Suffering

There is just enough to warrant less “doing” and yet not so much as to confine to bed. This particular space of suffering is an interesting middle ground to live within. The “less doing” part allows more interior contemplation time. Time to ponder philosophically about the “why’s” of life.  I wouldn’t believe how deep that well of wondering goes unless I had experienced it myself. Actually as I am experiencing it, because the search for answers is ongoing.

Not just answers to why I still have pain and how can I alleviate it but also along the lines of what the meaning of life is.

DSC_0287

Suffering and pain seem to add perspective, at least when it’s not too much. In these ongoing lesser levels of chronic pain I can see whole pictures and I can see the infinite details. Certain things just do not matter like the latest fashions and gossip and certain things matter a lot like moral actions and the sunlight dappling the grass.

Even when pain episodes reach near 10 out of 10 I learned a lesson. A lesson I was forced to learn; I learned mindfulness. I learned what it really felt like to pay attention to everything  in the moment. I learned what position hurt and which relieved hurt, I learned how slow time does move in a world where it feels like it’s speeding by, I learned how sweet a bird’s song is.

Morning Light

The new insights gained require some type of outlet. That feeling is so compelling that this blog has become some sort of spiritual journal, a diary of the living of this intensely internal life. I know everyone experiences their chronic pain situations in their own unique ways. For me it’s a time of becoming more aware of the joy of the little things, particularly the little things in nature.

Dandelion

Peach Blossom

I’ve heard that suffering is a teacher, pain has some sort of lesson that can be of benefit. It’s not an easy lesson but I’m a determined student.

Truth

“During times of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

George Orwell

DSC_0182

“Truth? What is truth?”

Pontius Pilate      Jn. 18:38

DSC_0188

Truth can feel distant and it can seem difficult to untwine.

DSC_0194

 

DSC_0166

Here’s what I’ve contemplated when sniffing out the truth … I’ve noticed there are 3 types or levels of truth. If you are familiar with the chakra system, these levels seem to fall nicely within it and may prove insightful for meditation.

Truth Level 1 – Root Chakra (you in relation to society, your tribe)

Truth on this level is normative truth. What the majority, the rich, or the powerful of society say is true, is truth. Normative truth can change over time as people in society change. Often normative truth is established as laws. One example is slavery in the USA. Is slavery good or bad, right or wrong? At one time it was legal and anyone who opposed slavery could be shunned, persecuted, fined, or jailed. Now slavery is illegal and anyone who is involved in slavery can be shunned, persecuted, fined, or jailed. Normative truth comes from outside of you, it is determined by your family, tribe, group, community, and/or country. People are changeable and normative truth is a relative truth that changes between countries and over centuries.

_____________________

Truth Level 2 – Third Chakra (you in relation to you, your personal power)

Truth on this level is subjective truth. This truth comes from what you experience in the world and the information that your external senses give you (sight, sound, touch, taste, etc.). It is your internal truth. For example the statement “Family life is great” may be true to one person who had a fantastic upbringing but false for another who experienced abuse in their family.  When people say that you have to find your own truth, they are encouraging you to look into your past and see how it is impacting your future, and then to decide if you want it that way or if you wish it to change. Personality, fears, psychology, self-awareness, and false beliefs (i.e. is it really true that all rich people are selfish) are studied at this level of truth. This is also where you react to the “truth” society is telling you and decide if it’s correct for you. Subjective truth is changeable because you, your growth, and your experiences are changeable. Thus subjective truth is relative truth.

_____________________

Truth Level 3 – Seventh Chakra (you in relation to God, higher power, the laws of God’s nature)

Truth on this level is absolute truth. It is true for everyone no matter what society says, no matter what you say. It is always true across the ages of time. This type of truth is unchanging and applies to all humankind. It is an external truth that you are free to deny but at the expense of your own self understanding and relationship to others. An example would be the laws determining wavelengths – certain wavelengths create the color spectrum – this spectrum is true for all but not perceived by all. Some people have difficulty perceiving certain colors, other people are color blind and some people are totally blind. But no one can say the wavelength of purple is the same as the wavelength of orange. It is what it is. This type of truth is the framework of the world. To deny it is to deny reality.

Morning Glory

Science is the study of the reality of the Truth Level 3 framework but sometimes even science gets it wrong; what they studied and believed one millennia ago is refuted later in time as their understanding and knowledge of this type of truth grows. The truth doesn’t change, but scientists understanding of the truth can and does change.

The God who created the wavelengths of color and all the other natural laws, also revealed supernatural truth. Theology studies this type of truth. Some of this supernatural truth is placed inside the human heart and we know it intuitively from the whisperings of our conscience. Some of this truth has been spoken by God Himself, such as in the 10 commandments.

Do you know what the difference is between a Level 1 normative law of “thou shalt not steal” and the Level 3 absolute truth law “thou shalt not steal?” Let’s say a poor starving person stole a loaf of bread, Level 1 law would enforce the law by putting the poor person in jail, but Level 3 law would condemn the society that forces a person to have to steal bread in order to survive. In Level 3 law, the society would be seen as the thief that steals the potential of poor people to have a livelihood that allows them the opportunity to earn their bread.

In this we have a conundrum … what about those people who are poor, can do some type of work, choose not to, and then steal bread? They would not fall under Truth Level 3, they would fall under Truth Level 1 and punishment would be appropriate. Why? Because they are acting like children who want to be cared for instead of growing up and becoming self-sufficient. Children fall under adult rule which is Truth Level 1, where others tell you what is truth and what to do. Children may have temper tantrums and resistance about that truth but are then punished into submission. That is the way communal peace is held at level 1. Because of their needs and dependence, children have to submit. Adults who place themselves in the role of a child, would also fall into Truth Level 1. Other people in authority would have the right to place demands of obedience and adherence to whatever norm those in authority wished to demand. That is the exchange, dependence for loss of independence, self-authority loses out to authority from others. An example would be that if you want to be dependent on national health care, then the government has the right to tell you what you should and should not eat, and what risky activities you can and can not do; the government would have a vested interest in your health. The government can act in a Level 1 manner on you, regardless of what you personally feel and regardless of Truth Level 3. This is where a real fear comes of euthanasia, health care rationing, and denial of procedures for certain people.

How do we know Truth Level 3 is even true? Let’s look at the example of the person who is color blind and does not see green as green. Green is a wavelength and the natural truth of green does not change if one cannot see it. Yet, their own Level 2 truth tells them one thing and Level 3 truth says another. We conclude the person who does not see green as green has some sort of deficit. The same is true for the supernatural truth/ conscience within us. We know this by those people who have a deficit, the people who do not show a conscience, those we label with psychopathology or as sociopaths. Those acting with a lack of conscience provoke chaos, they have no Truth Level 3 functioning. People who do not have the ability to function at Level 3 have no absolute truth, only relative truth. They do what feels good to them at the expense of others. The only way for others to “survive” a psychopath or a sociopath is with rules and punishment. Being shunned, persecuted, fined, or jailed is what is doled out at Truth Level 1 when boundaries are crossed. Those with a deficit in Truth Level 3 who cannot practice self-control and cross boundaries, forgo their independence and are either threatened with and/or given consequences at Truth Level 1 to keep them in line and to protect those around them.

Chickory

What happens when relative truth is contradicted by absolute truth, when God’s Truth Level 3 collides against society’s Truth Level 1?      Crucification.     And then the Easter resurrection. Absolute truth can not  be held by the power of relative truth. God cannot be usurped by a God denying society.  Because absolute truth is the real eternal truth.

When Pilate asks, “What is truth,” he is sincere. It is complicated. Pilate understood the first levels of truth, but did not fully contemplate God’s immutable truth, even when the author of truth stood directly in front of him, Pilate chose to wash his hands of truth. Let’s not do the same. Let’s reach through the fog, the distance, the tangles, and really sniff out the real level of truth of a situation. Let’s not be deceived, let’s be revolutionary and reach for truth at it’s highest level.

P.S. When considering the supernatural, another conundrum arises that I’ve not addressed. Where does the truth of supernatural acts fit in? Those acts that are not typical for human existence but do occur and are very real albeit rare. Supernatural acts include those people who defy the laws of natural physics such as for example by not eating, by bilocation, through miraculous healing, and by enduring fire without being burned. Sometimes supernatural acts occur from the frighteningly possessed and sometimes they occur from those considered to be holy and a topic this titillating is best left for another day and another post!

 

Sticks

It’s that time of life. I’m aging, my parents are aging. They are still living in the home I grew up in but are slowing down. They always enjoyed gardening and landscaping and take pride in their home. The garden is smaller now and the woods are no longer mowed.

I live 60 miles away but drive out to help them a couple days a week. My brother lives closer and visits more frequently. He is there to help with emergencies – such as when a sump pump fails and floods the basement.

Each Friday is chore day for me and my father. My mom has a “to-do” list for us. Last week we cleaned out the asparagus bed, raked out leaves by the fence line and mowed those areas. The week before we picked up branches and sticks around the property.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 7.15.47 AM

Picking up sticks brought back an old memory from childhood. I was probably 9 or 10 years old and was assigned stick picking up. My brother was assigned mowing. You’d think that would be a straight forward job but I looked at the woods and felt overwhelmed. Sticks were everywhere and I couldn’t see how this job could be possibly be finished in a thousand years (yes, kids exaggerate, but that’s what it felt like to me).

I walked out to the woods and handful by handful, I trudged back and forth, over and over, to the brush pile. I was working for over an hour and hadn’t made a dent in the work. My mom walked out and indicated to only pick up the bigger limbs. I was a sensitive kid, and it felt like I was being yelled at instead of helped. Why hadn’t that instruction come sooner at the beginning of the work, why hadn’t I thought of it instead of having to be told. I felt resentful and inadequate at stick picking up. I felt I wasn’t good enough to know even what sticks to pick up.

Drama right? Actually it was an internal drama, I didn’t act it out. It was that internal judging voice inside of myself. I listened to that voice too much as a kid. As an adult I now approach stick picking up with a system … a tractor and trailer to reduce walking back and forth, a rake to get smaller sticks, and the ability to discern what stick is big enough to harm a mower blade and which stick is just fine to leave lying where it is.

I didn’t have that type of planning ability as a kid (who does) and I’ve had to go back and nurture and forgive that sensitive child, the me from the past, with the knowing that comes from age and experience. Self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, becoming the master of the critical voice within … even thanking it for trying to keep me safe in it’s own way but then stepping forward to do what needs to be done.

Any new learning experience is never completed perfectly. But the learning part is worth overcoming the fear and the critical voice. Just breathe and take it step by step. I’ve heard fear is just excitement without the breath. I know the fear response can include freezing (not taking any action). I’m glad I’m stepping up and taking action, even in a small way, and helping my parents as they age.

I’m still not perfect at picking up sticks, but my father and I finished our job on Friday and it looked pretty good.  Experience built from past times of inexperience. A system. A helping hand. And then a hearty family dinner from mom. Life is good.

Transitions

I don’t think most people find transitions easy.

Neither does nature. It’s particularly noticeable in Winter to Spring. We are tired of slipping and sliding on snow. We are tired of dark days. We are tired of cold. Spring teases us with sun, flowers and green grass and then another snow storm. Maybe that’s why April Fools Day starts off the first month of Spring?

DSC_0098

Spring Transitions – Lovely blues skies one day, gray and snow the next. We have to dig into our reservoir of hope and trust that the blue skies will be back again.

DSC_0154

DSC_0107

The forsythia blooms, only for snow to come a day later.

DSC_0129

DSC_0100

The daffodils are one of the first flowers in my garden to make a show, then are covered in a blanket of white.

DSC_0132

DSC_0133

But there is still a beauty about this time. Waiting and hoping for change, noticing the good; building perseverance isn’t totally painful.

DSC_0140

DSC_0152

DSC_0157

DSC_0173

Pretty soon all things will be new. That is the promise of Easter. That is the promise of Spring.

DSC_0105