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Coddiwomple

It’s something you might expect to happen in a favorite children’s story or perhaps a cartoon. I can imagine Winnie the Pooh doing it, wandering the 100 acre wood, or maybe Calvin with Hobbs.

“Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.”                              –The House at Pooh Corner

One can do it on foot, in a car, or any other form of transportation. I imagine one could even do it in a dream or a daydream—to coddiwomple that is.

Coddiewomple is reportedly an old English slang verb meaning to wander purposely but with no clear destination.

Often I used to get in my car (each car had a name, sometimes male or sometimes female); and I might say it even out loud, “Roger, take me somewhere.” And then I would let the car choose directions and turns. Of course, this was just a ruse to use my intuition. Though one time it brought me to the house of a colleague and when I started the drive I did not know where she lived. From that visit, we became friends (now 30 some years) and I am her daughter’s godmother.

So, because I’ve been coddiwompling for so long, forgive me that I convert the verb to a noun, and say that I love “to take a coddiwomple” much in the same way as someone might “take a cup of tea”. To take a coddiwomple is to allow the possibility of discovery, to explore the unknown. I do this very purposefully, especially when I have no idea of what I want to discover. Rather I want something (much like Pooh’s poetry and hum) to find me, so I must go somewhere.

Meditation is like this, too. I sit down and purposely get as quiet as I can and then some surprise usually shows up in this journey of silent attention.

As a frequent world traveler, I usually set out on foot and wander. My purpose is to explore the place and allow the surprise of what I find and the people and situations I meet. My first time is Paris, staying the Marais (near the 5th arrondisement), I set out on foot with a friend along the right bank of the Seine. 

Le Marais
Along the Seine

We had no special destination in mind, just to walk this so very walkable city with its amazing light, sights, sounds and food. At one point I needed to find a restroom and walked for quite a while in search of one and had begun to feel urgency about it. Finally, I saw what looked to be a large administrative building and I said, “Let’s go in there. Surely they will have a bathroom.” That building was the Louvre, and it was a Tuesday and it was closed.

Louvre
Louvre Pyramid

Fortunately, there are free and pay public restrooms sprinkled (pardon the pun) around Paris. So after a brief pit stop and resting on the steps of the Louvre gift shop to take in the scene, we turned left and continued walking. We found ourselves in the Tuileries Gardens. There we enjoyed the statues (and the birds sitting on them), the flowers that were in bloom at that season, and the people enjoying the park.

We continued walking in the same direction and found ourselves on the famed Champs-Elysées. I remembered thinking of this as such a romantic place when I was an elementary school student doing a report on it, and was disappointed to find that it was basically a very wide street with a lot of upscale shopping, including a Disney store.

At the end of the Champs-Elysées was an underground passageway to the base of the Arc de Triomphe which stands at the center of the Étoile (Star) roundabout. Circling around the Arc, we took a left and continued walking for quite a while, eventually and surprisingly finding ourselves viewing the Eiffel Tower. To get to it we crossed one of the many bridges over the Seine. 

There was no pre-determined destination to this journey. We simply coddiwompled—purposefully moving with only a vague destination. Unintentionally, we saw so many of the main tourist attractions and so much more that we might never have seen if we predetermined our journey.

Over the years I have coddiwompled in much of the U.S. (especially the mountains of Colorado), Madrid, Hanoi, Danang, Singapore, England and the Netherlands.

I highly recommend a good coddiwomple.

Resilience

                Have you ever wondered something your whole life only to discover there’s a word that answers the question?

For me, that word is resilience and it answers the lifelong question, “Why do some people overcome all obstacles while others fall apart at the smallest stressor? 

Are some people naturally resilient? My best guess is, yes.

Is there a resiliency gene? My best guess is, no.

Even raised in the same family with the same life lessons, some siblings are more resilient than others. Some see failures and challenges as opportunities for growth. Others see failures and challenges as a threat to their identity.

Can resiliency be learned? Probably.

Knowing a resilient person and watching her model resiliency does not guarantee that another will adopt resiliency as a lifestyle. However, knowing such a person who teaches a program that fosters resiliency increases the likelihood.

I have been blessed to know such a person, who has made it her life’s mission to “Choose Love” and to teach others how to do that through a proven step by step program of Social Emotional Learning.

Scarlett Lewis is the mother of Jesse Lewis who was one of 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012. I met her in February of 2013 when the trauma was freshly palpable. Over the years although her loss and pain will likely never pass, her resilience has increased manifold.

So, I present to you, Scarlett, the world servant.

I am

I am empty, so You fill me, but I am never full;

For I am a fountain pouring forth your love, emptying.

Beneath this craggy mountain shell is cavernous magic.

I am countenance, only an image, as the leaf is of the tree.

I am empty, so You fill me, but I am never full:

For I am a singing, starlit river carrying ecstatic rainbow fish.

Spilling into your vast, eternal ocean.

I am but an iridescent bubble, delicate and hollow,

Floating, shimmering, pretending to be knowable until I burst,

I dance in the breeze while I can, flit and spin myself

Into and out of being.

I am nothing. Empty. Without form.

I glisten and shimmer with dragonfly wings.

I hover and land then flit away on a moment’s inspiration.

Exhaling.

You breathe You into me, and I breathe You out.

I am empty, so You fill me, but I am never full:

I am a hollow shell holding the roll of the ocean.

I am a cupped hand holding light.

I am nothing. I am.

©Sharon Heller,   (Yom Kippur)  September 18, 2018

Ego Development and Loss of Ego

Self-awareness, ego and the persona

Let us think of the newborn for a moment. In healthy environments this precious being is welcomed with such love and joy. The aroma of the newborn is like a perfume of heaven. It seems to be alight with joy for no apparent reason or distressed by hunger or physical discomfort. Does the newborn know a religion? …a nationality? … its age? And, although it is no doubt affected somewhat by gender, does it know it has one? Does it know it has a name or even an identity? I would say, no, it does not. It is a Self. In it is the seed of its becoming. It has gifts, challenges and expressions inherent to itself and its genetics. Given a nurturing environment these indwelling characteristics will emerge in proper sequence as determined by a majestic natural process.

The infant is exposed to a human environment that is both a non-material energetic field (already experienced in utero) and a material world of atmosphere, language, gestures, beliefs, rituals, customs, diet, objects, etc. These outer influences act upon the innate Self. Along with learning the essentials of life, the child also learns that it is different from others. It is not only the inherent abilities and preferences that form but also the habits, attitudes and beliefs of the people in its environment give the child an identity that is external to the –the beginning of that conglomeration of external influences and memories with which the growing child identifies is what we often call “ego”.

The “ego” (Latin for “I”)  a term beginning in antiquity, then as part of the Freudian psychoanalytical model to the modern day usage for which there are at least six definitions (dictionary.com), it is still commonly used to mean sense of self or identity.

Identity is a necessary function of human existence. There are historical cases of children raised by animals, lacking human interaction for an extended period. These children do not develop certain recognizable human traits. The so-called feral children are not enculturated, do not learn human language, may not walk upright, and are often emotionally, socially and cognitively impaired. In some cases even sensory awareness (heat/cold) remains animal-like.

Identity can be lost, confused or poorly expressed because of neurological disease and disorders (Alzheimer’s, autism) or psychopathology (dissociative identity disorder, schizophrenia, narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder).

We want our children to develop a healthy identity and self-concept. Any parent of an infant knows that the world revolves around the child’s needs and desires and that the child’s awareness of the needs of others comes later. A healthy sense of self leads to a healthy sense of and respect for others.

A question arises then when in so many spiritual teachings there is talk of “ego death”. What does this mean? And why is it important?

“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”

― Joseph Campbell, quoted in  Psychology of the Future: Lessons from Modern Consciousness Research by Stanislav Grof

During one of our group mentoring sessions, the leader, a mystic (former priest and a PhD psychologist) stated that I (Sharon) do not have an ego. The uproar of all the egos in the room arguing that of course I also had an ego was pretty funny. It was probably just a question of semantics because words like ego, identity, self, persona, and awareness are so poorly defined.

Thanks to a near-death experience when I was 27, I left my body behind and experienced my SELF as an individual Being merged in the ONE. In that experience the identifiers of age, nationality, religion, and race were not just unimportant, they were non-existent. Upon return to earthly awareness, I found that I had insufficient buffers (separateness) to function well. I needed to re-create/re-learn my personae (multiple persona) for interacting in different social and cultural settings. But these were no more “me” than an avatar for my online presence is me. I understand that persona is a construct that is necessary for function. My persona expresses in various ways (gentleness, forcefulness, graciousness, self-interest) according to the situation and I do my best to fit the responses appropriately to the circumstances.

Obviously I have a sense of identity or I would be unable to use the word “I”. Fortunately I had a well-established sense of self when I “died” so that I was able to find my way back into everyday life. Otherwise, as Joseph Chilton Pearce so aptly quipped, I would have drowned in the waters in which I now swim. I do know that I am the proverbial drop in the spiritual ocean. I understand that I am One with the “is-ness of everything”.

Paradoxically, the spirit that I am has taken up a soul with its inherent qualities that express through a body that is influenced by genetic and epigenetic expressions and by memories and patterns retained within this adult body. I do my best to let the story of who I am “die” so that the reality of my larger, truer Self can have full expression in this life. It isn’t that I don’t have personal identity, it’s that I am defined by the larger rather than the smaller. Just as the body is needed for life on earth, so too are the soul-identity and the personae necessary and all deserve to have boundaries, self-protection and self-care. The “death of the ego” means only the birth of the awareness that I am so much more than it.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: 

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, 

Hath had elsewhere its setting, 

And cometh from afar: 

Not in entire forgetfulness, 

And not in utter nakedness, 

But trailing clouds of glory do we come 

From God, who is our home: 

Heaven lies about us in our infancy! 

Shades of the prison-house begin to close 

Upon the growing Boy, 

But he beholds the light, and whence it flows, 

He sees it in his joy; 

The Youth, who daily farther from the east 

Must travel, still is Nature's Priest, 

And by the vision splendid 

Is on his way attended; 

At length the Man perceives it die away, 

And fade into the light of common day. 




Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own; 

Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind, 

And, even with something of a Mother's mind, 

And no unworthy aim, 

The homely Nurse doth all she can 

To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man, 

Forget the glories he hath known, 

And that imperial palace whence he came.

Excerpt-Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth

 

Courage, Trust and Integrity

“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.”
― Miguel RuizThe Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

In friendship, as in all interrelationships, trust is a foundational building block. Trust is established through dependability, responsibility, integrity, honesty, and commitment in word and action. In a true friendship one is able to speak openly, freely, from the heart, to confide, to share things that are meaningful, and when needed to bridge the inevitable differences and misunderstanding that arise between and among people, to speak openly even if it might be hurtful or uncomfortable. Friendship is trusting that everything is said and done in an atmosphere of safety and a commitment to deepen and extend communication and understanding, to building upon commonalities and accepting and appreciating differences. No progress can be made and ground can be lost when a foundation of trust is poorly developed or crumbles. Lack of trust underlies so many of the seemingly unending, unresolvable controversies and wars because one or more of the parties will not give it the opportunity to be resolved.

Without trust, there is fear and fear destroys relationships.

We need trust to deepen our relationships, to feel safe to make plans and safe to share ourselves and our lives. Trust requires that we keep our promises and demonstrate respect and honor for the other.

The betrayal of trust can be devastating. Betrayal can take many forms such as promises not kept, unreliability, untrue or failed communication, taking the other for granted, playing one friend against the other, playing favorites, switching allegiance, mixed signals, manipulation; and, perhaps worst of all, the inability or unwillingness to be real, to unveil oneself, to be vulnerable. When one is afraid to be vulnerable, there really is no basis for trust; and relationships, even longstanding ones, can be crushed.

To develop, continue and deepen a trust relationship:
  • Be dependable: return calls and messages, be there, show up (more or less on time).
  • Be kind: when plans change, be respectful and notify the other as quickly as possible; treat the other as you would wish to be treated
  • Be fully present: really show up with your whole self, listen with full attention; create an environment for communicating respectfully
  • Reciprocate: give and take, mutually and with reciprocity. (for example: invite your friend to do things and trust that your friend will invite you too)
  • Demonstrate integrity: be impeccable; don’t gossip; keep your secrets if you must and respect your friends’ secrets; don’t minimize the other, especially to someone else
  • Have clear boundaries: discuss and be clear about boundaries; respect differences; respond honestly; working through conflict serves to make the connection stronger
  • Demonstrate commitment: reach out and stay connected with each other
  • Ask for help when it is needed: be willing to communicate when scared or confused; demonstrate trust through vulnerability

 

“If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. … Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”
― Miguel RuizThe Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Consensus Reality

Kurt Vonnegut in Welcome to the Monkey House wrote,

“A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.”

In 1971 Joseph Chilton Pearce, in The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, wrote of consensus reality as conditioned, uncritically examined group beliefs.  I remember my first encounter with it. It was 1962 and I was in 6th grade. Some man dressed in the typical suit, white shirt and tie of that period entered our gifted program classroom. He informed us that because the Russians had just launched the Soyuz rocket that there would be jobs for us in mathematics and engineering; and “not to worry” because we were being prepared and trained for those jobs.

He was probably mainly talking to the boys, but that didn’t occur to me while in my head I heard my own voice screaming, “But what about what I want!?” The image that spontaneously arose was that of a giant machine that ground us up and fed us into a tumbler where we were encased like sausages and expelled in perfect uniformity. (I’m fairly certain that I had never been exposed to a similar depiction in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times). 

For the masses insane behavior can pass for normalcy; and the truth is that insanity is and has been alive and well, is well-funded, advertised, promoted, and socially approved. If you can’t see the insanity, I suggest you ask yourself …..

“What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?”

Ursula K. LeGuin 

Consensus reality can be developed consciously or unconsciously and at a very early age. Many who inculcate it in others do not realize that they have been subject to an insidious form of brainwashing (not unlike an hypnotic trance) passed from one generation to the next. It is not unlike an epidemic virus spread by people who do not know they are infected. It is a way to indoctrinate and control behavior, whether for good or ill, in which adherents not only refuse to consider any evidence that might cause them to question or alter their behavior, but may even have learned to block it from their perceptions.

As Hans Christian Anderson showed in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes when no one dares to say the Emperor is naked, all will make themselves believe that they don’t see what they see or see what isn’t there. Regrettably, in real life, even when someone says, “No! The Emperor is naked,” masses will hold on to their pretense. The drive to be right, the need and pressure to be part of the collective power of the group defines the perception of reality even in the face of proof and all evidence to the contrary. The individual’s innermost truths are squelched.

 Salmon Rushdie said,

“…. surrealism it seems is the new realism..”

Consensus reality can lead to totalitarianism and a conformity that controls the minds, hearts and actions of those subjected to it (think Nazi Germany). Its influence, like a pandemic, is deeply disturbing. Is it curable?

The concept of the “contrary” exists in both Taoist and Native American cultures. Legend has it that in the first millennium a Taoist, Zhang Guo Lao, considered the popular notion that we would today call “getting ahead”–becoming wealthy, powerful, gaining prestige, satisfying every desire–was not forward progress but, in spiritual terms, backward movement. He demonstrated by riding backward upon his donkey that people were moving away from their own humanity .

In the North American indigenous Lakota tradition the same kind of sacred satire was performed by the heyoka. This spiritually-appointed court jester or “fool” of the Plains made an important point by doing everything backwards—wearing clothes inside out, walking or riding his horse backwards. The role included asking the difficult questions and saying the things others were too afraid to say; and to serve as a mirror so that people in his tribe would examine their behavior and perhaps think differently.

This is a call to all people who are reading this to become contrary, to wake up from whatever hypnotic spell has you in its grasp.  Stop shouting at each other. Stop listening to the constant drumbeat of same-thought, stop dulling your senses with distractions, practice opening your perceptions the new, stop the patterns that have been planted in your minds and hearts, that are not your own.

The only basis of freedom is to be free—free to think, feel, and to act for yourself out of your own deepest sense of knowing.

PLEASE. FREE YOUSELF NOW. Embrace sanity.

Spitting into the Wind

Although I realized years ago that the world was not going to be “saved” or “perfect”, I did expect that the efforts made by me, my friends and colleagues would have a positive impact and leave a lasting legacy for the generations to come. But, with climate disasters increasing, with news of anger, hatred. disrespect and violence bombarding us, with divisions by gender, nation, ethnicity and religion increasing, has anything really been accomplished?

As I ask myself this question while the world goes spinning off in a different direction from the one I imagined—(did the poles shift and I just missed it? Did we slip into an alternate reality?)—I recall a lecture by a Waldorf mentor from decades ago. He said there would come a time that we would feel as though we are “spitting into the wind.”

The online free dictionary defines to be spitting in(to) the wind:

 To be doing something totally pointless, fruitless, or futile…
to be wasting one’s time doing something that will not or cannot come to pass.

He also encouraged us that even though we would could not see any value in our deeds that we should still keep on keeping on.

If have often told clients that affirmations and positive actions are like drops of warm water on clocks of ice. We never know whether we have feet, inches or mere millimeters to go before the ice is gone and we can see through to what is below. Just keep going, drop by drop by drop. Though right now we do not see the results, persist.

I do not resist that which seems to oppose me for resistance only gives it more power. I am focused on that thing and not on what I want to accomplish. So instead I persist.

“The best way out is always through.”
― Robert Frost

Health & Wellness

 

HEALTH is what we are given.

WELLNESS is what we do with it.

Health conditions and tendencies are inherited from parents.In an ideal world, development from fertilized cell, to embryo, to fetus, through birth and ongoing growth results in a sound, well-functioning, comfortable system that naturally and easily sustains a thriving individual.

In the real world, health is rarely so straightforward. Life usually brings a blend of good and bad genetic fortune that is increased or decreased by how genes respond to environment. Genetic blessings or unfavorable genetic predispositions can be increased or diminished by internal and external exposure. Additionally, accidents that may occur before, during or after birth affect lifelong health. In any given life, there is little likelihood of avoiding at least some degree of pain or dysfunction.

Health is therefore relative–a range of physical and intellectual abilities and disabilities that are given and need mitigation, or maintenance. Health can sometimes be increased through a wellness lifestyle that takes what nature provides and nurtures it. Appreciating the variety of resources given and sustaining them in a balanced state is essential. That becomes the platform for designing greater health.

Wellness is something that happens only if it becomes conscious at some point in life—and for some that is earlier, for others later, and for some not at all. With consciousness comes the awareness that wellness is not just physical but also multidimensional. Wellness requires sufficient maturity for self-awareness and freedom. It is an active, lifelong process of learning ways to improve what is working and ways to either accept or to compensate for that which cannot be improved. Even when pain, discomfort or dysfunction cannot be avoided or changed, the perception and interpretation of such can be modifiable.

Wellness is a process in which change is always possible, whether it is moving inward towards personal physical, emotional, attitudinal, mental, intellectual, spiritual, and creative growth, or outward oriented toward environment, vocation, connection, community, compassion and service. To exercise options it is necessary to manage time well to find and use the appropriate guidance, methods and tools.

Wellness is a conscious choice, understanding that change includes both acquiring external knowledge and direct self-knowledge. In the learning process, it is important to remain aware of what can be known and what cannot. Acknowledging and accepting limitations, having both strength and vulnerability, are important aspects of wellness.

The state of “radical acceptance” is Grace. It is from this state of surrender to what IS, that it is possible to move forward in a meaningful and powerful way with choices that are realistic and authentic.

Authentic choice means that even when scope is limited there are a variety of options that can serve the highest and best good.