A Quilt of Random Thoughts

by Simon Goland, June 15, 2020

There has been a lot happening as of recent, both for me personally and, obviously, in the world. As I have been witnessing it all, one common theme for a reflection has not yet revealed itself (or, perhaps, too many are percolating in my mind and heart). So I am taking a quilt approach, of several quotes and pieces that have resonance for me. Perhaps they will find their way to a coherent picture. Or not.

“Spiritual awakening is not a linear path.”

I wrote about this theme last year, here. And, apparently, the theme continues to play out in different aspects of my life, and it not quite done with me yet. Or ever. One of them is a recurring back pain. Physical treatments help, to some extent, yet not enough to feel like I am back to my normal and physically-unrestricted freedom. As a result of eventually reaching for guidance and support, I am now reviewing and re-evaluating most of my fitness approach, including considering letting go of most of my yoga practices (after 35 years), and experimenting with different ways of being with my body. In parallel, I have been looking into the deeper message of this tightness, yet no profound wisdom has revealed itself yet. Until it does, I will keep fluctuating between moments of resisting this restriction, and moments of being with it, opening up to what I might be needing to learn and pay attention to with this experience.

“Chaos often breeds life, while order breeds habit.” – Henry Adams

This one feels related to the one above, and is a valuable reminder for me in all the times I tend to get attached to the comfortable and the familiar. It is especially true when there is too much chaos, too much unknown, which is exactly when I am looking for certainty, predictability, and for knowing what is coming next. Or, perhaps, for the promise of what I want to happen, will actually come to fruition and existence. As I write these words, I am smiling, because I am seeing that it is very much about control, which is another theme in my life that I am intimately familiar with.

“There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. The teacher comes when the soul, not the ego, is ready. The teacher comes when the soul calls, and thank goodness – for the ego is never fully ready.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Learning to distinguish between these two voices, the ego and the soul. While it does get easier with time, practice, awareness, and a lot of persistence, it is still not always straight-forward. For me, the voice of the ego is quite loud, with a lot of energy, force, and willfulness. It has a certain charge, a quality of being (usually) direct and focused, pushing through any possible obstacles that might be on the way – as appropriate for a Type 8 on the Enneagram. The irony is that I have used this energy to create many beautiful, inspiring, and rewarding results and accomplishments in my life. Yet, at some point, no matter how much ego energy I would use, I would reach a ceiling and crash. Sometimes, painfully.

The voice of the soul, on the other hand, is a very different one. It is much more quiet, like a whisper. Its energetic quality is softer, gentler, with a quiet power rather than a loud force. When I am aligned to this voice and energy, I still birth beautiful and rewarding results, yet they come with a lot more ease and a deep  knowing that it was meant to happen the way it did. The visual metaphor for the difference between these two is a closed fist vs. an open palm.

“If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold ever-more wonders.” – Andrew Harvey

This one has a particularly strong relevance for me these days, as I have been thinking about the impact of COVID on many people I know, everything that is happening around Black Lives Matter, and my own sadness and pain. I am thinking about my mom and how lonely she is, far away in Israel, in a senior home under a quarantine that only started lifting a week ago, and not being able to fly there for a visit in any foreseeable future. Witnessing all that is happening around racism and the many voices with their stories, experiences, and painful injustice that keeps on repeating itself throughout most of our recent human history. I was reflecting on my own upbringing, as even though I do look like a white male, I was a “Jew” in Russia for the first eleven and a half years of my life, and very much a second-rate citizen. Then we immigrated to Israel, where I promptly became a “Russian” for another seventeen years, feeling excluded and not belonging for most of it. Even though I have had my flavour and experience of such racial injustice, I know that it has been a lot more painful and devastating for many others. All humans. All the injustice inflicted was also by humans. Perhaps this is the real heartbreak here.

Heartbreak after heartbreak, on and on. I don’t know if we ever ”recover” from a heartbreak, whatever that may mean. Being with it, allowing the emotions to rise up when they do, honouring the bitter sweet gift of the experience and the memories is all I can do. Breaking and opening, breaking and opening, on and on.

Blessing in the Chaos

To all that is chaotic
in you,
let there come silence.

Let there be
a calming
of the clamouring,
a stilling
of the voices that
have laid their claim
on you,
that have made their
home in you,

that go with you
even to the
holy places
but will not
let you rest,
will not let you
hear your life
with wholeness
or feel the grace
that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you
Let what divides you
Let there come an end
to what diminishes
and demeans,
and let depart
all that keeps you
in its cage.

Let there be
an opening
into the quiet
that lies beneath
the chaos,
where you find
the peace
you did not think
and see what shimmers
within the storm.
—Jan L. Richardson, “Blessing in the Chaos”