Almost all of our traditions of instruction in prayer, meditation or silence, be they Catholic, Buddhist or Muslim advocate seclusion or withdrawal as a first step in creating this equanimity.
Each of us has an equivalent core in our work, whether it is the path of the artist or the explorations of the engineer. Even if we already possess the work of our dreams, there is a way of doing that work that will deepen and enliven it, a way that begs for a daily disciplined conversation.
I believe that human beings are desperate, always, to belong to something larger than themselves.
Longing has its own secret, future destination, and its own seasonal emergence from within, a ripening from the core, a seed growing in our own bodies; it is as if we are put into relationship with an enormous distance inside us leading back to some unknown origin with its own secret timing indifferent to our wills, and gifted at the same time with an intimate sense of proximity, to a lover, to a future, to a transformation, to a life we want for ourselves, and to the beauty of the sky and the ground that surrounds us.
Our anger breaks to the surface most often through our feeling there is something profoundly wrong with this powerlessness and vulnerability? Anger in its pure state is the measure of the way we are implicated in the world and made vulnerable through love in all its specifics.
Silence is like a cradle holding our endeavors and our will; a silent spaciousness sustains us in our work and at the same time connects us to larger worlds that, in the busyness of our daily struggle to achieve, we have not yet investigated. Silence is the soul's break for freedom.
The death of anyone close to us is always a form of salutation, a simultaneous good-bye to their physical presence and a deep hello to a more intimate imaginal relationship now beginning to form in their absence.
The true signature and perhaps even the miracle of human love is helplessness, and all the more miraculous because it is a helplessness which we wittingly or unwittingly choose; in our love of a child, a partner, a work, or a road we have to take against the odds.
To have a firm persuasion in our work -- to feel that what we do is right for ourselves and good for the world at exactly the same time ? is one of the great triumphs of human existence... To have a firm persuasion, to set out boldly in our work, is to make a pilgrimage of our labors, to understand that the consummation of work lies not only in what we have done, but who we have become while accomplishing the task... Work, at its best, is one of the great human gateways to the eternal and the timeless.
We seem to have been born into a world where love, except for brilliant, exceptional moments, seems to exist from one side only, ours ? and that may be the difficulty and the revelation and the gift ? to see love as the ultimate letting go and through the doorway of that affection, make the most difficult sacrifice of all, giving away the very thing we want to hold forever.
Ambition left to itself, like a Rupert Murdoch, always becomes tedious, its only object the creation of larger and larger empires of control; but a true vocation calls us out beyond ourselves; breaks our heart in the process and then humbles, simplifies and enlightens us about the hidden, core nature of the work that enticed us in the first place. We find that all along, we had what we needed from the beginning and that in the end we have returned to its essence, an essence we could not understand until we had undertaken the journey.
Enough: These few words are enough, if not these words, this breath... If not this breath, this sitting, this opening to the life we have refused again and again until now. Until now. In this moment of epiphany this opening to the life we have refused again and again until NOW.
I returned to poetry as a more precise way to describe the world --- more precise than science.
Longing is nothing without its dangerous edge that cuts and wounds us while setting us free and beckons us exactly because of the human need to invite the right kind of peril. The foundational instinct that we are here essentially to risk ourselves in the world, that we are a form of invitation to others and to otherness, that we are meant to hazard ourselves for the right thing, for the right woman or the right man, for a son or a daughter, for the right work or for a gift given against all the odds. In longing we move and are moving from a known but abstracted elsewhere, to a beautiful, about to be reached, someone, something or somewhere we want to call our own.
Our relationship to time has become corrupted because we allow ourselves very little experience of the TIMEless. We speak continuously of SAVING time, but time in it richness is most often lost to us when we are busy without relief. We speak of STEALING time as if it no longer belonged to us We speak of NEEDING time as if it wasn't around us already in every moment. We want to MAKE time for ourselves as if it were in our power to o so. Time is the conversation with absence and visitation, the frontier between ourselves and those we love; the hours become ripe with happening only when we are attentive, patient, and present.
Sincere regret may be a faculty for paying attention to the future, for sensing a new tide where we missed a previous one, for experiencing timelessness with a grandchild where we neglected a boy of our own.
The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence.
The truth about our own modest contribution might immobilize us: much easier then, to tell ourselves a story about how much we make our own reality.
To quote a Shakespearean clich‚, repeated to death because it is so stubbornly true: All the world?s a stage. Work is theater. The place where life unfolds to our tragic or comic satisfaction.
We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice we begin to remember again as our own.
And after you were up, when the light had come and the moon had gone, you found the path again waiting through the open window, the faces at the table gazing with you, as you sat with your coffee, silently letting the sense of rest seat home, the body ready to walk, in rhythm and in rhyme, with the given, unspoken source.
Eventually we realize that not knowing what to do is just as real and just as useful as knowing what to do. Not knowing stops us from taking false directions. Not knowing what to do, we start to pay real attention. Just as people lost in the wilderness, on a cliff face or in a blizzard pay attention with a kind of acuity that they would not have if they thought they knew where they were. Why? Because for those who are really lost, their life depends on paying real attention. If you think you know where you are, you stop looking.
I want to know if you are willing to live, day by day, with the consequence of love.
Longing is the transfiguration of aloneness ? like a comet?s passing tail, glimpsed only for a moment but making us willing to give up our perfect house, our paid for home and our accumulated belongings.
Our voice, then, is a powerful arbiter of our inner life, our power relationships with others, and a touchstone of faith in the life we wish to lead. In the office we can experience the disciplines of speech, and the inner silence from which good speech appears, as a measure of soul in our lives. Sometimes the voice is cowardly, sometimes courageous, and more often somewhere between the two, but whatever its outward appearance, tempered by the pressures of organizational life it represents the urgencies, desires, or emotional strangulation of a soul longing to be heard in the world.