Monday 01 | 29| 2017

Facing Sorrow and Two Masters

Intense wailing grief. The kind that can lock you away in a room of despair. This has happened only twice in my life. Once when my sister died in a car accident when she was just 19 and the other just recently when I lost my cat familiar of 10 years. Cats and I have always been able to chat, and if I didn’t have one in my life one would show up. But this last one was special. He saw me through some pretty tough times. Now that he’s gone I see him in all the familiar places, like a song refrain but it is poignantly true, and each time pushing the wailing grief buttons. It was overwhelming. Pulled the covers over my head and tried to escape but saw a frightening darkness approaching, reached out to cat loving relatives – which failed to help, and then immersed myself into the virtual reality project. There I found like minds, and discovered that I could not be servant to this grief and be present as a compassionate person at the same time. I could not serve two masters at the same time. Living the compassionate life is like serving a master, one who calls you to task and for whom you need to be ready to show up. Obviously if I’m off wailing in the corner not only am I not able to show up, I’m not even going to hear the call. Shifting from a focus on my own misery to a place where I can hear others is the path of compassion but it does not mean I will ignore the needs of grief. That would be foolish and potentially self-injurious. But there is an order to the choices, a preferential gazing direction looking toward the Divine and compassion for others. Placing these first and foremost in all ways, can become a way of living and when it does the master’s voice can be heard more clearly making it is easier to show up ready to provide service. Compassion as a focus in life is not done with a heavy righteousness. In fact just the opposite. It is done with lightness in step, gentleness in touch, and calmness in voice. The cat sitters we had who were our friends and sacrificed that friendship in order to profess their belief in our cruelty to animals erred on the side of righteousness. Tree rooted righteousness, followed by harm to others in the name of not doing that is the tornadic confusion behind so much suffering. Unfortunately, people fail to see that there are two masters in the room – their own perception of righteousness with their need to express that versus the needs of the other. In this instance the other was our personal need tied to grieving the loss of a cat familiar. It is just not possible to service two masters at the same time – to speak with blinded righteousness and to speak with compassion. In 2009 former president Jimmy Carter broke from his church (after 6 decades a very hard thing to do), saying: The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter (see full letter here). Nobel peace awarded, honored for living a life of compassion, he knows he cannot stay in an organization which he believes serving the wrong master, a path that leads to suffering. He is compelled to follow a different path, a compassionate one, to act in his own true nature. Compassion is our true nature, our true self. We did not crawl out of the caves because of being bigger or stronger, or more aggressive. We survived, more than that - thrived, to become the dominant species on the planet because of each other. We achieved this dominance because we are social beings, because we learned how to communicate, in so many ways. This connecting to others is our true nature. When we do not hear those around us we are acting against our true nature. President Carter is making a stand for this. The world is full of voices that seek to convince us of some other path to follow, some other master to serve. There are so many other masters to whom we can pledge ourselves: blind faith, old patterns of behavior, masks that get too comfortable, or ego needs. When we are not acting with compassion we create ripples of suffering. President Carter is pointing out that it is difficult to see, discern, when we are not connected to our true nature, and not connected to others. But we have a choice of which master to serve. This blog is headed toward describing the sacred quiet still space, a space important in contemplative religious practices across a wide range of faiths. It is also a space important to connecting to people, to understanding their suffering, and to being compassionate. On one level accessing this sacred space is very demanding, and then it is also very easy. On one level it is very confusing and then it can be crystal clear. The path of past mystics often lead to this space with each telling their own story, providing their own descriptions imbued with cultural color of their time (The Mystic Relationship). Here too is a story about the journey to this sacred still place, the doorway to where we can hear the master (living a compassionate life) more clearly. But today’s world is noisy, fast paced, and very demanding of our time. That sacred quiet still place can seem so very, very, far away. But that is simply an illusion created by serving the wrong master. Recognize the illusion and life changes, sometimes quite quickly. This is what happened with the wailing grief. It changed, almost instantly, as soon as I realized it was getting in the way of living a compassionate life. It was impossible to service this intense grief and to listen to other’s needs at the same time. I could not serve two masters. Once I saw this then everything changed, and almost instantly. This was followed immediately by compassionate actions and then this blog. Getting to the doorway which is the sacred quiet still place is frought with illusions of false masters and they are ever present in today’s information bombarded society. At any fork in the road we have a choice and the quiet mind helps us with that decision making. Although I can write about how the quiet mind is available, and I can remember it, I cannot currently go there. The sorrow is just way too intense. ..
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Seeking the Soul of Life

A quest of compassion and finding our “true self”

in the midst of a hectic world