My neighbors the Pentecostals

My neighbors here in Norway are Pentecostals. It’s a Pentecostal meeting house with one or two caretakers living there, and they have a gathering in their garden as I write this.

A part of me likes to think I am somehow “better” or “more advanced” than them. They are there believing whatever they are told, and I am here doing these advanced practices. They are maybe at red or blue in Spiral Dynamics, I am perhaps at the integral level. And so on.

A few things stand out to me: (a) This part of me that likes to think I am somehow “better” does so to make me feel better about myself. It tries to compensate for feeling less than, which has been a part of me since early in life. (b) There is a lot more to life than what spirituality or practices we do, or where we happen to be on the Spiral Dynamics model. (c) I cannot know. I cannot know any of this. Any ideas about better or more advanced are just that, ideas. They are ideas made up by this feeble mind having lots of questions about the world, and those ideas are questions too.

I really don’t know anything about them. Some of them may be doing far more good practical things in the world than me. Some may help others far more than I do. Some ar likely far more kind than I am. Some are likely more wise in a practical sense than I am. Some are likely far more human and genuinely humble than I am. Some may have healed far more than I have. Some likely have far more open hearts than I do. This is very likely true.

I am not better than them. The idea of “better” is created by this human mind, it’s not inherent in reality. And if I were to have ideas about better and worse, many of them would likely be far better than me in many very important areas of life.

It’s a burden to have ideas about being better, just like it’s a burden to have ideas about being worse. It’s a burden because it’s not aligned with reality. It’s an idea invested with a sense of being true.

When I find what’s more true for me, it’s a relief.

It relieves me from having to remind myself about the ideas of being better and trying to prop those up and defend them. It relieves me from having to mentally put on a mask created by ideas to try to feel better about myself. It relieves me from the separation created by holding these ideas as reality itself.

It helps me see myself in them. It helps me see we are all fellow humans and fellow creatures that essentially want the same. It helps me find love for them.

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This is part of the human experience

In one of the stories about the historical Buddha, a man comes to him overcome with grief over having a lost child. The Buddha said, “bring me a grain of rice from a house in the village where nobody has died”. The man couldn’t find such a house, and the realization that we are all in the same boat – we all experience losses and death – helped him. (This is all paraphrased from memory.)

This helps me too. Whenever I experience something I find difficult, it helps to remind myself that this is part of the human experience.

I am not alone in it. Innumerable people have experienced this and still do. Even if I don’t know of anyone, it’s a good bet that this has been an experience for a lot of people (or, at least, can be). We share it. We are together in it. They found their way through it, and so can I.

There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with this experience. This too is part of the human experience. This too is what humans experience.

Of course, everything is also unique and fresh. And it may be that there is an emotional issue or trauma I can explore and find healing for in how I relate to it and perhaps for the issue itself. And yet, here it helps to emphasize the commonality and that there – inherently – is nothing wrong with us or anything we experience.

Any pointer is medicine for a specific condition, and this reminder – this is part of human experience – is medicine for feeling alone in what we are going through or that something is wrong. It helps us to see that I am not alone, and nothing is inherently wrong in this. It helps us align with that reality, and reality is healing.

Photo: Man in China Town, San Fransisco, a few years back

In the same boat

Whether I work with clients or teach a group, or am a client or student, there is often a sense that we are all in the same boat.

The roles, there and then, are different. One is a facilitator, the other a client. One is an instructor, the others students. After the session or the class, the roles change. They even change during the session or class, sometimes.

Behind the shifting roles, we are all human beings. We are all exploring universal dynamics. What I see in you is what I know from myself.

When I work with someone, as a facilitator or client, it’s often with a sense of a shared exploration of universal dynamics.

Of course, it may be that the person in the facilitator or instructor role has more experience or skill in a certain area. But even that may not be the case.

This makes it much easier. We are in the same boat. I don’t need to pretend.

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The gifts of fatigue

It’s easy to see chronic fatigue (CFS) as a disaster.

That’s how we (most of us) are trained to see significant health problems. And if that’s all we see, and we hold it as true and real, that’s how we create suffering for ourselves.

And yet, as with just about anything else, there are also gifts there, and it’s good to acknowledge these. It helps balance the picture in my mind, and how I relate to it and my life.

So what are some of the genuine gifts in CFS for me?

When I thought of fatigue, the first that came up for me is I love you. (To the fatigue and associated symptoms.) This shows that something has shifted in me since I first got it.

I learned to befriend ordinary rest. I used to be driven to always do something productive (studies, work, photography, meditation). I didn’t want to “waste” any time. From the fatigue, I learned the value of rest.

I learned to find peace with being dependent on others. I used to be strongly invested in being independent and take care of my own life. And I learned the gifts in being dependent on others. In receiving. In letting people give. We are always dependent on others, in innumerable ways. And I found the gifts in being dependent in a more obvious way too.

I learned to find kindness for my very human experience, even when my human side didn’t like it at all. I learned the value and relief in finding peace with and love for what’s here. And I am still learning.

I had to face beliefs about health, value, roles in society, success, failure, and more. I have worked on and looked at many of these, although there are some left.

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