Sunday, September 20, 2009

Our Journey - by James Hollis

Art by Deborah Koff-Chapin, The Center for Touch Drawing

Even when surrounded by many others, your journey is solitary, for the life you are to choose is your life, not someone else's. Alone, we nonetheless move amid a community of other solitudes; alone, our world is peopled with many companions, both within and without. Thus, this paradox stands before each of us, and challenges: We
must be alone if [we] are to find out what it is that supports [us] when we can no longer support [ourselves]. Only this experience can give [us] an indestructible foundation. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy
Finding what supports you from within will link you to transcendence, reframe the perspectives received from your history, and provide the agenda of growth, purpose, and meaning that we all are meant to carry into the world and to share with others. The soul asks each of us that we live a larger life. Each day this summons is renewed
and leaves you, unspeakably, to sort out
your life, with its fearsome immensities,
so that, now boundaried, now limitless,
it transforms itself as stone in you and star.
Rilke, "Evening"

--- James Hollis, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Journey, Risk, Conflict - James Hollis

By Deborah Koff-Chapin - The Center for Touch Drawing

"Remembering that our ego's central project is maintaining itself and privileging its own narrow position, we can see that without some challenge to that agenda, we would never grow larger than the messages of childhood and the limits of the familial and cultural environment into which fate placed us. The ego's agenda of reinforcement, comfort, order, control, security is not to be judged but rather to be recognized as potentially limiting our humanity. We all have a fantasy of arriving at a conflict-free plateau or a sunlit glen without struggle, without the demand for increasing consciousness, without being pulled deeper and further than we wish to travel. Interestingly, there is such a place -- it is called Death. Without journey, risk, conflict, we are already spiritually dead and are simply waiting for the body to drop away as well. Then we will have missed the meaning of our being here in the first place."

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, by James Hollis

Friday, September 11, 2009

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life


Your life is addressing these questions to you:

What has brought you to this place in your journey, this moment in your life?

What gods, what forces, what family, what social environment, has framed your reality, perhaps supported, perhaps constricted it?

Whose life have you been living?

Why, even when things are going well, do things not feel quite right?

Why does so much seem a disappointment, a betrayal, a bankruptcy of expectations?

Why do you believe that you have to hide so much, from others, from yourself?

Why does life seem a script written elsewhere, and you barely consulted, if at all?

Why have you come to this book, or why has it come to you, now?

Why does the idea of your soul trouble you, and feel familiar as a long lost companion?

Is the life you are living too small for the soul’s desire?

Why is now the time, if ever it is to happen, for you to answer the summons of the soul, the invitation to the second, larger life?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Chop Wood, Carry Water

Work. What does the word mean to you? Is it something to be avoided? Is it a means to an end? Is it the only appropriate focus of your attention and energy? Is it a way to avoid the rest of your life? Is it a joy? Is it a part of your spiritual practice?

There is a Zen saying, "Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water." What’s the difference? The tasks are the same. The need is the same. What about the frame of mind? Who is chopping? Who is carrying water?

When you labor, stay awake. Notice the frame of mind you bring to your work. Do you approach your work as if it were a nuisance? Do you remove your consciousness from work so that you are filled with resentment or worry? What would you need to do to be more fully present in your work?

Practice mindfulness in work. It does little good to attain clarity of mind on your meditation cushion if you lose it as soon as you become active. Start with simple activities like brushing your teeth, ironing clothes, or washing dishes. Be fully alert as you move. Notice the position of your body in space. Notice the feelings in your body as you move. Pay attention to the thoughts that enter your mind when you do the task. See if you can let them go and just focus on the work itself.

If you are cleaning a countertop, feel the sponge in your hand. Feel the wetness. Feel the texture. Observe how the sponge moves in your hand from the sink to the counter. Sense your movements as you scrub. What do your eyes see? What do you hear as you work? Clean that countertop as if it were the most important thing you could do. Move with fluid motions. Waste no energy. Allow yourself the grace of economy of motion. Be grateful for the countertop, the sponge, the water, the soap. Be grateful for the hand, the arm, the whole body that can move a sponge. Be thankful for the floor you stand on and the roof that protects you. Without letting your mind wander too far, be grateful for all the circumstances that put you where you are at that moment with that sponge and that water and that countertop.

We travel to the ocean or to mountains, rivers and canyons, in part to escape the mundane world of work, but also to experience the awe that arises more spontaneously in nature’s magnificence. We give ourselves an incredible gift when we can experience some of the same awe in the mundane world of our daily lives. The weed that grows in the crack of a sidewalk is a phenomenon as miraculous as the redwood tree that towers into the sky. The raindrops that streak the window are no less an occasion for awe than the spray that dampens our face at the waterfall. The fingers that tap a keyboard are as worthy of praise as the feet of a ballet dancer.

When we open awareness to the tasks in our lives they become lighter. When we are able to be in the moment, we no longer feel compelled to watch the clock. Whatever your work might be, bring all of yourself to it. When you are fully present, you may find that your labor is no longer a burden. Wood is chopped. Water is carried. Life happens.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Unconscious Patterns - James Hollis

"No one awakens in the morning, looks in the mirror, and says, 'I think I will repeat my mistakes today,' or 'I expect that today I will do something really stupid, repetitive, regressive, and against my best interests.' But frequently, this replication of history is precisely what we do, because we are unaware of the silent presence of those programmed energies, the core ideas we have acquired, internalized, and surrendered to. As Shakespeare observed in Twelfth Night, no prisons are more confining than those we know not we are in." (18)

From James Hollis, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life