Readers of Slow Love know that I read voraciously, looking for help, comfort, company, guidance, diversion, information, enlightenment...all the things we want from one another, and from the books we read. I return, every year, to the Bible, to Ovid, to Buddha, to Dante...I am agnostic in the company I choose, believing that no one has cornered wisdom.
I have been thinking about the kerfuffle over two recent posts here, one on Tiger Mothers, and the other on the unravelled morning of bad dreams. The responses to both were rich and fascinating. Of course, sometimes I wonder what possesses me to write so openly (and other times I just do it; writing opens a vein of rich, life-giving blood. As I think about the need to write, it crosses my mind that perhaps, even, writing comes from the same subconscious corner that led us to the idea of using leeches as a curative technique? Then there's the simple pleasure of groping for words to express thoughts, feelings... Not to get too tangled up in another thread....)
My friend Abby gave me a lovely little book called Awakening Loving-Kindness, by an extraordinary woman, Pema Chodron. That led me to another tiny Shambhala Pocket Classic by Chogyam Trungpa. He founded Naropa University, a school my son Theo is interested in attending. I started reading it, and came quickly to two passages that bear on the subject of the importance of facing fears (or sadness, or confusion) and I thought I would share them.
"Going beyond fear begins when we examine our fear: our anxiety, nervousness, concern, and restlessness. If we look into our fear, if we look beneath its veneer, the first thing we find is sadness, beneath the nervousness...[Sadness] is calm and gentle....discovering fearlessness comes from working with the softness of the human heart."
I'm taken with the idea of softening one's heart. We've all felt that wonderful, lilting melt, at one time or other--glancing at a friend with love, watching a child play, helping someone across the road, attending to a sickbed, being the first to compliment someone on a beard that has been growing in for a week, so they realize they are being seen, not just looked at, and smile... It intrigues me to think that we can actually learn to be in that heart state, rather than have it happen, only on occasion, by accident. Someone said rather impatiently, in the comments about my tattered morning, "Relax, Dominique." At first, I was affronted by that, but thinking about it, that's really part of this same message. Relax. Sit with it. Sharing it, of course, can help, and help others, too. Writing is often about not pretending (when it isn't about completely pretending!) There's no point, I think, if you aren't reaching for honesty, whole-heartedly.
My friend Elisabeth Young-Bruehl recently wrote about "parenting wars", sharing a conversation with a wise Jamaican man who was worried about how harshly his daughter disciplined her young son. Elisabeth told him what an analyst had once told her, "Anxiety makes people stupid." Such a profound observation, so many traditions of thinking get to the same place, no? In our fearfulness, we lash out at others.
The other passage that sparkled for me this morning was in a chapter called Make Friends With Yourself:
"Making friends with yourself means accepting and acknowledging yourself. You work with your subconscious gossip, fantasies, dreams--everything."
It strikes me that this sort of self awareness is one of the fruits of solitude--as it takes quiet and concentration to dig in; people who dislike being alone are often really afraid of confronting their own anxieties.
But it is easier to be calm, self aware, and at peace, when one is in solitude. Sometimes that's simply avoidance. It takes going out into the world, tangling with other people, with life's messiness and the world's problems, to really get somewhere. We need both: self center, and centered self in the world.
So, a Saturday morning's thoughts, thanks to all of your thoughts over the last week....