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This attitude is difficult to maintain in our competitive culture where so much attention is given to mistakes and criticism that the voice of the soul is literally interrupted.The risk the music invites us to take becomes a joyous adventure only when we stretch beyond our known capacities, while gladly affirming that we may fail.And if we make a mistake, we can mentally raise our arms and say, How fascinating! and reroute our attention to the higher purpose at hand.These are not easy distinctions to make considering the ongoing inventive power of perception.The following are applications of the practice in some contexts where we may have difficulty distinguishing our thoughts and feelings about events from the events themselves.Being with the Way Things Are by Clearing ShouldsWhen we dislike a situation, we tend to put all our attention on how things should be rather than how they are.The stakes really go up when the issue is not rain or a child’s whine, but hunger, tyranny, or global warming.When our attention is primarily directed to how wrong things are, we lose our power to act effectively.We may have difficulty understanding the total context, discussing what to do next, or overlooking the people who should not have done what they did as we think about a solution.Escape, Denial, and BlameSome feelings are just plain unpleasant, like being too cold or having a stomachache.Others, like grief or anguish or rage, seem so intense they threaten to overwhelm us, and we look for an exit.We resist the feelings, or turn our backs on the situation, or foist the blame and the responsibility onto others.Closing the exits means staying with the feelings, whatever they are.It means letting them run their course, as a storm sweeps overhead showering rain and thunder, only to be followed by clear patches of blue.Sometimes the capacity to be present without resistance eludes even the most loving parents when their children are troubled.They may not be able to bear their children’s pain, stand close enough to comfort them, or even listen to their words.But feelings can be likened to muscles—the more intensively you stay with the exercise, closing the door on escape, the more emotional heavy lifting you can do.Then you become that much more of a player in your field of endeavor.Being with the Way Things Are by Clearing JudgmentsThe rain in Florida may be bad for us and good for the citrus crop.A canceled flight may wreck our schedule and bring us face to face with our future spouse in the airport lounge.A forest fire may seem to destroy an ecosystem in the short term, yet renew it with vigor for the long term.When a splendid osprey eats a beautiful fish, it is neither good nor bad.Or, it’s good for the osprey and bad for the fish.Nature makes no judgment.And while our willingness to distinguish good and evil may be one of our most enhancing attributes, it is important to realize that good and bad are categories we impose on the world—they are not of the world itself.A young man goes to see his rabbi.But Rabbi, how do you actually know which is the good news and which is the bad news? The rabbi smiles.You are wise, my son.So just to be on the safe side, always thank the Lord.Being with the Way Things Are by DistinguishingPhysical from Conceptual RealityAmong all the complexities that keep us from being present to things the way they are, one of the most potent is the confusion between physical reality and abstractions—creations of the mind and tongue.Language is replete with a variety of things that have no existence in time and space but seem as real to us as anything we own—justice, for instance, or aesthetics, or zero. Using these concepts, we can accomplish what we could not otherwise.They are tools that allow us to count, to learn from others, to establish guidelines for behavior.They permit us to traffic with the future and the past.It is important to keep in mind, however, that these things refer only indirectly to phenomena in the world.What they point to is not made up of matter.These abstractions are purely inventions of language.The nature of abstractions is that they have a lasting existence exempt from the contingencies of time and place.An abstraction, such as destiny, that is thought up in a moment of resistance to passing conditions has the power to narrow down our lives.Two stormy Florida vacations can easily be turned into a permanent cloud of bad karma that follows one whenever fun is in the offing, putting a damper on the brightest day.So this part of the practice of being with the way things are is to separate our conclusions about events from our description of the events themselves, until possibility opens up.Stress in their household had risen to such a level that the normally reticent young man had actually suggested therapy for himself and his parents.The father had then obtained the referral from his medical doctor.Both parents turned toward their son and waited.The boy said nothing.Now, this is such a common way of speaking that its inventive power can easily pass us by unnoticed.The father spoke about a barrier to communication that he said the boy had created, but of course it only appeared when the father called it up.By the alchemy of language, the four people in the room were instantly transfigured into four people and a wall.The more the father described it, the more the wall increased in density, and the more invisible the boy grew behind it.Taking the boy’s silence as further evidence of the barrier, the father seemed unaware that he hadn’t made any request of his son or addressed him at all.Are you willing to pretend that there is a wall between us? the father asks, and, if the boy agrees, they dismantle the wall in play, where it belongs.Perhaps the young man suggests another metaphor, that he feels invisible to his parents.Imagine that the father begins a conversation with, Son, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me, or Son, what about this whole situation makes you the most angry? or Son, I’m about to tell you something I’ve never told anyone before. The boy looks up at his father, and they have taken their first steps on a journey of possibility.Abstractions that we unwittingly treat as physical reality tend to block us from seeing the way things are, and therefore reduce our power to accomplish what we say we want.When we are our calculating selves, we struggle onward and upward like contestants in an obstacle course, riveting our attention on the barriers we see in our way.Strengthening the concept of obstacles with metaphors, we talk about walls and roadblocks, their height and prevalence, and what it will take to overcome them.This is downward spiral talk, and it is part and parcel of the effort to climb the ladder and arrive at the top.The catchphrase downward spiral talk stands for a resigned way of speaking that excludes possibility.The little old ladies who support classical music are all dying out, the conversation goes in downward spiral mode.Every industry or profession has its own version of downward spiral talk, as does every relationship.Focusing on the abstraction of scarcity, downward spiral talk creates an unassailable story about the limits to what is possible, and tells us compellingly how things are going from bad to worse.Why does it spiral downward, why do things tend to look more and more hopeless?For the same reason that red Dodge pickups seem to proliferate on the highways as soon as you buy one and that pregnant women appear out of nowhere approximately eight months before your baby is due.The more attention you shine on a particular subject, the more evidence of it will grow.Attention is like light and air and water.Shine attention on obstacles and problems and they multiply lavishly.The practice of the way things are is a reality check on the runaway imagination of the calculating self.Then the obstacles are simply present conditions—they are merely what has happened or is happening.The father in our story might say, I have not inquired about my son’s life, and he is not volunteering any information, and he would be describing present conditions in the family.I am afraid I don’t know the right questions to ask, and it irritates me that he doesn’t come to me to talk, and he would still be describing the way things are.So, too, the chairman of the orchestra board might be satisfied with the description, There were 800 people in attendance for the March 14th concert and 700 for the program on April 10th, without going on to create a trend.For diminishing audiences, like bogeymen, are never anywhere to be found except in someone’s story.The naysayers pride themselves on their supposed realism.The practice of being with the way things are can break the unseen grip of abstractions created as a hedge against danger in a world of survival, and allow us to make conscious distinctions that take us into the realm of possibility—dreams, for instance, and visions., as a preface to our every next remark.I would do the kind of work that Jane Goodall does, but I couldn’t face the horrors she sees everyday, my daughter said as we walked together on a stony beach.It’s easy enough to be fully and passionately present on a rare day in Maine, when one is free of obligations and nothing is at stake.But how can we stand to be present in the face of pain, loss, or disappointments?I had shared with my daughter, Alexandra, my response to hearing Jane Goodall speak at the State of the World Forum in San Francisco.Renowned for her research on chimpanzees in the wild, she has established sanctuaries in Tanzania and in other parts of Africa by working with the people of the areas to support themselves in harmony with the biologically diverse environment.Governments around the world now fund her brainchild, Roots and Shoots, which educates and helps children in at least fifty countries to care for the ecosystem.

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Member since 06/01/2022

Last online 09:11 06/01/2022