Friday, July 23, 2010

The Pendulum Swings

Reading my blog postings over the last few months, I suspect I should have called this blog, “Lisa-on-ego” rather than “Lisa-on-purpose”, as I spend so much time talking about ego! However, this week I had a very powerful experience, which led me to the conclusion that I have not been completely correct in my assumption that ego is the “enemy”. This assumption is repeatedly presented in many New Age, Buddhist or other spiritual and philosophical texts and so I am aware that I will be challenging some very entrenched beliefs in the following posting. As usual, I simply present my personal journey, which is true for me. If my story rings true for you too, then I hope you will find value here. If not, then simply discard.

For over a week I had been struggling with bad heartburn and a painful, uncomfortably bloated, inflamed feeling in my stomach. At first I thought it was simply a case of mild food poisoning possibly due to insufficient washing of veggies but, as the symptoms lingered, but did not worsen at all, I decided that this could not be the case. I know what an ulcer feels like and this was nothing like that. Besides I have absolutely no stress in my life anymore! As I had not changed anything in my diet or in my normal activities, I suspected that there might be an emotional or psycho-spiritual component to this malaise and so I decided to do a meditation to discover what that might be. I chose to do Zingdad’s meditation on visiting my sacred temple, as I knew I had always found immense healing in so doing.

As I followed the instructions on the meditation track, I found myself in a beautiful, lush forest, filled with massive, ancient trees festooned with “old man’s beard”, enormous tree ferns, mosses, lichens and brightly coloured bracket fungi, with a crystal-clear stream winding through and the whole populated with a multitude of frogs, birds and other wildlife. I could see my stone temple in the distance, but I found myself unable to go there. Something was holding me back. Gradually I became aware of a small walled garden to my left (somehow it was inside the left side of my head!) and I found that I could not move up the hill to my temple until I had explored this garden. I found a door in the wall, opened it and stepped through the doorway. What a shock! In contrast to the beauty outside the wall, inside the walled garden was dark and dank and all the plants were either sickly or dead and decaying – it was rapidly becoming a stinking wasteland.

How miraculous that our subconscious offers us these incredible insights if we simply pay attention for a few minutes! I immediately knew what the dying garden signified. It was in my head on the left side, which would seem to indicate a left-brain problem, or a problem associated with the masculine side of my being. It is this masculine side of myself which is most expressed in my ego, in Do-ing. It also dawned on me that the ego center is located in the solar plexus chakra, which was exactly where I had been experiencing distressing physical symptoms.

I moved my consciousness to my heart chakra and from there I questioned my ego chakra to find out what the problem could be. I immediately had a sense of an unloved and unwanted child rebelliously “acting out” in order to attract some attention. I realized that, for some time, I have been demonizing my ego; making it “wrong” for simply wanting to do that which it is best at doing. In every single moment I have been thwarting my ego and preventing it from finding a useful outlet for all the energy it had previously used for non-stop Do-ing. So, this energy turned inward and started to cause damage to the ego, which manifest as physical symptoms in my body. I also realized that I have been terribly ungrateful to my ego, which, after all, was the part of myself that did all the doing required to move myself from my corporate job and city life, to my current amazing dream-existence in our forest paradise.

I visualized the small, unhappy child in my ego center and then I focused on sending it gratitude, recognition and endless love. I pictured myself picking up this child, cradling it in my heart chakra; holding it and loving it and giving it everything it could possibly want and need to be happy and healthy. After some time the child was no longer unhappy and I placed it back in my ego center. Then I turned to my left to look at the walled garden again. To my surprise, the wall was gradually disintegrating and beautiful, healthy vegetables were starting to grow where previously there had been dead or dying plants. This too, was a message for me. The ego is that which allows us to DO in this world. We would not be able to get out of bed in the morning without the ego. Everything beautiful and useful we experience (as well as the things we may perceive as negative) is made possible through the action of the ego. The ego WANTS and NEEDS to be given something to do. The problem comes in when we let the ego run the show. The ego needs to be managed, needs to be given useful things to do (hence the vegetable garden, which will nourish and support the functioning of the whole being).

I informed my ego that henceforth it would no longer have to function alone and unsupported. It would become an invaluable member of a team, under the direction of the heart, which would allow me to create my perfect life and my perfect expressions of love. When I finally left the garden, I could sense that my ego was feeling happy and purposeful and I knew that my physical symptoms would soon pass.

And I was right! Two days later I feel healthy and well. Now, I know this all sounds a bit far-fetched, but I have experienced this type of imagery before in my delvings into the subconscious and I know the unbelievable efficacy of dealing with psychosomatic illness in the imagery with which one is presented. By the way, by using the term, psychosomatic, I definitely do not mean that the illness is imaginary in any way – the pain and discomfort felt are very real indeed. Rather, I mean that the soma (or the body) is made ill by problems encountered in the psyche. It is my belief that almost all illness is actually psychosomatic. We can literally think ourselves ill and think ourselves well again.

So, what have I learnt from all this? Well, firstly I have to marvel at the incredible mind-body-spirit integration and at the fact that we are given all the tools we need to live healthy, fulfilled lives if we would but stop and pay attention for a few minutes.

Secondly, I have realized, yet again, that ego is definitely not the enemy. I believe that, whereas the path outwards, away from Source is all about differentiating myself - defining who and what I am in opposition to the Other; the path back home to Source (the Ascension path) is about realizing that all is Love and that the Other is, in fact, me. We are all One. There is nothing anywhere that is not love and that is not Me. And so, even on a very local level, I simply cannot differentiate myself from my ego and make it wrong or evil. I am love and my ego is me. Read Zingdad’s excellent blog posting about this topic.

My ego is a wonderful, useful tool for expression of Self, if properly guided and managed by my heart.

And so the journey continues…

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Finding meaning

Seeing as this blog is all about finding my purpose, for this week’s posting I have decided to take stock of where I am in the process, 7 months into my “Grand Experiment”.

I know that I have spoken ad nauseum about dealing with ego issues in this blog. And yet I discover that, despite my best intentions, my quest to discover my true purpose has once again been motivated by… yes, you guessed it! EGO! The starting assumption for this blog was that there is some great and wonderful purpose for my life that I will find and, in so doing; uncover my “gift”, thereby making a huge and important impact on humankind. It’s actually ALL about ego! All about the need to be recognized as being special and different and therefore worthy of love. In retrospect, I’ve actually always been rather susceptible to such grandiose visions of my purpose – when I started studying science I had ideas of myself finding a cure for cancer or AIDS and thereby “making my mark” on the world. I smile indulgently at the naiveté of my 18-year old self, but actually I don’t really seem to have progressed very much from that position, have I?

I suppose we all want to feel that there is some meaning to our lives; some reason behind the toil and hardship, the boredom and sacrifice and, for some of us, this becomes some noble and lofty goal that could possibly raise our lives up from the mundane to some glorious, meaningful heights. Often this is merely a hedge against the deep, often unexamined, fear that perhaps this life is simply random; a meaningless struggle on an inexorable path from birth to the ultimate annihilation of Self. I choose to believe that there MUST be more to my existence than that, simply because it makes my life far more joyful if I hold this belief and because the alternative is simply too dreary and depressing to live with! But what if I’m simply deluding myself, I hear the pragmatists ask. Well, in that case, I suppose I’d rather be happy than right! But I have found some support in the literature for my need to find, or create, meaning in order to live a happy life.

I’ve recently read Viktor Frankl’s excellent book, “Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy”, in which describes his experiences as a Jew in Nazi Germany’s death camps during the Second World War. These experiences led to his developing Logotherapy, which describes mans’ “will to meaning” (in comparison to Freud’s “will to pleasure” and Adler’s “will to power”). Frankl discovered that those prisoners who had a sense of purpose, those who could therefore find (or create) meaning in their suffering, had a FAR better chance of surviving the inhumane conditions than those who did not. It would seem that a sense of personal meaning and purpose is actually vital to the ongoing survival and well being of a human.

Perhaps it’s important to differentiate between “meaning” and “purpose”. For me, purpose is an endpoint, a goal to be achieved, whereas meaning is something personal that I derive on an ongoing basis from the day-to-day activities of my life. I suspect that one could find a lot of meaning in even trivial, minor activities and events if one had a sense of overall purpose and direction for one’s life. But what if, like me, you’re not sure about what your life’s purpose could, or should, be? How do you then find meaning in everyday life whilst discovering your purpose? Well, I have recently started to think that by deliberately choosing to create and express meaning in my daily life I could actually be directly led to my purpose. Let me explain:

I am starting to discover that I can choose to experience a great sense of meaning in doing really small and seemingly insignificant things. For example: I find the time I spend physically toiling and sweating over the removal of non-indigenous trees on our land to be deeply meaningful and fulfilling. I find meaning in baking homemade goods or in preparing a beautiful meal for my partner. I even find meaning in cleaning the house or brushing the dog or any number of other previously boring chores that I rushed through in order to get them done so that I could move onto other “more exciting” (read: more ego gratifying) activities.

What all these activities have in common is that they are actually tangible, active expressions of love. Love for Self, my partner, our dogs, the land, Life. As such, they are deeply meaningful and valuable, important things for me to be doing. Each small task or service that I do in love leads to a sense of my heart opening just a little bit more. I guess I’m finally starting to understand why I was told by my guide to “Ask how best might I serve Life in this moment”. Doing service definitely leads to an opening of the heart, which is, I believe, the portal through which we can (and will) access our unique spark of the Divine, our spirit. Such access to spirit will inexorably lead to a personal experience of divine union with God, which is surely a worthy purpose for any life. In addition, a direct experience of my own divine connection MUST lead me to an understanding of my unique gifts of love and service to the world and to humanity. Note, however, that it starts with the heart connection and NOT with the grandiose visions of ego gratification created by the intellect.

It’s all about intent, I believe. A person could do amazing and far-reaching works of philanthropy, which are recognized by people all over the world, but if the intent is the gratification of the ego, these works will never lead to a personal sense of true meaning and will not, I believe, be to the ultimate good of humankind. In contrast, I believe that the smallest (even invisible) act of loving service can make the biggest difference in changing for the better the reality we inhabit. I suspect the measures of spirituality are very different from those of this illusory world.

So, my current understanding of my purpose is as follows:

1. I am here to experience this unique reality in which I can choose to experience not-Self in order to discover my true Self, and thereby, experience divine union with God.
2. My purpose is then to express my true Self in loving service in order to co-create with others a New Earth while I am still incarnated in this reality. By joyfully and effortlessly expressing my true Self I will naturally give my greatest gift.

So, for now, I will continue to seek out, and gradually discard, all false concepts of Self and consciously strive toward an ever-clearer concept of true Self. Through meaningful service I will continue to open my heart, a little bit more every day. In daily meditation I will bring myself always to the portal of the heart where I will joyfully anticipate the moment of clarity, the moment of blissful knowing that I truly am one with ALL THAT IS. Perhaps if I listen very carefully I will hear that there is a knocking on the other side of the door to my heart…

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelations 3:20).

And so the journey continues…

Next: The Pendululm Swings

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Zen of Tree Popping

We’ve been spending a couple of hours every day gradually removing alien vegetation from the land we are in the process of purchasing (photos at end of post). This is all we can do at the moment, as there are some delays before the land will be transferred onto our name, and so we cannot start building our home as yet. The biggest challenge we face is an overgrowth of Black Wattle, which is an alien invader of the Acacia species from Australia and a HUGE problem here in Knysna. Wherever land has been cleared it takes over, growing very rapidly, depleting the water table and spreading its seeds everywhere so that, even if one removes all the wattle trees and saplings, next season there is always more. The only way to permanently deal with the problem is to reclaim the land with indigenous species, which obviously takes a lot of time and concerted effort. However, our vision is to eventually eradicate all non-indigenous species and to fully rehabilitate the land.

We have purchased a piece of equipment called a “tree popper”, which combines muscle power with the power of the lever to remove trees of up to 5cm in diameter, roots-and-all. So, every day after breakfast, we pile the dogs and the tree popper into the pickup and drive the 2km to our land for the kind of exercise you’ll never get in the gym.

In the first few weeks, I found myself becoming disheartened at the sheer magnitude of the challenge lying ahead of us, as, after a few exhausting hours spent “popping” over 100 trees daily, it hardly seemed to make much of a difference at all, and I could only see the massive task that still lay ahead. Then I decided to change my perspective. I realized that I am doing this work as an act of service and love to the forest and so, every tree I remove is one less tree that will spread its seeds in future. This is all about the PROCESS and not about the end goal of having the land completely cleared. As Zingdad commented to me, this job will actually never be done, as this is not a perfect city garden, but rather a wild piece of land that will constantly require work. If I make the shift in my mind from goal to process, then I find that I can actually get into the “zen” of tree popping, as it were. And, ironically, then I can actually start to see my progress – as we gradually chip away at the job, ever larger pieces of land are starting to become clear of invaders.

The larger invader trees will have to be cut down and the stumps treated with a fungal biological control solution to prevent re-growth. We have decided to plant 5 indigenous trees for every large invader tree we remove, but it is still a sad day indeed to cut down a beautiful big tree. Hopefully we can use some of the wood to make our kitchen cupboards and the rest will either be used for firewood to heat our home or will be chipped for compost, so at least the trees will not have died in vain. And we will leave a legacy of hundreds of indigenous trees, shrubs and ferns for future generations.

Of course, many people have told us that we are crazy to be doing this ourselves by hand and that we should simply get a bulldozer and clear the land in one day. But we feel that this would be a huge waste of a valuable wood resource and also, this is exactly the kind of approach that leads to the establishment of invader species in the first place.

As our soft, lily-white city hands gradually become calloused and strong and as we start to find all kinds of new muscles gradually making their appearance, we are slowly, but surely making this piece of land our own, through service and through love, not to mention, good honest sweat!

Archimedes is reported to have said that he could move the world with a big enough lever and a stable place to stand. Well, we have our stable place to stand on this magnificent piece of land and, by applying the lever of our intent, we are gradually moving our world to create the heart-centered reality of our dreams.

And so we discover that it’s not about tree popping at all; it’s actually about love.

And so the journey continues…

The Intrepid "Tree Poppers"

Zingdad and his BIG

Pulling up those suckers roots-an-all

Lisa popping on purpose!

Next: Finding Meaning