Last week I started reading a book by Joanna Macy called Coming Back to Life. The book, and my experience the past weeks has impacted me a lot. The book discusses modern industrial society as full of people 'asleep' from the pain of the world. Years ago, when I first started looking at where everything I consumed came from, I felt shocked and overwhelmed, and powerless. We live in a culture where most people are subconsciously aware of ecological devastation, factory farming, slave labor, murder, etc, but if we come to full awareness of the fact that pretty much everything we use and practice in modern society contributes to all this pain, would bring us into great despair. At some point in my life I let myself feel this, and I cried and cried, and now I don't let myself feel it too much anymore.
Reading the book has reminded me of how it has fit into my life. I know I'm not where I want to be yet, and I don't know if I will ever get there, and I try to be patient and accepting of that. I noticed I am getting closer though. I can sense this because within the past few years I have challenged myself more in facing pain. My time at the Possibility Alliance this year was very different in a way than it ever has been since I first started visiting there five years ago.
The Possibility Alliance is an electricity free, petroleum free, substance free, quaker-ish community. They live a lifestyle that encourages humans to live to their highest potential.
|The entrance to one of the gardens at The Possibility Alliance|
They practice daily sitting sitting mediation, yoga, meetings, and bells of mindfulness. Once a week is their emotional well being meeting. They strive to be completely sustainable. In my past visits I strongly resisted the deep sadness I felt when I was without comfort foods, internet, movies, and recorded music; when I was alone. I had been taught that intense emotions meant that something is wrong, and I felt confused about why I hurt so much in this place that was so in line with my heart. Now I know that the hurt came from being addicted to distracting and suppressing my sadness and anger so much all those years. The sadness always spills out intensely there, because it's not suppressed. This time I let it spill out, and I let it be okay. I learned that life isn't about hiding, filtering, and distracting myself from pain. Life is full of pain and sorrow, and love and joy, and that is when you know you're really alive.
Kahlil Gibran wrote, in the book the The Prophet: "But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out on love's threshing floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears."
When I die I want to know that when I was alive I laughed all my laughter and weeped all of my tears, and that I didn't suppress myself because I was afraid of others not accepting me.
Another commonly stated quote, by Howard Thurman, at the Possibility Alliance that has been running through my mind lately is "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
I started looking toward what brings me to life, and so I move closer to my "heart-path." In a week, I am going to Teaching Drum Outdoor School, in northern Wisconsin. Every winter, I fear the cold. I struggle with the cold. I'm curious and afraid to be in this unknown, primitive community, where the winters are bitter cold. The next steps on my journey are slightly unknown and open. I'm planning to move intuitively toward what calls me to living a full life. I'm trusting that where I end up is where I need to be to learn and grow more.