Taoism and Unavoidable Change

When I look back at certain historical times of pleasure – be it joyful or just interesting, hopeful, or filled with vitality – I sometimes think to re-create this time. I may try to gather all the variables of that era and place them back together. I want it to be just like it was, for there was comfort and wonder in that time, and the nostalgia warms my heart!

Yet, I have learned that we cannot turn back the clock entirely. The same people with their individual qualities are no longer available. The old familiar setting would not be accessible. The earnestness with which we gathered cannot be replicated, nor forced. It had originally come to us as all unexpected wonders do – most naturally!

No, indeed, I cannot copy and paste then into now.

How sad.

But wait! This does not have to be a tragedy. This memory is rich with soulful emotion, but there might be something I have not considered. It might be true that I have lost something beautiful. But it could also be true that something else just as lovely can still occur. Something different but just as good. Something strange and unexpected but equally wonderful. Something more in place of what seemed plenty. If I stop worshipping how it used to be, and I begin to imagine what else might form, what fits into the new version of myself, what fantastic possibilities exist, then I have awakened to a state of mind most precious to the way of the Tao.

The Tao asks us to roll with it, and by “it”, I mean nature. NATURE is always changing, evolving, transforming, and those most content with life will accept the shifts, upsets, and regrowth of our natural world. For it is not all that pleasant to sit around wishing things were the way they used to be. We can be grateful for the past, its beauty and its lessons, and still recognize that we are not meant to be static. We are meant to always be morphing. I will not be afraid. Surely, to have faith is to trust that change should not presume catastrophe, nor should we deny the power of change and the shape of potential improvement.

Just Be Yourself, Whatever That Means

People often say, “Just be yourself!” Forgive me when I scoff at such a flippant remark! For there are great excesses of bold and subtle contradictions in this world. Who I Am is not only constantly changing, but sometimes straight up bad.

When people do a very bad thing, they say, “That is not really who I am.” And I argue that perhaps that is who you are, not wholly, but come on, partially, right? Our true nature is going to be capable of harm. The sooner we understand this, the more we will forgive ourselves and get on with the show.

Just be yourself. But, you know, not that part.

Just be yourself, but maybe just a bit better.

Just be yourself. But you will have to pay.

Okay, but additionally, can someone tell me who I am?

I am relieved to say that I have started to figure it out. And I conclude that in all my efforts to become a defined individual, I have arrived at the humbling fact that I am so much more like everyone else. That is a comfort. There are some unique fractions, sure. Yet, just being myself is basically recognizing that I am not as special as I once believed, and also, the only way to be my own snowflake is to sometimes lift myself up and away from all that society deems worthy, to defy the social constructs and admit in equal measure that the constructs are there for good reason!

So the search continues.

Let us begin with identity at the base levels, including labels and names and adjectives.

Typical American White Girl, privileged and yet honestly traumatized. Menagerie of European ancestors…Celtic, Nordic, German, French. Solid healthy Minnesota stock. Origins in the lumber industry of a river town. Also from a string of writers, artists, scientists, pragmatists, not always conforming, but not altogether oddballs either, passionate people, and plenty of educated smartypants.

We tend to be intelligent but neurotic. What can I say, it’s an uphill battle to overcome ancestral anxiety. Plus, we are largely brave, expressive, and sometimes overconfident. Knowing this about myself can help me to negotiate the crazy part of me, the part that suffers because of Who I Am. I giggle a lot, but sometimes I cackle.

Who I Am is also fluid. I am lazy when it comes to errands, procrastinating when my gas gauge is on empty, or there is little real food to eat. God help me if my tires are low. Seriously, if I were a billionaire, I’d have my own personal errand runner at my beck and call. Errands feel so meaningless after all.

I am highly motivated to charm people into doing what I want. Should I embrace this under the umbrella of being Who I Am?

When I wonder about others being who they are, are they refusing to behave in ways that are inauthentic, saying one thing but hoping for something else. Do you agree to things that suck your soul? Do you even understand what depletes you? Are you trying to laugh when you know it’s not funny? Do you work hard at playing to everyone else’s needs?

Sure, Being Myself can elicit humor, silliness, creative beauty, a thoughtful choice of fashion. There’s got to be something original and heartfelt in there. Yet, always I am toning it down so people will stay in the room.

Be Myself? Huh. I’m not so sure you know the ramifications here. If I am entirely Myself, people will experience a lot of curt replies, a shocking level of brutal truths for which they will likely retreat. And I will tell you things you won’t want to believe, like how I have this psychic ability, and I don’t care if you agree.

Being Myself will, in effect, annihilate half the relationships I hold dear. Because my true self is fantastically insensitive, impatient, and exhausted a lot of the time.

I know My True Self is capable of unconditional love, a fierce love, and a impenetrable loyalty, but also a senseless and grueling war. Deep down, I wish people would completely accept me as I am, but then they would have to understand that half the time, I know what I am saying is absurd. I don’t even totally believe everything that I say, since my brain is already considering the alternative. I wish to be given credit for seeing all of it when all you hear is half of it. I am not saying I am full of untruth, just that I am fully aware that my truth is flexible and I like it that way. You would need to allow my eternal right to change my mind. I’m only saying, when you suggest people should just be themselves, be careful. If you profess that you are capable of accepting people as they are, be prepared.

Champion Your Loneliness

There is speculation that Americans, for all of their proud self-reliance, actually promote some of the loneliest people on the earth. We are so interested in gaining freedom from the authority of our parents and the limitations of government; we balk at communal burdens and social obligations. We feel entitled to our own bedrooms, bathrooms and automobiles. We just don’t have much tolerance.

Still, there comes a time when people just need people. It is no secret we are pack animals. Also, even the most introverted people who long for solitude will eventually peek out of their caves hoping someone awaits.

Loneliness is at times so severe that one can lose their mental stability. Long term isolation in prisons and living off the grid in exile has been proven repeatedly to injure humans to the point of madness. Sometimes the elderly are neglected in homes. The soul slips away one day at a time until the shell readies for death.

But there are also lessons to be learned from loneliness.

To begin with, I have felt lonely much of my life, even when surrounded by people. I have often felt misunderstood, an outsider, and certainly experienced hostility too. This casts a shadow of disconnection and sadness. You show up, but no one seems to care.

Additionally, I have suffered with a longing for love as well. It is hard ground to be raised where one is never held, never told they are loved, or asked how they are doing. Or to sleep in a bed with someone you no longer know. This too is lonely.

Moreover, to exist without a partner in an empty nest is sometimes a loneliness that smacks of one’s lost worth. To recognize that no one cares if you leave for a walk or that you lie awake at odd hours, to see that no one wonders where you are at all…this is a new, quieter lonely.

The thing is, being lonely is part of being human. And, barring the cruelty of one’s imprisonment, we do not have to suffer so very much. I know this because I have figured out a way to lessen this emptiness. There are practices that bring succor, and it does not require a constant social network or popularity at all.

Obviously, one must reach out and try to make personal connections, even insist on actual human contact as opposed to the simulated social media. You don’t need me to tell you this.

But loneliness is not always about being alone. It is about intimacy. And the capacity for divine intervention.

Initially, we must promote our relationship with nature. Commune with our pets, commit to gardening, spend time walking or sitting in the wild, immersion in the natural elements is a spiritual lift like no other, even if we do it alone. I rarely feel lonely in nature. In fact, I generally feel as if I am where everyone else would rather be.

Furthermore, we can create. When we put our energy into the creation of any one thing, we forget ourselves. Something beautiful comes of it. And I hate to say this, but even when people choose to create something wicked, they are lost in a purpose that leaves them full. In the end, harmful creation will bring one’s own destruction. But to create something that serves us aesthetically, or in a practical sense, or for societal needs can bring solace to those of us who once felt nothing at all. We begin to feel seen. This is why we must choose to create. It lifts us to a state of pleasure, a higher spiritual ground, to sustain, to build, to rise to a place of satisfaction and deliverance. I create daily, often for hours, and it works.

Finally, and ironically, we can stop fighting it so hard. Sometimes, we can surrender to some moments of loneliness. As the sufi Rumi says, “Suffer the pain.” This comforts me to know that in my loneliness, I am growing. I come to know myself, and I can choose to love myself in it. I am not above dancing alone and laughing alone and cooking fine cuisine alone. I talk to myself and there is no shame in it. I am seeing that there is a time for me to be alone and sometimes, inevitably, it will feel lonely. And that is okay.

It is not natural to never feel sad or hurt or lonely. Lonely is part of the deal here on earth. I can cry or sit with it. I can even talk to it or write to it. I can bathe in a salt bath and watch the lonely run down the drain. I can put myself to bed with lonely and accept that this is not tragic. It just is. I can choose to believe that my lonely is not the enemy. My lonely is what makes my love for others more powerful and deeper than ever. I can see that people who are lonely know a wisdom that comes from all suffering. The preciousness of life and its living souls grows. The greatest connection I have ever experienced is when I look into the eyes of another human who is just as lonely as me. It is a gentle thing. Therefore, the lonely in me honors the lonely in you.

 

Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: The Part 6 Finale – Goddess of the Hunt

Artemis is the mysterious goddess of the hunt. She doesn’t even try to be nice. She demands her place in the world, and she refuses to ever be married. Marriage is too constricting for her. She protects children, her own right to her body, and also the animal kingdom. Yet, she is known to kill when it suits her. Artemis scares me. She is so unpredictable. I suppose, one could say she personifies real love.

I revere her capacity for independence, but come on! No commitment? I’d rather eternally push a boulder up a hill than not want intimate attachment! I am not superior to love. I long for it.

Listen, I was raised for twelve years in a house of women only. I have never been a stranger to earning my own keep, nor having the drive to promote my own career. Nobody washes my dishes but me. I was raised on Instant Breakfast and sensible shoes. I know how to do the whole illusion of I DON’T NEED A MAN. Still, I always found it too black and white, too inhuman, and honestly, a lot of silly bravado. If I were a lesbian, I would feel no differently about wanting a woman. I certainly don’t intend to marry again. I just want my own God-given significant other to grow old with me, thank you very much!

Choosing to never stop the world and melt with a man just makes me sad. I may never be Artemis. But wow! She looks amazing in that super sexy get-up with a bow and arrow. I bet she gets a thrill seeing her own reflection in the local pond. She is known for hanging out with wolves and deer. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be that?

Maybe Artemis sees that the civil union of marriage denies that real love is fluid. It changes and it morphs. It is viable and it is generous. And sometimes real love, even with enduring trust, means letting people grow up and straight out of one’s life. Letting go can be the bravest act of love. I guess if I cannot find the man I want, at least I can love myself, my life and the people in it. I don’t have to attach myself to just anyone. Plus, my true love may be plowing through some of his own stuff before he can get to me. Right?

I do not regret dating online. It was not a waste of time. Epic levels of self-love came from it, clarity about what I am seeking, what I need, and who I am. Suffering in the Land of Singledom is a garden of spiritual lessons, and I am stronger for it. I am proud of the courage it took to go online, willing to risk heartbreak and the baffling, unsettled moments. I am grateful to the men who jumped in and taught me well.

Spiritual matters require a deeper look at the gains.

After six months of online dating, I admit it never felt natural to me. It often made me feel neurotic, robotic, hypnotic. I might do better with someone who earns my trust and friendship naturally, for a good long while before I let them in romantically. Love is horrible and chaotic and the best part of being alive. I am madly in love with love!

For now, I’ll be turning my will over to the gods. I intend to accept my fate. I can still laugh and commune with others, and simply be among the living. I can be lovely and lovable. But I do believe he is out there. I have a knowing of it. I just do.

Maybe I am more like Artemis than I realized, an unmarried, defiant goddess of the hunt.