From MACBETH, Act III, Scene 2: “Light thickens, and the crow/ Makes wing to th’ rooky wood.”

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The words in the title that are spoken in Act III, Scene 2 of Macbeth convey the subtext of the whole play, from the opening scene of thunder and lightning and three witches to the moment MacDuff places MacBeth’s severed head before the new King Malcolm. In their subtle layering the words are of great portent, as Shakespeare intended them to be. MacBeth is speaking to his wife, whose own state of mind has become precarious because she is wracked by guilt. Each word is significant and none wasted. The two of them are already complicit in the murder of King Duncan, two guards, and the heir apparent, Banquo. More death and guilt will follow for them, but by now in the play they have both succumbed to an evil grown out of their shared and fierce political ambition. There are no boundaries. Nothing matters but that Macbeth should be King.

How is so much conveyed? There is a current beneath these eleven words, a motion and emotion as meanings intertwine. The beauty of English lies in the variations that create its subtext, so the same word can have multiple meanings. It is, after all, a language that was repeatedly subjected to invaders who altered some words, left others intact, and gave us new ones in turn. The Anglo-Saxons used the word kingly, the Norman French used royal. The term my lord is from 800 A.D., my liege came after 1066. Ghost is Anglo-Saxon, phantom is from the Normans. So much else in the language runs the same course, no word denied attention, changes often accommodated, yet both versions giving—almost, but not exactly—the same intention. We live even now with Old English and Old French in everyday use, both the language of the inhabitant and that of the invader:  foe/enemy; weird/strange; woodland/forest; deathly/mortal; green/verdant; graveyard/cemetery; reckless/intrepid.

Shakespeare knew the differences, but he also knew how to choose which language to use to create the layers of meaning that would give to the audience—whether they realized it or not—the weight of his intention. In the line I quote here at the beginning, the words light, crow, makes, rooky, and wood are Anglo-Saxon in origin and these ancient words carry something pithy, earthy, fundamental. They already convey something intrinsically real to us. But how does Shakespeare play with this? In Old English, “rook” was the word for crow, but the meaning of rook as a chess piece came from old French. By Shakespeare’s time, rook was also used as a verb that signified to defraud by cheating. Crows are scavengers who feed on carrion, notoriously symbolic of deception, death, and war–and witchcraft–but they are also creatures of prophecy, and this line Macbeth speaks is prophetic, setting the stage for his downfall, though to him the words are a signal that it is time to act under cover of darkness, to grab his unholy prize.

“Light thickens” announces more than it seems. Shakespeare could have simply told us that day is ending, that dusk has arrived, that it is the twilight hour, or eventide, or even half-light. But none of those terms would have given the sense of weight that “Light thickens” brings. It is the harbinger of the encroaching disaster that is already damping out any light of reason Macbeth could have kept–or Lady Macbeth could hold as she listens to him. Macbeth feels the enveloping darkness not only of time but of spirit. He has made a pact with himself and entered into tragedy, for the weight of his ambition is too great to give him a way to stop. Not anymore.

This quote has haunted me often. Would that I could write such a line? Oh, yes. Yet it is not envy I feel, but awe. Because of such writing as this, I learn what it means to tell a story.

Our Dazzling Mistakes

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Our Dazzling Mistakes

What is it we are meant to do in life–our mission, our destiny? How often we ask ourselves this question. It seems a reasonable curiosity. Yet an undercurrent lies beneath our asking, for most often we seek the answer from a specific  premise we hold, consciously or unconsciously — that whatever our purpose is, we must know it exactly, it must be perfect, and we must do it perfectly, or we have somehow failed.  We seek to be like the perfect circle in the image above, not like the variations that surround it.

Nothing is further from the truth. It is because of our dazzling mistakes along the way that our journey of life is fulfilled in heart, mind, body, and soul.

If we are fighting for physical survival moment by moment we are not likely to spend time on such thoughts at all. But if we have food and shelter and security, we are free, if we choose, to look beyond our experience and consider (or face) the questions:

“Who am I?”   “What am I here for?”

These are soul questions and meant to be answered amidst and even because of our human frailties, against the backdrop of our uncertainty. They are questions deriving from the heart, a yearning we have to align with our inherent divinity, our absolute coexistence with God.

Yet we feel, because we are not perfect (by our human standard), the greatest sense of loss and despair.

Imagine if instead we lived each day, each hour — every moment — in awareness of that divinity, trusting we are not only meant to be here, but that the world is better for our presence, no matter what our apparent “flaws” (variations) — that we are not a random or accidental occurrence, but an essential manifestation of LOVE by the universe.

What would happen then? What then would you do, and become?

Memory or Presence–Which One Do You Want Most?

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Our human selves — the selves we think we know, that is — are created in part through memory — what we remember and how we remember — and the key to memory lies in the feelings we attach to it, over and over. But there is also another way that happens when we let go of memories and negative feelings and live instead in the present moment, when we therefore invite Presence into our life. The significant thing about this is that there are no memories when we exist in the NOW.

Do we therefore cease to exist? No. We are a composite of all we have experienced from the first second of life and all the feelings we have created or enlisted to manage that life. So it is not that we forget anything that we have experienced — but in the NOW, there is no negative charge because there are no memories bringing their age-old sadness or regret or resentment or judgment or anything else that seems to define and trouble us.

That is why being in the present moment is so creative — there are no barriers, fixations, unhappiness — we feel one thing only — freedom in who we really are. No disguises, and no requirements, just our communion with the moment and whatever is occurring in that moment — the wind through the leaves on a tree, the sound of waves on a shore, the dog barking one street over, each sound and sight that is ongoing around us.

In this state of being there is nothing of the past, nothing of the future. We simply are who we are, and for as long as we can stay in that place, we experience a lightness of being we have never known before. The more we do it, the more often it appears, and gradually, that feeling of freedom comes upon us without effort.

We are here to realize this life is joy because it IS. WE are the joy. No need to prove it, defend it, seek it out. It is already present within us.

Let go of thought. Focus on your breathing, or put your hand on your heart. It stops the mind chatter. Listen and watch what is going on around you. Try this for just 30 seconds. Even 30 seconds is transforming. It invites us to experience life in the NOW even more.

Some say if we do this, then we do nothing at all — our lives stop. No. Sages have always described what happens next. Since we are allowing life to be a part of us as we are, not as we wish to be, we enter into cooperation with life, not resistance to it. This is what changes everything. Out of this comes a creativity and abundance that is free at last to show itself to us, and manifest what is uniquely ours to know and do and receive and give, in joy.

We are already One with the universe. Becoming present–inviting Presence–is how we know this is true.

Judgment–Can We Live Without It–for One Day?

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In the Ho’oponopono tradition as described by Dr. Hew Len, it is a sign of emotional freedom when we cease judging others for any reason at any time. We experience this by degrees of awareness, and often fall back on old habits, but if we are aware of making judgments, that is already a sign of freedom coming into place.

Dr. Len has observed that he has not achieved total freedom in this. Like others on a similar path, including the great teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, he lives with a great honesty of purpose and recognition about his own actions. Complete freedom from judgement is the way of Jesus Christ, of the Buddha, of the Tao.

But what do we judge if we are not aware? How often? It is really beneficial to track this, if you are willing, FOR JUST ONE DAY.

People judge each other on first sight, whether it be someone we are introduced to or someone we see on the street. A flash of judgment streaks through our mind about how the person looks, what they are wearing, how they behave, how they walk, the color of their clothes, the sound of their voice, their attitude, who they are with, their role in life, their job or lack thereof, their status financially, their marital state, their children, their hobbies, how much television they watch, their taste in movies, books, food, environments, subjects, their political preference…the list is extensive.

Almost endless…

So here is a way to discern how often you judge others, if that draws your interest: Have a piece of paper or a small notebook and pen near at hand. Every time you have a thought that is not positive toward someone (this is the definition of feeling judgment), for any reason, place a tick on that page. Try to do this for one whole day–or at least for seven hours. At the end of the day, count the number of ticks you placed.

It is likely the number is large. But one thing is certain–even after doing this exercise just once–you will never be able to feel judgment again without being aware you are doing so.

Another thing you can do in addition is gauge how deep a particular instant judgment is on a scale of 1-10 and put it beside the tick mark. This can be a game-changer.

Depending on your outcome and response, you may want to do this again, and see if there is a difference the next day or the next week.

Now, you might ask why bother or even say so what. There is an easy answer for that. Every strong emotion uses our energy, and fast. Positive emotions regenerate us. Negative emotions drain us.

So it matters what we choose to do. It matters how aware we want to be. And there is one more thing that matters:

Being conscious of who we are and what we feel in this very moment is freedom.

Every Life Is a Precious Jewel

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Humans spend an inordinate amount of time wondering about their life purpose, often feeling that unless they can figure that out, they are not living fully AND may not be living rightfully. It is as if certain conditions must be met that make our presence legitimate and without those conditions being met, we feel restless and uncertain and often, unworthy.

The thing is, those “certain conditions” are artificial. We make them up as we go along and they change according to our age and life circumstances — but they are our construct, our interpretation of reality. And they miss the point.

We don’t have to do anything. We don’t have to emulate anyone else or wish for another’s achievement, or for what anyone else has. We don’t need to do any of that, ever.

Every life is a precious jewel. No exceptions. We are enough just as we are.

This is one reason the sages always advise us to live without judgment, for in truth everyone we meet is a soul made in the image of God. Our life is about aligning our human self with our soul truth — and that is it. That is everything there is to know. How?

If you are doing work you love, you are aligned that way.

If you are touched by the call of a bird at dawn, you are aligned.

If you find joy watching a field at night that is filled with fireflies, you are aligned.

If you have a pet you love, you are aligned.

If you take delight in something joyful, you are aligned.

If you feel love even for those people you don’t like, you are aligned.

If you realize you are here in the image of God, you are aligned.

If you honor who you are right now, this instant, you are aligned, and the rest of life is ready to unfold before you in the best possible way. Why? Because you are living from the heart, which is aligned with Spirit. How? You let your heart be the primary guide for everything.

It holds the diamond light that is you.

Trust in the Rhythms of Your Life

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AJ Cann  CC BY-SA 2.0

Often, so often, we experience shifts in our everyday life, shifts of emotions, of intentions, of actions–all the while listening to the inner commentator, that insistent critic who evaluates everything, usually without offering us much mercy or compassion. Left to its own devices that critic takes over, and nothing we do escapes judgment–which of course means nothing anyone else does escapes judgment, either.

We resist this critic, but in fact half or wholly believe in what it says to us, so our resistance, in Borg terms, is futile.

Yet the truth is when all of that is going on–it is our life that’s going on! We are riding the waves of our heart and mind and spirit, with one dominant at any given moment, but all three involved, all the time.

What does that mean?

It means these are the rhythms of who we are and what our life is about–the shifts, the alternations in feelings and thoughts that come according to what we give our attention to. Our life is really a matter of attention and inattention–which is what creates the waves for us, the rising and sinking, the ebb and flow, the twists and turns, the sudden revelations or inspirations. Above all, it gives us access to the full awareness that we exist. It gives this access to us rightfully and joyfully, no matter what happens.

Most people operate during the day on an autopilot when it comes to awareness of their own life,  unless the inner critic is part and parcel of that awareness. But there is another way.

Awareness can exist without the inner critic. It is possible to simply observe what is going on with us without judgment. The feelings and thoughts will pass, change, alter, move on, or stop–nothing stays for very long. We can sense their rise and fall each moment or minute or hour or day and let it be as it is.

When we allow the rhythms of our life to exist of their own accord, we are recognizing they are who we are–a fantastically creative panoply of all we do and think and experience and feel.

Why Do We Sabotage Ourselves?

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Self Sabotage

Have you had the experience where something good happened and you feel you sabotaged the outcome by going in a different direction, taking action that didn’t seem to serve you at all? Have you wondered why?

It can be fear, yes — whether fear of success, or fear of failure, or fear you are not good enough, or that you are not worthy of good things. All that can apply, because those things beset most of us at one time or another. But maybe, just maybe, that is not always the whole story.

On the one hand, of course, it is like shooting ourselves in the foot — we end up losing a great opportunity, or a chance to live a dream, or to meet someone we admire, or achieve a goal desired.

On the other hand, sometimes, it could signal the seeds of a new awareness, our inner voice giving us insight into some greater knowledge — that whatever we are being offered is not what we need at that time, or truly want, or because in the end in our heart and spirit we know the direction, opportunity, or meeting presented to us is not part of the true destiny we are meant to create on earth in this incarnation. Over time, this voice can become stronger, if nurtured.

Being Conscious–or Unconscious

Life is all about choices — making them, rejecting them, being afraid of them. It all depends on how conscious we are of what we are doing. Do we react most of the time when things happen? Do we blame fate or fortune or other people or our parents or those who betrayed us or the unfairness of life for whatever outcome has occurred ? This is being unconscious.

What if, instead, we let ourselves step back and look at the larger picture? What if we chose awareness and took responsibility for what we see, knowing how we choose to act in any given situation will determine the outcome for us, more than anything else? Awareness is being conscious.

How Do We Become Aware?

This is a process that never stops — for we are on this earth to learn the truth and that is why it is such an extraordinary, unique, and blessed experience, no matter what happens.

But there are signs we can trust that we are becoming more aware, ensuring our choices are not self-sabotage after all, but an emerging wisdom.

These signs come from our subconscious mind deep within and are unmistakable, such as:

  • You want to know more about who you are.
  • You feel a restlessness, an energy rising that questions what is going on.
  • You sense a willingness to consider forgiving someone or something in your life.
  • You understand the meaning of the words “I’d rather be free than right.”
  • You find being in Nature often is more than a respite — it is a necessity for your spirit.
  • You sense a greater connectedness to a feeling of Oneness.

And the process, the learning, only expands. Life for you is no longer about being safe and more about being authentic to your true being.

That is when sabotaging your dreams becomes impossible. The rising inner voice is louder, and you listen more closely, and more often.

You begin to live the conscious life.

You allow yourself to become aware.

Using Self-Doubt to Your Advantage

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How can self-doubt be an advantage in our existence? Obviously it can be paralyzing, for we are afraid what we are doing is not the best or good or enough. We seem to fret about this often. We would readily say the last thing exploring the emotion of self-doubt brings us is happiness, right?

Maybe, but then again, maybe not. For it can also be a light in the mysterious and sometimes stormy path our life takes.

It is more than possible that self-doubt is there as something to explore intentionally, because everyone experiences it — like some code we have been given at birth to figure out. And it spurs us onward or stops us in our tracks. Our free will decides which way.

The most successful people in the world have self-doubt. Why? That is the point — and perhaps the advantage — the bridge into full wholeness of self. We are meant to take this winding journey of uncertainty because through it we learn to trust ourselves, to know our strength and purpose of will, to realize when something matters to us, and to keep doing what we are doing no matter what tries to stop us, including that inner, doubtful voice — the one that comes from ego, the one we use to compare ourselves with someone else, anyone else, except our own true voice.

You may have doubted yourself, but have you noticed that more often than not you have prospered in spite of that? It is called life, and it is shaped according to your desires, dreams, and courage. You are the arbiter, no one else.

Would you know what courage is if you had never been afraid? Would you be able to gather strength against the odds if you had never experienced failure and seen how you could rise from it like the phoenix?

Every time you go through self-doubt and push through to the other side, you are more than you were before. That is a good thing. Trust in who you are and who you are becoming.

You Are Meant to Thrive

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snow crystal https://www.flickr.com/photos/151798735@N05/33574539376/in/album-72157680437808676/

 

You are here to thrive in the unique essence of who you are. You were born in God’s grace. Everything good is intended for you. This is true at all levels of your being — emotional, spiritual, intellectual, psychological, mental, and practical. You are as unique as a snowflake, for no one like you will ever exist again exactly the same way.

So What Seems to Go Wrong, to Our Way of Thinking?

Somewhere along the line most of us picked up a different story, and for reasons mysterious and unwarranted, we believed it — that we were not worthy, that we had to doubt ourselves, that we were not loved.

The negativity we buy into informs us to one degree or another, in one endeavor or another, that we have less value.

Misconceptions

Such thinking and feeling derives from misconceptions, of which there are many. But these three seem to flourish more than others.

  • You believe what others think of you matters, even when they put you down.
  • You feel you must please others even when it defies your own sense of well-being.
  • You don’t trust in who you are.

Most people spend more time in inner criticism than they do in thinking positively about themselves — in a ratio of 80% to 20%. Even high achievers will do this. Even people who have done good works for humanity will doubt they have value. Artists and composers and successful entrepreneurs — the same story. As if they all had won the prize of success by fooling their audiences.

But self-criticism is not virtue. You deserve to thrive in joy, valuing who you are. There is no doubt of this.

How We Compensate

Someone said to me that it was wrong to boast about what they had done. I would probably agree that it is not the best way to proceed, for it rarely is done to share joy but to cover up insecurities.

But I am not thinking of that aspect so much as what happens to people when they do not trust their own right to become all that they can be — when they censor themselves out of fear, or assume the patterns of the past are fixed.

It is a truth that change is the only constant. There is always a chance to do things differently. There is always a way to alter the path you are on and move into something that matters to you.

Telling the Story

I wrote a post a while back called “The Stories We Tell Ourselves.” The thing is, the story we tell ourselves IS the one we believe, even if it’s wrong. It is a form of hypnosis we achieve so well because we tell ourselves this story many times a day.

Changing the story is not easy — but it is the best thing you can do for yourself. It is a process ongoing, as you learn and make adjustments and choose your path. External events can affect you so fast and so much. You need to give yourself space to let go of reflex actions and responses triggered by that inner hypnosis.

Shedding the Reaction

We are human, we are going to react, and we must feel what we feel. But let the negative feeling exist only for a split second. After that, shed it like a snake’s skin.

The negative opinion of others is not something we are meant to own and keep. We might learn something new, but we cannot thrive on such opinions. They do not belong to us.

Instead, we are meant to acknowledge the dance of life, the choreography of all that happens to us, whatever it is, and choose how we want to be from then on.

How?

Believe in the power that is within you…

Believe in the song that sings inside you…

Believe in your right to do and be…

It is your birthright.

You, in your human form, are the precious, tangible evocation of Spirit.

You are meant to thrive.

Billy the Kid Versus “Billy the Kid”–the Power of Legend

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Billy the Kid--Public Domain--Ben Wittig

One of the most iconic figures that came out of stories of the Wild West was Billy the Kid, also known as William H. Bonney, a gunfighter who entered American folklore and inspired more than one tall tale. His life as a “desperado” has been described in books, film, music, and on stage. A television series ran two years in the early 1960s, depicting Billy as a pretty nice guy–a fabrication that appealed widely to audiences. In every depiction, he is followed by Sheriff Pat Garrett, the man who eventually shot and killed him in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Billy was 21 years old.

Billy the Kid murdered eight people, lived for a time as a cattle rustler, and when he was first captured by Garrett managed to release himself from handcuffs and shackles, kill two deputies, and escape–some said singing on his horse on his way out. His crimes were written up by the New York Sun. His reputation was enhanced further when a bounty of $500.00 was put on his head. In today’s money, that is equivalent to $11,000.00.

Copland’s “Billy the Kid”

When Aaron Copland wrote his “Billy the Kid: Ballet Suite” in 1938, he saw it as “perception of the pioneer West, in which a figure such as Billy played a vivid role.” It is a marvelous piece, filled with folk tunes and cowboy songs woven into it, and hailed as the beginning of the unique “American sound” in classical music. The music romanticizes Billy, and only much later did Copland observe that had he known the real criminal mindset of Billy the Kid, he might not have written the music at all. But it is a grand piece, and we would be bereft without it. It is an old argument–is something of less value because of the premise that inspired it? Or does creativity require  a different dimension of judgment?

Why the Myth of the Cowboy”?

What is a more salient observation, though, is the question of why Americans have absorbed the myth of the gunfighter so absolutely. The degree has varied, but it is a myth that has never been forsaken.

Many years ago I worked on a grant for the National Endowment for the Arts about the last of the cowboys. In the course of it I went with others to Missouri and saw Jesse James’ homestead, a farmhouse that lay in the distance across an open field. I’d grown up watching westerns–it was a thrill to see that legendary place. But that is the power of myth–of believing something that was always in the distance, that sparked the imagination, and brought with a feeling of adventure and action and glamour. For that is exactly what the legends of the cowboys did–brought us into a world that didn’t exist, but we half wished did–a world where we never experienced the same routine, never stayed in one place, always had a new horizon ahead of us. That is the power of myth–that we can be more than we think we are.

But the Truth of It…

The truth of it is we have extolled, valued, remembered, and absorbed legends that belong to killers and thieves, a violent set of characters who lived larger than life, yes, but with the intent to do harm, whenever they had the chance. These were not nice people. For whatever reasons, they were damaged in some way, perhaps even by the relentless westward expansion of America that took no prisoners. We have as our heroes people who would as soon do us in as say hello.

Yet the power of the legends does not fade, even now. Our society is a mirror to the Old West, though we are far ahead of it in time. We visualize violence as a virtue–a hero’s path. Look at 80% of the films and television shows now available. It is a world, in that respect, that has not changed.

The question is–is this the truth we want? Is that why it persists? Or does it signal something else we are unwilling to give up?