towards a new level of awareness.

As many of you know, the past four years have been a whirlwind roller coaster ride that has brought as much happiness (Montana) as it has sadness and frustration (Princeton, the Ph.D. and my current work).
Throughout my childhood and into my early adulthood, I would wake up each morning and say, "Okay, universe, my life is yours. Do with me what you need to. Put me where you need me. I'm ready to serve." And, the most magical things would happen when I lived like that - I got scholarships to Ivy League schools, job offers without applying anywhere, free hair cuts/color, etc... It was amazing and magical. My family joked that it was as if I had a direct phone line to God.

The reason why I believe this level of flow happened for me (and why I believe it can happen to others) is that in all I trusted what was happening in the moment, was grateful for the outcome before I knew it, and had faith that I would land where I was needed.

Then Princeton happened.

I was accepted with a full tuition scholarship and given a generous living stipend, money for language classes, overseas travel, a camera, etc... It was like hitting the academic jackpot...something to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars just to sit and learn AND I didn't have to pay a dime. The doors to the school opened so fast and it felt so right that I just walked through them, trusting that Princeton was where I was needed and that all would be right as rain.

But, it wasn't.

It was hellish. I had trouble with my advisor, my romantic relationship was crumbling, my studies suffered, and I couldn't seem to do anything right, much less pass a language exam (took me three time to pass both my Italian and German exams) and in my second year, it felt like I was being pushed from the program even though I was well-liked and in excellent standing. It didn't make sense. In fact, it still doesn't. I have no idea what those two years were about -- and I chose to leave with my soul intact rather than prostitute myself for a degree which felt hostile and required me to jump through more hoops than I was willing.

The thing is that when Princeton began to fall apart and grew hostile, I wanted to sit down with the universe/God and say, "What?!!! You bring me here and now you're pushing me to leave??? What is this all about?" This shook my faith and my very identity to the core because I had engineered my whole life to reach the Ph.D. and there I was, at the very best program in the country, on a full-ride, barely into my studies and it felt like I was being asked to leave.

I talked to a spiritual director about this once, and he said to me, "Oh, I see. Did you ask God if you were supposed to receive your Ph.D. there?"


Looking back, I think I can make out some of it: leaving Princeton forced me to reconsider my life's path; it brought me to Montana where I met people who changed my life; the pain I felt at the University led me to start a Socrates Cafe at Princeton's public library and I'm happy to report that it's still thriving; the success there led me to start them in two other cities (Missoula, MT and McLean, VA) and both cafes are still going strong; leaving Princeton has allowed me to teach more students and I came away from Hiram College and the University of Montana, Missoula knowing some of the most dear, kindhearted, REAL people I have ever known.

In many ways, my life is much better post-Princeton than it was pre-Princeton.

Still, I haven't made peace with that decision and since then, I just feel like I'm drifting. This idea that I would become a college professor didn't feel right for a while -- only now is it beginning to blossom within me again.


This afternoon, I came across Eckart Tolle's A New Earth, which seemed to find me exactly when I needed it most. The best thing about this book is that Oprah has chosen it as a book club book which means that all of us can go to her website or to ITunes and download the classes (each 1.5 hours long) for FREE. I watched the first class tonight, and it felt like Tolle was speaking directly to me.

He said that we need to ask life what our purpose here on Earth is AND we need to make ourselves still in order to hear the answer. He said that at one point in his life, he felt compelled to move to the West Coast and write a book there. He had no idea what the book would be about and he didn't know anyone ON the West Coast. Still, he trusted that small voice and took himself out there, knowing and TRUSTING that this impulse would provide answers to his question of "why?". Once he was there, he said he made himself still for days -- quieting his mind and his thoughts -- until one day, the book started coming to him. He also realized that to bring this book to life, he needed the West Coast's energy to nurture the ideas within him.

The result was, of course, A New Earth.

He also said that we have to ask ourselves two questions:

1. Am I ready to be still? (He said there are people who may need to suffer a little bit longer before they're reading to stop chattering and start listening.)

2. What is my relationship with the present moment? (Am I in it or am I thinking about other things? Am I enjoying my shower or am I already "at the office"?)

Furthermore, he said that what you resist, persists.
It is this last comment which felt like it was being directed right at me. Obviously, I must be resisting something in order to have all this persistent chaos in my life. What am I not making peace with? What is preventing me from having the life I know is within my grasp?

Is it karma? Am I working off an old cycle?

Is it fear? Fear of the unknown? Failure? Unacceptance?

Is it ego? Tolle says that you'll know a desire is ego driven if you finally get it and it does not satisfy you.

OR am I exactly where I need to be? Am I here, in this job, with these people because they need me the most right now? Am I called to act as a light in the darkness there? To smile when no one else does? To bring life to stagnation? To help others regain their souls?

I think this is why this past week was a good one for me at work BECAUSE I felt like I was really making a difference -- bringing problems to the attention of management, reaching out to those who are suffering or being persecuted, changing the way the environment there feels by showing up and demanding that it change. I think that this is why I can't seem to leave my job. Why the doors here opened up so quickly and why I feel compelled to stay just a tad longer. I can't name it but this year feels very important to me in this way.

I dislike that it takes me from things which feel important elsewhere but I know that, at most, it will only require another year to finish be present there. I can't explain it. Just because I may have given up on the universe doesn't mean that it has given up on me. Maybe, even when I was unaware of it, I kept saying my prayer and the universe responded in turn.

Hm. It's certainly a theory and it's comforting. In the meantime, I choose to make peace with whatever I'm resisting. I choose to expand and advance past what I don't understand right now.

I think the difference now is that I trust it will happen.

I am in the process of believing it already is.

1 comment:

Nacho Cordova said...


I just "met you" through Justin's blog, and I already like you lots! : ) Thanks for the thoughtful post, and for how candid and frank you are about your thoughts, feelings, doubts, and vision.

I have no advice, and certainly no "you are wrong, do this instead..." words of wisdom. I have a few thoughts, mostly as a result of trying to imagine myself in the same situation, and quite frankly, from my own experience in life with tough moments and unclear direction.

When I think back to similar moments in my life, it occurs to me that I was trying to preclude the outcome too much. I was going beyond looking deeply and setting mindful intentions and instead tying myself too much to particular ways things had to come out for my "goal" to be met.

I don't think I was wrong to have identified the goal, nor to have taken particular steps toward facilitating my life in that direction, but soon I lost direction... I think... because my I had at least one eye fixed on the destination, and the other one half-way there, and trying to keep track of too many other things! : )

Soon after I realized that I had been suppressing way too much, and that my life was telling me that the moment had arrived for me to deal with some things I no longer could suppress or push aside. And I discovered, that as "unstructured" as I liked to be, the most mindful approach for me was to walk a more harmonious path between letting things be, and organizing myself better in order to let things be. Funny eh?

Plenty of things that have happened in my life remind me that sometimes when bad things took place, they were not an anomaly, nor something off. They were just the things that were bound to happen, that come into all our lives, and that I was just closing my eyes and heart to the fact that they could and most likely would come my way also. The most recent one such moment, a very tough moment that I am still living and trying to harmonize with, peaked about two years ago. My initial reaction was "why me?" "I thought I had done everything right," and as I could not easily figure out why things were going the way they were, I would say "I've always had an answer, or come up with a right course of action..." I was so lost, and felt bereft of any sense of what best to do next. I was so stuck in knowing what to do, and in getting an answer that would provide direction that I just could not make sense of the situation.

I still can't make sense of it altogether, but the best moment came when I realized, on the verge of tears, that I did not have to know, that I did not have to have an answer, that the questions were darn tough, and that what I was facing did not have an answer, or perhaps even a super-right way. In short, that the crisis that I faced was one that I had no answer for, and could not just solve, or "know." It was right not to know, it was right to feel torn, and it was a moment of suffering that I was exacerbating. What opened up for me like dawn and the sun's rays warming my face after a cold night was: 1) I did not have to know how to proceed, and 2) all I had to give was love (to myself, to my son, to my family, etc.). I set about trusting what would be the most loving thing I could do, to nurture my heart and others, in the trust that such trumped having answers to anything at that moment. It felt very good because love was the right answer, and the path opened up for me with such clarity.

Still, it did not mean the end of the "discombobulation," nor of my bouts of suffering, nor of my wishing things were different, nor of... well, you can imagine. It did bring me more peace, and it did open me to the moment as a teacher, and it changed my life (and still is). I ended up realizing that this moment was also part of the present moment (for whatever reason). Not something gone awry, or that I had somehow screwed up, but rather that the present moment had this in it and I had to face it (not as a "warrior" ready to do battle, but as a regular person facing hardness because it is there, and because to face it and seek to live it and transform it is part of our path). Transforming that suffering has been important for me because I can offer whatever water, seeds, fertilizer, comes out of it to others... and because it deepened my compassion, my caring, and my love.

Remember Shakesperare's Othello, toward's the end, his famous soliloquy, a favorite of mine, right before he stabs himself... he says

"...then must you speak, of one who loved not wisely but too well..."

I love that line. I always envisioned Othello with scars from having loved so well. Not that he was a lover or anything, but it has always seemed to me that life and love sometimes require moments that can leave us feeling the suffering also (in fact, they require it).

As to the idea of being a professor... : ) being one I can tell you that I love it, and that the above applies here also. I find being a professor a labor of love, and an opportunity to share that love and caring. Perhaps that is what your heart knows, and you respond deeply to it, pulling you in that general direction, and at the same time pushing back when the striving is too hard. Let it emerge like the wisdom of a Koan. Be with it, let it be obstinate, don't expect to make it come out just the way you want it. Like with a small plant, pour your loving water on it and watch it grow and blossom -- much like your love for Justin.

Best Regards, and best of luck. I hope this was not too preachy. And my apologies for the length!